Numerous reports this year indicate a positive outlook for the chemical industry. For instance, chief executive officers of chemical companies worldwide are upbeat, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' 16th annual Global CEO Survey (see, "Chemical CEOs Convey Optimism,"). Furthermore, economists at the American Chemistry Council point to sustained growth in the U.S. chemical industry (see, "Prospects Brighten for Chemical Industry"). Now, those who responded to Chemical Processing's 2013 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey seem to echo these findings — salaries, raises and bonuses all continue to rise, further demonstrating prospects are bright.
SALARIES CREEP UPWARDS
Average salaries of respondents employed full time (95%) are up slightly to $104,884 from $103,340, showing a continued trend of slim increases each year since 2011 (see Table 1). The average raise stands at 4.27%, an uptick from last year's 4.15%. Bonuses also crept up to $6,483 compared to $6,318 in 2012. (Calculations exclude responses from those appearing to be unemployed, retired or working part-time.) Another positive highlight — the number of respondents noting they've received a salary increase in the past 12 months continues its 2% climb year over year since 2011 (Figure 1). Moreover, this year, more chemical processing professionals say they're not concerned about job security than in past surveys (Figure 2).
Despite this upwards trend, survey participants report that chances of being laid off or fired in the next two years remain unchanged from 2012 (Figure 3), with nearly 50% reporting a very slight chance.
While many survey participants say they are satisfied with their current salaries and bonuses, a large number of respondents expressed discontent with the downward trend in benefits, and the higher cost of living and healthcare.
"We are very blessed to be well compensated in our industry. However, inflation is significant and cannot be denied. Our pay is NOT keeping up with the cost of living. Though blessed, we are rapidly losing ground," warns one respondent.
"Benefits are good, but many companies are reducing this for the new hires. I think many benefits will disappear in the future," says another participant.
"My salary is increasing, but the overall compensation (insurance, vacation time, pension, etc.) package has been deflated over the last 10 years relative to increasing consumer costs. If my compensation is like others in this country (as I suspect it is) then 'the working man/woman' is getting poorer as a nation," cautions another.
"Annual increases are just not enough to keep up with cost-of-living changes in this environment. Makes looking at other job opportunities easier when companies offer increases of over 10% to change jobs," notes one respondent.
MOVE UP, MOVE ON
Some survey participants suggest that moving up the pay scale means moving on. "Be prepared to change jobs to advance your career. Be willing to relocate," says one.
"The base salary is fair; however, with the cost of living exceeding my salary increases, the only way to get ahead is by switching to companies with a higher base salary," advises another contributor.
Despite these comments, survey numbers indicate most respondents have worked at the same company for more than 15 years (35%). Nearly 39% have been at their current employer for 6 to 15 years, while 26% say they've worked at their company 5 years or less.
While changing jobs may appeal to those seeking a higher salary, they'll have contend with staffing levels that remain relatively static compared to 2012. Nearly half of respondents (44%) say staffing levels haven't changed in 12 months. Only 4% report a significant increase and 28% indicate some rise in staffing.
Regardless, several respondents note the increasing need for qualified engineers.
"I think in general, people think the economy is a lost cause. However, we have over 150 open positions within the company but people aren't willing to move, or aren't willing to do real work. They want a job which they can walk away from at 5pm … and that's just not how life is anymore," comments one contributor.
"Pay/benefits are competitive, but based on industry trends, need to keep pace. My peers and I get contacted by recruiters frequently, and companies like ours need to account for that. We have had difficulty filling positions because of the competition for qualified candidates. The key aspect missing in my current program is a lack of a retention/bonus program. Stock options about to mature, bonus payouts, or pension impacts all make someone think twice about leaving their current employer," another adds.