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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"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.

Despite any anxiety over job security, staffing levels show improvement. While almost half of respondents (45%) say staffing levels haven't changed in 12 months (up just 1% from 2013), nearly 30% note staffing levels are somewhat larger — a 2% rise over last year's results. Downsizing also decreased — only 21% report smaller staffing levels compared to nearly 24% in 2013.
Similar to last year's results, most respondents say they're happy with their job. Just under half (49%) report they're either extremely satisfied or happy in their role. Nearly as many, 41%, just call themselves content. Only 10% report being unsatisfied with their work (Figure 4).

"Compensation and benefits have been handed out using an eyedropper over the last three years. Add to this the downsizing that has reduced this site from 1,300 employees to about 500 in that same time and it is hard to be happy," lamented one survey taker.

What do readers like most about what they do? Just as in previous years, the challenge and stimulation of the job topped the charts (71%) (Figure 5).

"I accepted my current position, not for the compensation, but for the challenges and non-financial rewards," says one participant.

"If you want to be challenged and have different work every day of the week this is the industry for you," counsels another.

Rounding out the list of what they like best about their job: 54% said salary and benefits, and 48% enjoy working with their colleagues. The work environment (39%) and making products that help people (33%) also contributed to a positive perspective.

"It is a rewarding career because you get to see your projects/improvements from start to finish. It is a sense of accomplishment when your project has been commissioned, is operational and is a success," one survey taker comments.

"The pay and benefits are excellent; the work life balance is terrible."

Respondents still grumble about the long hours and lack of recognition; 39% note they'd prefer to be better recognized for their work (Figure 6). Nearly 81% work more than 40 hours a week (Figure 7), with 89% saying it's to get work done. Despite the lack of recognition, 19% say they put in the extra hours to advance their career.

When asked what advice they'd give someone looking to join the chemical engineering field, respondents most warned about the long hours.

"Chemical engineering is a satisfying career but not one that is well recognized nor properly rewarded," laments one.

"Make sure you know what you want to do with your career and be willing to put in the time and effort because you will work more than 40 hours per week if you want to advance," advises another.

"Prepare occasionally to sacrifice your work life balance during plant turnaround, equipment breakdown and project commissioning," warns a third.

27% of respondents also list the work environment as unsatisfactory. Salary and benefits, number three on the list last year, dropped to near the bottom of job dissatisfaction complaints, with only 24% listing it among their dislikes.

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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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