Four years of engineering, followed with a coveted job in the civil service, is one of the most preferred career combinations for the Indian youth. Not only does it bring about a sense of job security at the highest level, it also open doors for policymaking for the trained engineers.

However, the trend over the past two decades tells us that more young people are opting for this combination without much of a thought. Many skeptics even suggest this combination has created some sort of a herd mentality among the youth. Is it so?

According to data with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) for 2014-2016, one can see only a fraction of recruits in the civil services have specialisation of any kind. In 2016, of the 176 IAS officers recruited, 56 had studied engineering, 73 graduated in different branches of science, humanities and commerce, and only 25 had any degree beyond graduation.

Of these 25, many had studied engineering and followed it up with an MBA degree. Only few of the recruited IAS officers had specialised degrees such as medicine (20), in law (1) and chartered accountancy (1).

Interestingly, this trend is not limited to the IAS alone. According to the government’s reply in the Rajya Sabha, about 50% of those cracking the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination are engineering graduate. What more? Of the 20 UPSC toppers in 2017, 19 were engineers, it had said.

The disheartening aspect amid this is that most engineering graduates and doctors choose subjects such as public administration and sociology for their civil services exam, as opposed to subjects from their own fields.

If one has to go by popular belief, engineers are considered to be extremely hard working – courtesy their rigorous course structure in graduation. This makes it easier for them to incline towards the civil services.

In a media report, Parveen Kaswan, an Indian Forest Service officer from the 2016 batch, laid out two reasons for the dominance of engineers in civil services. He said, “Firstly, the general output of engineers is very high, and so there are more engineers in every field; and two, those coming from IITs have very high exposure and confidence levels, so they make it in the mains and interviews.”

Upping the game from graduation

During the four years of engineering students have to deal with a vast syllabus. During each semester, these students have to take out time for their self-study from the regular schedule to pass with good marks. Add to this the sheer competition these students have to face in their graduation. This ups their game from a very young age.

The ability to inculcate the habit of self-study and managing time to complete the syllabus in the given period is what given them the biggest edge over others. The Civil Services Exam, known for its humongous syllabus, requires students to put in long hours of study despite their intelligence.

Recent trends in civil services exam suggest questions today involve more reasoning. A student should put his or her analytical and logical thinking skills to use, apart from their retaining capacity. Engineering students are good at reasoning skills, which they develop due to the format and pattern of their exams in graduation. This further makes it a tad easier for them.