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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Satisfaction Takes Many Forms Money isn’t everything. Indeed, challenging and stimulating work was identified by 48% (672) respondents as the single factor contributing most to their job satisfaction (Figures 4 and 5). Salary and benefits ranked a distant second with 20% (275) respondents, followed by recognition by employer and peers with 14% (192), job security at 9% (130) and advancement opportunities 6% (91).

“Working as a chemical engineer is very exciting. It gives you the opportunity to make lives easier,” explains one respondent. “Most of the people cannot understand the job of a chemical engineer worst is they are not aware that we exist. Though this is the case, it gives me satisfaction to help solving in the worlds greatest challenges.”

That comment, and other similar ones, might help to explain why lack of recognition is the single factor, 38% (482) most often identified by respondents as what they dislike most about their jobs (Figure 5). The company work environment and hours and workload tied at second, each with 28% (353), followed by commute and traveling, 27% (345), salary and benefits at 21% (268) and lack of challenge at 10% (127).

2009 Salary Survey
Figure 3: Job satisfaction is at an all-time high for this year’s survey.

“Engineering and science aren’t glamorous, or extremely high paying fields compared to some others but the work you perform can be intellectually stimulating and a reward in itself,” explains one respondent.

Another offers this analogy, “At our company, my role is to be the grease between the gears of R&D and manufacturing. I reduce the friction between the departments so that production goals are reached at the quality level indicated by R&D. When anything goes wrong, all fingers point to me. Newcomers into this job will need to grow a tough skin and be prepared to work long hours.”

Yet another cherishes choice opportunities. “Look for and make happen something unique. Twice in my work life I've been able to work on product development that exploded my companies sales and profitability. One was a defense project now I'm involved in solar energy. I've received a personal Technology award, and its work that really benefits a broad section of society.”
2009 Salary Survey
Figure 4: The challenge and stimulation is what makes work worthwhile to most survey respondents.

And finally, a voice of experience may offer the best insights. “One has to be patient to allow things happen in one's job experience at the pace of the organization they are in. One can push/guide/insist at times but generally one's progress in the work place is controlled by others (generally higher level people) who are on their own schedule.

“Flexibility is extremely important. I believe that having an agenda for what you want to do or how much you want to make tends to put artificial limits on what one can do or get to. Almost every position change that has happened to me has been at the instigation of other people in the organization. With maybe one or two exceptions, all worked out well for me and I have grown. Sometimes people outside of you can see more clearly what your potential is or how well you can succeed — especially in how you fit within your organization. A business exists to make money. The most effective businesses make the best use of people to meet the business's goals via the jobs they do. If the individual doesn't want to do what the business wants, he/she can always leave.
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