2014 Salary Survey Yields A Mixed Bag

Annual survey shows salaries are up but job satisfaction remains unchanged

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

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"I work for the best company in the world. We are well taken care of and as a result we strive to make our company and client successful," says one respondent of Chemical Processing's 2014 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey. This is the "golden job" everyone strives to find. And while not all respondents shared the same sentiment towards their jobs, many noted they were happy or at least content with their salaries and their work. And they have good reason to be. Over the past five years, we've seen salaries reach their highest level, plummet during the recession and then slowly but surely edge back up. This year the average salary for a chemical engineer jumped to $107,187 (from $104,884 last year), the highest it's been since 2009, when respondents reported earning an average $107,804 (Table 1).

Salaries might be up, but bonuses and raises remain relatively flat. The average raise, 4.26%, sits just below last year's 4.27%. The average bonus fell slightly as well — $6,440 compared to $6,483 in 2013. (Calculations exclude responses from those appearing to be unemployed, retired or working part-time.)

"I feel that I am adequately compensated for my current role — especially considering the current economic environment. However, there is no bonus program for rewarding employees that contribute to the success of the company," says one survey participant.

The number of respondents receiving salary increases within the last 12 months also stalled. Since 2011, that number typically climbed 2% year over year; however, this year, 59% of respondents cited a salary increase versus 60% in 2013 (Figure 1).

One survey taker cautioned that as medical premiums rise, salaries become skewed and might not fairly represent actual take-home pay. In fact, respondents gripe more about the lack of or decreasing benefits more than they do about any issues with their salary. Some even worry about the impact decreasing benefits might have on new hires.

"Benefits are great for me, not so much for those younger. Really hate to see the decline of benefits for younger folk (pension disappearing)," comments one.

"Benefits are good, but slowly changing. Unfortunately the newest and future employees' pension benefits will be lacking compared to the past," notes another.

Others had the opposite reaction — voicing concern over the wages new hires receive compared to more experienced staff.

"I am pleased [with] what I make — right up until they hire new, significantly less experienced employees into the same position with the same title suggesting similar pay. Then I come to the belief that I am under-paid compared to my compatriots," says one survey participant.

"[Pay and benefits are] very competitive, however for those with 25-plus years experience more thought should be put into equitable pay as it relates to new hires," suggests another.

"The compensation is good but naturally can always be better. It always gripes me to see new grads receiving almost as much compensation with so little experience. Our raises only seem to keep us slightly ahead of the entry levels. The only way we can obtain substantial increases in compensation is to switch employers," complains one respondent.

Concerns about job security remain unchanged from the previous year with more than half (55%) noting they aren't concerned (Figure 2). Nearly 46% of survey participants report a slight chance of being laid off or fired in the next two years, down from almost 50% last year (Figure 3). Participants confident they won't lose their jobs at all rose 4% to 23%. However, nearly 8% note it's likely or very likely they could lose their job, compared to just 6% voicing this concern in 2013.

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