2013 Salary Survey: Salaries Aren't Leveling Off

Annual salary survey results show slight improvements.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

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Most respondents are content with their jobs. Similar to last year's results, 12% of respondents note they're extremely satisfied with their job. Another 37% say they're happy in their role and 40% rate job satisfaction as "okay." Only 9% report a low level of job satisfaction and 2% say they're extremely unsatisfied (Figure 4).

Just as in previous years, "challenge and stimulation" topped the charts (68%) when survey participants were asked what they like most about their job (Figure 5).

"Working for a smaller company has less perks than a larger company and pay is slightly less, but the challenges and opportunities compensate in other ways that salary alone can not provide," comments one respondent.

In fact, when asked to give advice to someone who is thinking of going into chemical engineering, many noted that a willingness to accept new challenges is crucial. "Be prepared to work hard, tackle continual challenges and never say no to an opportunity to learn more through a transfer, even if it's to a remote location," advises another.

Other keys to happiness on the job: salary and benefits ranked 2nd at 52%, and "colleagues" garnered 43% of the vote. Many respondents also cited the work environment (36%) and making products that help people (30%).

"My salary and benefits are adequate, but I'm really not doing it for the compensation. The long commute and long hours are balanced by an incredible work environment and amazing feeling of accomplishment," concludes one participant.

While most chemical engineers welcome a challenging work environment, many bemoan the lack of recognition, with 39% ranking this as the biggest contributing factor to job discontent (Figure 6).

"Be ready to face the challenges of working in an industry where due recognition is not given to hardworking staff," warns one reader to potential newcomers.

"Make sure this is work you enjoy; the work itself will be a primary source of satisfaction. Management may not understand your work well enough to provide high levels of external recognition," advises another.

Thirty percent of respondents also say the work environment hinders job satisfaction. Other factors include salary and benefits (29%), the hours and workload (28%), and the commute and traveling (24%).

Nearly 83% of survey participants say they work more than 40 hours a week (Figure 7). Of those that work long hours, 88% say it's to get work done. Only 7% say they work overtime to earn extra money.

"The health benefits are up and above the national average, the bonus program was revoked, but the work load and level of work has only increased," notes one participant.

"For the amount of hours worked and the work load, the compensation is not sufficient," another grumbles.

"Salary increases are only about 3% per year while workload continues to grow as head count decreases. Each time someone leaves/retires, their work is divided among two to three individuals and no pay increase comes along. After this happens a couple of times, you end up doing the work that use to be done by two people. Upper management then wonders why the small details are then being missed," points out one survey contributor.

Reflecting the shift to a more global economy, several respondents believe that many new job opportunities will require significant travel on a global scale.

"Be prepared to travel significantly in the future for engineering-related jobs as more and more manufacturing leaves the U.S. There will most likely always be jobs available in engineering, but project locations will be more and more outside of the U.S.," advises one respondent.

"Be prepared to work in a global atmosphere. Companies locate assets where the product demand is growing," echoes another.

One modest change from previous results — instead of an even split among respondents, more chemical engineers (54%) say they aren't too concerned or show no concern at all about public opinion of the industry. The other 46% say they're somewhat or very concerned (Figure 8).

"I have little concern; for my entire career (~20 years) the public has had a poor understanding.  I know the facts of how far the industry has come, its safety and environmental record, and how it is adding sustainability. My knowing is enough for me," notes one participant.

In a poll on ChemicalProcessing.com, "How will retirement of 'baby boomers' affect your site over the next five years?" (www.chemicalprocessing.com/articles/2011/survey-baby-boomer-retirement/shows), 46% of respondents expect a significant impact and 37% answered that retirement would affect their site somewhat. This year's salary survey shows the impact of "mass retirements" still looms — if it hasn't happened already.

While the average age of survey participants is 48, more than half (53%) are 50 years or older, and of that group, 18% are nearing or already are at retirement age. Only 6.3 % are under 30. This points up the need to recruit young engineers and preserve important knowledge as more engineers retire (see, "Retirement: Companies Keep Know-how in Place").

As one reader notes, "[The] field is wide open. Lots of people ready to retire. We need more young engineers!"  

A total of 1,242 respondents participated in this year's survey.

From January through March, respondents accessed the survey questionnaire via a link listed on the www.ChemicalProcessing.com website, in e-newsletters and in e-mail blasts sent to readers. Additionally, those who follow Chemical Processing on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/Chem_Processing), Facebook (www.facebook.com/ChemicalProcessingMagazine) and LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/yTireR) also were encouraged to participate.

Ten lucky respondents received gift cards to the vendors of their choice. The winners, randomly selected via www.random.org are:
Mark Arisman, Director, Solomon Colors Inc.
Chuck Shull, Process Engineering Manager, Kao Specialties America,
Joel Grosser, Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton
Glenn Hopkins, Director of Manufacturing Engineering, IIMAK
Bob Norman, Logistics/Purchasing/Safety Coordinator, Generon IGS
John Marshall, Engineer, Henkel
Jonathan Zarych, Chemist, Syndicate Sales
Craig Willi, Chemist, Johnson Manufacturing Company
William Barber, Technical Director – Chemist, SIC Technologies Inc.
Heidi Curnow, Purchasing Manager, Scott's Liquid Gold Inc.

We appreciate the answers and comments we received from all of this year's survey participants.


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  • <p>Have something to say about this data? You can comment on this article -- you just have to be logged in first. Not a member yet? It's an easy process and it will give you instant access. Go to the Become a Member link at the top right corner of the website. (or follow this link: <a href="http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/member-profile/">http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/member-profile/</a>)</p> <p>And to read all the comments that were generated from our salary survey, read Amanda Joshi's blog, Salary Survey Participants Sound Off (<a href="http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/blogs/chemical-reaction/salary-survey-participants-sound-off/">http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/blogs/chemical-reaction/salary-survey-participants-sound-off/</a>). </p>


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