Engineering vs. Arts Degree Joke

The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?” The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?” The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?” The graduate with an Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”
Context
In a group discussion including college freshmen and high school seniors over what major the students were studying or thinking about studying, one high school senior said they were trying to decide between being an engineering major versus an art major. One of the college freshmen then shared the joke. The group was comprised of students and alumni of the robotics program, so all were at least thinking about pursuing STEM majors.
My Thoughts
This is a commentary on the massive pay difference between the average engineering (most STEM) majors and arts majors. It is a way for the rivalry in high school between those who are more STEM minded versus the arts-minded to poke fun at one another. The joke can mean a couple of different things. One, it can be a reminder to students who have interests in both fields that a job in the arts is less stable and guaranteed paycheck wise than a career in engineering. The second is to feed the ego and feelings of superiority that many want-to-be-engineers have in the pre and early college years (and beyond for some).

Engineer’s Rounding Joke

Piece
“pi=10, it also equals 3 and e=3 so pi=e!”
Context
When talking about safety factors, the informant, an engineering student, shared the joke. Because engineers are always concerned about the safety of the users of their products (because getting sued is no fun) and like to account for the things more difficult to account for, one way to introduce a safety factor is to make pi equal to 10 in all calculations. This massive rounding then prompted the follow up of simply rounding e (~2.718) and pi (~3.14) could simply be rounded to 3 for simpler calculations and that error would be accounted for with the safety factor.
My Thoughts
This joke has some practicality to it by reminding engineers to have large safety factors to ensure the safety of their designs, it is also a joke on the rather flippant view of numbers that engineers have as it doesn’t always need to be precise but simply overkill enough for the application. I also relate this to the idea that engineers are lazy and so create processes and machines to ensure they can be lazy at the desired times. Multiplying or dividing by 10 is about as lazy as it gets in math.

Joke: A Lawyer, Doctor, and an Engineer

Informant: “So, a lawyer, a doctor and an engineer go golfing and they’re out there and they’re trying to play but there is this foursome in front of them who are god-awful, and they are hitting the ball but they are hitting it all over the place, sometimes it seems as if they can’t even find the ball, and their shots are just terrible. And, so the threesome, the lawyer, the doctor and the engineer, they call over the course manager and say ‘can you just help the group in front of us speed up a little bit, either that or just let us play through because this is just getting really obnoxious.’ And the course manager says, ‘oh I’m sorry you guys, but that’s Fred, Bill, Bob, and Joe and uh they are local heroes they are firefighters that saved a bunch of children from a school that was burning down uh but they all lost their sight so we try to do our part and let them play the course for free.’ And, they’re taken aback and the lawyer says, ‘oh, my god that’s awful well I’ll contact my legal firm and see if we can do anything, to help them maybe work with new resources to help them with their sight and at least help them with all the problems they must have now,’ and the doctor says, ‘oh, that is terrible, well I’ve got some friends who work with blindness research and I’ll see what they can do,’ and the engineer looks and his friends and looks at the course manager and says ‘why can’t they just play at night?’”

The informant is a young man from the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a freshman at USC and is majoring in Environmental studies. He is also an active member of his school community, participating on several club teams and is an honors student. In addition, the informant is close with his family.

The informant heard this joke from his dad, who is an engineer, when he was about eight. The informant said that his father repeats this joke often because his father finds the joke amusing.

The informant likes this joke because “I golf and my dad golfs, because its fun to listen to engineering jokes, and because my dad has that background, and probably because he tells it so often.” So, the informant also uses this joke to connect with his dad.

This joke is a form of occupational lore because it stereotypes three professions – lawyers, doctors, and engineers. This particular joke depicts engineers negatively because rather than try to find a way to alleviate the difficulties of the firefighters, as the other two professions do, the engineer is still focused on the earlier (and more self-centered) problem that the firefighters are completing the golf course slowly.