2009 Salary Survey: Engineers Proceed With Caution

Survey shows readers are concerned, yet confident in a down economy.

By Ken Schnepf, Managing Editor

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There’s some cautious optimism among the current economic doom, according to results of Chemical Processing’s 2009 Salary and Job Satisfaction survey. For instance, while 58% (813) of respondents are concerned about job security, 42% (579) aren’t (Figure 1). Moreover, 47% (655) believe there’s a very slight chance and another 9% (12) think there’s no chance they’ll be laid off or fired within the next two years, with 33% (463) saying there’s a moderate chance. Only 6% (84) think layoffs or firings are likely and a mere 5% (67) believe it’s very likely (Figure 2).

The concerns are warranted. “We’ve swung to a very much overcapacity situation for almost all types of industry,” explains Dr. William F. Carroll Jr., vice president for chlorovinyl issues for Occidental Chemical Corp., Dallas, adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., and a former American Chemical Society president. “It’s the same way in the chemical industry particularly for commodity chemicals. In times like this, the oldest least competitive capacity shuts down. It’s like being the oldest impala in the group.”
2009 Salary Survey
Figure 1: The majority of respondents are concerned about job security.

The old impalas get left for the hyenas, Carroll said during a recent ACS online forum. However, the road to abundant energy, advanced materials and better health still goes through chemistry, he says.

Some abundance clearly is evident in the average salaries reported by survey respondents — $107,804. Average salaries have steadily increased since the survey began in 2005, when the average was $85,234. Each year thereafter, the average salaries were $89,690, $90,038, and $95,231, respectively. However, the average pay raise was down slightly, 4.23% compared to the 5.06% reported in 2008. A substantial majority of respondents (65% or 908) are pleased (65% or 908) with the compensation they receive for their work compared to 35% or 495 who do not think they are fairly compensated.

“I'm in the public sector so the salary is a little lower but on the plus side there is high job security, a good retirement program, and no out-of- town travel,” says one respondent.

Another survey participant notes, “I believe my compensation and benefits are very fair for my position. Right now in this market/economy, I am very thankful to have the position that I do.”
2009 Salary Survey
Figure 2:  Most respondentsare confident they won’t be laid off or fired.

Some respondents expressed concerns. “I am quite satisfied with my current compensation. However, the recent economic downturn has made stock options and profit sharing worth zero, and the possibility of job loss for me is a reality for the first time in my 25 year career at this company,” lamented one.

Along with the overall positive attitudes for compensation comes a high degree of job satisfaction; 45% (629) indicate a high degree of satisfaction, another 13% (184) are very satisfied and 34% (475) are satisfied with their jobs. Only 7% (97) report poor job satisfaction and just 2% (23) say their job satisfaction level is very poor (Figure 3).

Respondents accessed the survey questionnaire via a link listed in the print edition of Chemical Processing, on the ChemicalProcessing.com Web site, e-newsletters and e-mail blasts sent to readers.

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