Whether your job provides you with the right mix of pay, benefits, and gratification was the focus of the 2006 Chemical Processing salary and job satisfaction survey. While the majority of survey respondents told us that they are content with their salaries, benefits, and job fulfillment, job satisfaction has declined and the biggest complaints are lack of recognition, followed by negative public opinion of the industry.
Combining the average responses in several categories of the survey provides a profile of a typical chemical engineer (Table 1). That person would be male, with a bachelors degree, age 47, satisfied with his job, working 46.7 hours per week at an annual salary of $89,690after a 3.84% raise. This contrasts with average pay of $85,230 and raises of 3.1%reported in the 2005 survey. This years survey garnered 1,258 respondents compared to 1,205 last year.. The largest group of wage earners in the 2006 survey was 102 people (8.4%) who said they earn $100,000 to $105,000. In 2005, the largest group of wage earners was in the $75,001 to $80,000 salary range with 94 respondents (7.84%).
Most respondents (738 or 61%) got a raise in the range of 2.5% to 5%. Additionally, 698 of this years survey participants (58.5%) believe they are adequately compensated for their experience and skills, versus 496 respondents (41.5%) reporting they are not.
Is your job satisfying?
While the bulk of respondents said they are satisfied with their jobs, the number dissatisfiedwas higher than last year (Figure 1). This year, 172 respondents (13.4%) said they were unsatisfied, compared to 83 respondents (7%) in the 2005 survey. In a similar vein, the number of people very satisfied with their job also dropped 87 people (7.3%) this years versus 244 people (20%) in 2005.
The work can be challenging and rewarding, and there will always be opportunities in the industry, says one respondent. But those opportunities are decreasing. The chemical industry in the United States is mature, under extreme pressure from globalization, and is in decline in many areas. Most of the action in the chemical industry will be outside the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
Challenging work remains the top contributor to respondents job satisfaction (Figure 2). Salary and benefits, and recognition by employer and peers are the next most important factors for job satisfaction, respectively (Figure 3). These responses match last years results.
Click to enlarge Figure 3
You have to be dedicated to your work, says one survey participant. The hours are long and the work schedule is stressful at times. However completing a project is sometimes very satisfying
Another respondent adds, The refining industry continues to be vibrant and opportunistic. For a chemical engineer, refining offers some of the best opportunities of any industry to apply engineering skills. Refining technology and feedstocks constantly change and evolve resulting significant and exciting technical and career growth opportunities.
The greatest number of respondents (475 or 43.2%) took umbrage at lack of recognition as (Figure 4).
Click to enlarge Figure 4
Be prepared to be treated as a commodity. Engineering is not acknowledged as a profession on par with the education required, says a respondent.
The company work environment, hours and workload, salary and benefits, and commute and traveling were the next most common dislikes, respectively. Hard work and good intentions are not rewarded, only results, or the appearance of results, contends one survey participant. Being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people is rewarded. There is no longer any pretense that seniority or dedication have value. In fact, there is a strong sense that staying with one employer is a weakness. There is no job security at all even with good ratings, years of dedicated service, and an expanding work force.
Another respondent adds, There is no job security. If the financial folks decide that they cant get more than 40% margin on products, the site, positions are gone. Companies talk about their most valuable resource which is people, but that is just PR they put out, the most important thing is what Wall Street says, meaning they dont care about work culture, etc. What is rewarded is short-term growth and individuals who go along with the system.
Concerned about perceptions
Negative public opinion of the industry bothered nearly half of the respondents (588 or 49.7% (Figure 5).Much of the public's perception of the chemical industry is based on accidents and a few willful violations, says one of you. Granted many of these could have been prevented by following proper safety procedures and the law. In fact, the chemical industry is one of the safest to work in. Additionally the benefits that the chemical industry provides touch every single aspect of our lives in a positive way. Furthermore, products provided by the industry save countless lives annually. Just imagine a world without polymers, pesticides, fuels and the like.
Click to enlarge Figure 5
Another respondent adds, It is unfortunate that a few bad apples in the chemical industry can have such a negative impact on the public perception of our industry especially after all of the significant improvements made in both safety and environmental stewardship, and the benefits to the public from the products and services offered by the chemical industry.