Are engineers becoming obsolete?

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What do Santa Claus and software developers have in common? Their jobs are still safe. The same cannot be said of ICT engineers. 50% of the work they do can now be performed by machines. Take the test yourself!

Santa Claus and clowns are on the safe side. Provided no one imposes bans on disguises. Their jobs generally consist of two activities that no machine can perform for them. Unlike engineers in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector: According to Berufenet, half of their primary “activities” can now be performed by machines.

It sounds dramatic. But there are also key tasks such as work preparation, development, design and the use of operating resources that machines cannot perform. But when it comes electronics, information technology, computer technology, measurement and control technology and media technology, machines appear to have the upper hand. Even in the case of project engineers with budget responsibilities, there is no stopping machines when it come to one-third of their activities.

Software beats hardware

Colleagues in the sector for software development, who incidentally can also be ICT engineers with an eye on the future, demonstrate that there is another way. So far, of the nine essential tasks that they perform, machines are apparently only capable of one, i.e. information and computer technology.

If you take a look at the employment statistics, it is very clear what direction the wind is blowing. Compared to the 106,453 employees in the software development sector who are subject to statutory welfare contributions (at the end of 2015), just 12,680 ICT engineers looks a little paltry. The number of employees in the former group has increased by 29.3 percent since 2012 (average growth for all occupations: 5.5 percent), whereas the latter saw a decrease of 8.5 percent during the same period.

At least “hardware” still has the advantage when it comes to salary. At the end of 2015, the average monthly gross salary was above the assessment threshold of 5,200 euros. That is why the exact amount is not available. In 2015, the assessment threshold was 68% higher than the average salary of all employees who are subject to statutory welfare contributions (3,084 euros).

At the end of 2015, the average monthly gross salary of software developers was 4,648 euros, which is 50.7 percent higher that the average salary of all employees who are subject to welfare contributions (3,084 euros). In both occupation groups, individual salaries can deviate substantially from the average.

Are you affected by automation?

Take the test yourself. The ARD-Themenwoche “Job Futuromat” is a quick way to find out how much specific occupations are affected by automation and which areas of activity in your occupation could possibly be eliminated. In addition, the number of employees and the change in monthy salary are also listed.

The research tool was developed in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) and Germany’s Federal Employment Agency.

The tool is available here:


Do you think that your job could be in danger? Join the discussion here on the blog and find out all about jobs in the electronics sector at electronica’s Student Day.


logo electronica eStudent Day addresses aspiring engineers from throughout Germany. Presentation of the COSIMA Award, a student competition sponsored by the VDE, is a special highlight.

Futuromat (Screenshot Job-Futuromat ARD)

The ARD-Themenwoche "Job-Futuromat" shows how future-proof various jobs are. According to this tool, large parts of engineering can be performed by machines.(Screenshot Job-Futuromat ARD).