Economics / Training

2019 Salary Survey: Survey Picks Up Good Vibrations

Latest poll shows upbeat results for salary and satisfaction.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

“I’m happy.” This simple statement echoes how most chemical engineers feel about their work, according to our annual salary and job satisfaction survey. Of the 926 respondents, nearly 90% say they are satisfied or mostly satisfied with their jobs — a 3% increase over 2018’s results and the highest uptick since 2016 when 91% felt fulfilled.

“I feel really satisfied with the bonus and raise/promotion I got this past year. Health insurance is okay and vacation is okay as well. Compared to everyone else I have a lot less, but it is based off of time at the company,” said one content respondent.

As this salary survey participant revealed, a likely contributor to the uptick in satisfaction is more chemical engineers reporting they received raises as well as higher bonuses in the last year. The average annual salary increase came out to 4.3% compared to 3.9% last year. The average bonus rose to $7,354 from $6,887 last year and $6,568 in 2017. In addition, leading the pack both in the highest amount as well as the largest number of respondents, nearly 36% reported their bonuses exceeded $10,000.

Another participant shared, “They [the company] have finally gotten to be good with compensation. We are in the second year of a three-year process to implement an annual incentive program. This year’s bonus approached $40,000. My work effort continues to get me ~3% raises each year, some of the best numbers in the company. Benefits are adequate; we’ve been transitioning between 401k and medical providers in the last three years, which has had its ups and downs. Our company has doubled in size during the same timeframe, so this is probably to be expected.”

One survey taker cited a “good salary” with an annual bonus of 30%. Another respondent suggested, “It would be worthwhile in future editions of this survey to offer more options on the question regarding bonuses. The category ‘above $10,000’ doesn't adequately capture the priority my company places on bonuses. For example, my bonus for the last several years is greater than my salary.”

Surfs Up, Salaries Up

Our latest survey revealed an average salary of $113,699 — up from $112,329 in 2018; furthermore, 18% of respondents stated their income exceeds more than $150,000 a year.

“I am satisfied with my salary and benefits. It’s competitive to the industry,” shared one respondent.

“I believe the compensation package I receive is very competitive and I’m highly satisfied with that element of my job,” said another.

“[I’m] very well-compensated. Benefits good for such a small company. No major complaints about my job compensation and benefits,” claimed one happy respondent.

Sunny Satisfaction?

“Salary and benefits are definitely good compared with other jobs and industries; however, work/life balance is difficult and lack of recognition (and associated raises and promotions) is an issue,” griped one commenter.

Indeed, while job satisfaction remains quite high, at least a quarter or more of respondents listed lack of recognition, the work environment, the commute and traveling, and hours and workload as things they disliked about their jobs.

“Pay isn’t everything. Think about the value of your time,” warned one commenter.
Another agreed, saying “No one is ever happy based solely on compensation.”

“While I feel I am slightly underpaid for my experience, education, work ethic, and job duties; I do not feel I am underpaid enough to start looking for employment elsewhere. The medical benefits, the work I do, and my co-workers/work environment help improve my overall satisfaction. If the gap between my actual pay/benefits and what I feel I deserve based on research of similar positions in my field grows larger, that may change,” said another.

This is why chemical engineers consistently report each year that it’s not the salary and benefits, but the challenge and stimulation of the job that they like most about their work (45%). The pay ranked second (20%), recognition by employers and peers came in third (12%), job security fourth (10%) and only a few noted advancement opportunities (5%).

With that in mind, people tend to work harder when they feel they’re adequately compensated for their experience and skills, and 58% believe they are being paid fairly for the work they put in (Figure 6). “I perform better and take greater satisfaction from performance-based compensation packages than from a higher fixed salary,” explained one participant.

As a result, many put in extra hours, with 90% saying the reason they work long hours is to get work done. More than 75% of survey participants work more than 41 hours a week, and of that, nearly 59% work between 41–50 hours. Another reason to work long hours? Advance their careers.

Want to check out the waves? We’ve once again published the results of our annual salary and job satisfaction survey. Inside this 31-page PDF, which contains several exclusive charts and comments that don’t appear in the print issue, you will find analysis and data on myriad topics including: 

  • Average Salary Earned
  • Job Security
  • Average Raises Earned
  • Hours Spent At Work
  • Job Satisfaction
  • What’s Bothering Engineers


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