2012 Salary Survey: Salaries Move Ahead -- Slowly

Annual salary survey indicates respondents are content with current pace.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

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The work environment nabbed the #2 spot, with 27% (389) of readers conveying their dissatisfaction.

"Be aware of the culture of the industry. The chemical industry is very conservative and traditional. It's not like Google, Intel, et al. that receive much press about the work environment," griped one reader.

Another warned, "Be prepared for long working hours and a tough working environment."

The hours and workload, as well as salary and benefits also topped the list of complaints, noted by 26% (374), and 25% (356) of respondents, respectively.

"Compensation and benefits are good and would be even better if the hours, workload and stress involved were a bit less," notes one participant.

"As for benefits, my employer pays a lot of lip service to work-life balance, but the reality is more representative of the 70's or 80's. Over 50% of what I do can be done remotely, but my boss won't allow me to work unless I'm physically at the plant. We all have laptops and Cisco VPN, but telecommuting is expressly prohibited. As a single mom with a toddler, telecommuting is essential, so of course I do it anyway (as does everyone else, including my boss) but it doesn't count toward my 40 hr/week. VERY FRUSTRATING," complains one reader.

"I would like more time off. Working 50 hours a week and only taking two weeks vacation does not allow me to be with my family enough," laments another respondent.

Long work hours are typical, as nearly 60% (921) of readers say they average 41-50 hours a week, and 18% (283) clock 51-60 hours.

Despite long work hours and other frustrations, the majority of respondents — 41% (645) call themselves satisfied and nearly 12% (186) are extremely satisfied (Figure 5) with their jobs. About 36% (556) rate their job satisfaction as just "okay." Only 9% (134) report a low level of job satisfaction and 2% (35) 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 71% (1,103) of respondents (Figure 6). Salary and benefits follows at 57% (891). Other factors readers say contribute to a highly satisfying job include: colleagues, 45% (692); the work environment, 37% (579); and making products that help people, 32% (498).

"If you're working just for salary and not job satisfaction, suggest moving on, even at lower salary. I view job satisfaction above all else, as you're spending 40+ hours a week at your job, and doing something you enjoy will only make you want to succeed more," comments a reader.

Another respondent also recognized the long work hours, but says "the rewards are great."

"The benefits are above average and are okay. I am paid hourly which works better for me than salary. But I would feel better if I was making about 15% more, based on my experience and contributions. However, this does not impact my appreciation of this position and my enjoyment of it," says another.

Many companies have been working to preserve their knowledge base as more engineers retire (see, "Retirement: Companies Keep Know-how in Place"). It's a good thing too, as the number of seasoned workers continues to rise versus younger chemical engineers entering the work force. Survey results show seniority is prevalent across the board — a combined 60% of respondents have worked in the field 21 years or more, 53% of those surveyed are more than 50 years old, and the largest number of respondents (345) noted salaries of $125,000+, indicating senior-level positions and years of experience.

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