Getting admission into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the prestigious central government-owned chain of engineering institutes, is a dream for students seeking fat salary packages. Data shows, however, that those dreams often land with a dull thud in the face of reality, especially for civil engineers.Except for those with a computer science background, engineering students are not able to secure placements in their core areas with competitive salaries. This leads many to opt for companies in areas that are different from their field of study.Typically, placements are categorised as core and non-core. If a mechanical engineer secures a placement in a manufacturing and engineering company such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) or automotive manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), it is considered a core placement.However, if the same person opts for a Data Analytics role in, say, consulting firm JPMorgan, with a hefty package, it is a non-core placement.Declining placements for non-computer science studentsMoneycontrol accessed answers to an RTI request filed in all 23 IITs. Of the 10 IITs for which data is available, 23 percent of India’s top students were not able to secure placements despite the IIT tag.IIT Madras, IIT Roorkee, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur, and IIT Hyderabad saw much lower placement records for non-computer science students compared to computer science.ALSO READ | Analysis: Which engineering degree is the most lucrative
“IITs and the students have slowly but firmly rejected offers from even good core engineering companies,” said Maheshwar Peri, chairman of the educational services platform Careers360, who believes 30 percent of IITians not getting placed is a direct outcome of encouraging tech at the cost of core engineering.He also observed that the high placement salaries offered by service companies have also made top students of core engineering branches opt for roles in software and tech companies. “Refused and rejected, core engineering companies seem to have reduced their intake from IITs.”Consulting firm Aon’s data validates Peri’s point. An analysis of companies offering placements in IITs across three years (2019-22) found that while companies in the Analytics/Consulting/Finance space showed an increase of 7 percent from 2020 to 2022, R&D (-6 percent) and ‘Others’ (-23 percent) saw a downward trend.ALSO READ | Is chemical engineering talent gaining traction? An analysisThe ‘Others’ category includes FMCG, FMCD, Retail, Energy and Auto companies, which showed declining interest in offering jobs to students at IIT Madras, Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati and Hyderabad.
“While the IIT brand remains as strong as ever we do see sharp contrast in the uptake of students depending on their courses,” Jang Bahadur Singh, director of human capital solutions at Aon, told Moneycontrol.Poor pay for non-computer science studentsExcept for computer science, most students getting placed are in non-core disciplines and are reskilled into other areas, Aon said.“This lower placement track record also reflects in the average salary for civil engineers, which tends to be 30-40 percent lower than the overall average,” Singh said.
Careers360’s analysis revealed that while computer science students’ average annual salary in 2020-21 is much higher than the overall average annual salary, other streams report a steep decline.For instance, in IIT Madras, Kanpur, Patna, and Hyderabad, the average annual salary for civil engineers has a difference of Rs 3-10 lakh. Similar trends are observed for mechanical and chemical engineers.
Why non-core jobs are attractiveNon-core recruiters often pitch wide exposure, competitive pay and challenging opportunities as key benefits, which conform with students’ preferences, according to a 2023 paper by researchers at IIT Bombay, which analysed five years of placement records (2014-18) at the institute.It found that non-core jobs constituted about 60 percent of the domestic offers accepted between 2014 and 2018. Besides, for Civil Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering Physics, the non-core median salary is significantly higher than the core salary.ALSO READ | IT vs Non-IT sector: How entry-level salaries have evolved over 5 yearsFor instance, a civil engineer earns 6.5 LPA in the core area but the package can increase by Rs 3 lakh per annum if the person chooses a non-core job, said the paper, authored by Namit Agrawal, Sailakshmi Sreenath, Shishir K. Jha and Anurag Mehra of the Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay.The IT/software sector has also earned a bad reputation for “luring” students from other core engineering disciplines into coding jobs. Hence, many students invest a lot of time preparing for programming modules, starting from the first year itself, in the race to become competent coders, the paper said.Many companies hire graduates mostly based on their ‘coding’ skills and do not care much about which discipline a student belongs to, the paper said.
Eye on the futureAs a solution, Peri suggested having a “Day Zero” for students to sit with core engineering companies, for roles they have studied for. “If companies can pick up the best of core engineers, it may help.”Aon’s Singh highlighted that from a market perspective, given the abrupt halt in growth the pandemic brought to the infrastructure, engineering, auto and similar sectors, demand for this talent has weakened.Further, he believes the Indian economy is poised for capex-heavy growth in the next decade, which could open up a plethora of opportunities for courses such as Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering.“Students who want to pursue this field should not read too much into current placement track records and should follow their interest in these fields,” Singh said, adding, “It is clear that for the country to achieve its stated economic goals, we will need a huge supply of highly skilled and qualified engineers from these streams as well.”