2011 Salary Survey: Are Things Looking Up?

Annual salary survey points to some positive developments.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

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HOW MUCH DO CHEMICAL ENGINEERS MAKE?
In 2009, the average salary was $107,804, which declined for the first time last year to $97,554. For 2011, the average salary of full-time respondents climbed to $101,553. (Responses from those appearing to be unemployed, retired or working part-time were excluded from the salary calculation.)

In addition, the average pay raise was 4.34%, rising for the first time since 2009. In fact, 7.44%, of respondents received pay increases exceeding 10%. In comparison, only 3.64% had pay raises of 10% or higher in 2010.

Average bonuses also edged up to $6,102 compared with an average $5,835 in 2010.

While most readers (59%) believe they're adequately compensated, many expressed frustration that benefits are declining.

"Compensation is adequate, but I could do better by going to another company. [My current] company used the excuse of ObamaCare to more than double my health insurance premium," complained one reader.

"Benefits are very good, unfortunately the expectation is everything will be cut, particularly retirement benefits," echoed another.

"I currently feel fairly compensated, blessed and fortunate in this struggling economy.  However, the upcoming inflation and my not-terribly-distant retirement make me focus on maximizing my compensation as the economy struggles to recover," commented a respondent.


THE JOBS PICTURE
Approximately 26% (450) of respondents report staffing levels have increased in the past 12 months, compared to just 16% last year. However, 46% (794) note staff levels have not changed from 12 months ago.

Most respondents (91% or 1,545) say they work directly for an employer versus 9% (148) that work as contractors. In "Better Times Beckon for Contract Engineers," Chemical Processing reported contract engineering positions are on the rise. Of those working as contractors, 58% (90) report their positions had no fixed term. More than 22% (35) indicate their work would last over one year and 13% (21) said their contracts ran between six months and a year.

"[My position] is a contractual job and hourly salary rates are normally high. It also depends on the project and the type of industry and company. Oil and Gas right now are really paying you good money especially in the offshore area," said one respondent.

On the other hand, "Being a contractor means no benefits. The economic woes of the world have given an excuse to corporations to hire people at lower rates," complained one reader.

JOB SATISFACTION REMAINS POSITIVE
Similar to last year's results, the majority of respondents (42% or 700) are satisfied with their jobs (Figure 4).  Nearly 12% (203) said they are extremely satisfied. About 38% (644) rated their job satisfaction as just "okay." Only 8% (137) report a low level of job satisfaction and less than 2% said they're not at all content.

As in the previous year, the challenge and stimulation of the work lead to a high degree of satisfaction, according to 72% (1,232) of respondents (Figure 5). Salary and benefits follows at 56% (959) as the next leading factor in satisfaction. Other factors readers say contribute to a highly satisfying job include: colleagues, 46% (787); the work environment, 42% (715); and making products that help people, 33% (569).

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