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.

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  • <p>I encourage readers to look at the chemical engineer salary survey in chemical engineering progres, www.aiche.org/cep. 2,633 AIChE members responded: median: $127 K lower quartile: $97 K upper quartile: 160 K I showed the survey to a colleague civil engineer and he got ANGRY, claiming the survey was a fraud and that the respondents all LIED, inflating their salary. "How many chemical engineers do YOU know making $140 K??" he charged. I replied, "Well [anonymous], when I was at Fluor I was making $107 K then the depression hit; my division manager could very well have been making $140 K; I never was able to find out." I think he was just upset that chem e's make more than civil's. some of the results: By "job function," "education + consulting" was the highest at $180 K; quality control was lowest at $71 K. I was surprised that government/regulatory (where I work, in CA) was $103.5 K There was no surprise on how salary varied with region. I have routinely been telling recruiters I would move from CA and work for $80 K in TX-OK-KS in natural gas and mid-stream products, and I see the median in those 3 states $133 K. </p>


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