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2021 Survey Shows How Job Satisfaction Stacks Up

July 14, 2021
Salary and satisfaction remain steady, even optimistic, amidst the pandemic’s impact

Chemical Processing’s job satisfaction and salary survey has always been a great way for us — and our readers — to get a pulse on the industry’s workforce. And this year’s results show the pulse is strong and steady despite the global pandemic impacting jobs and leading to some statistical anomalies in our year-to-year comparisons.

As COVID-19 continues to present work-from-home challenges and exhaust Zoom calls and screentime, we weren’t entirely surprised to receive a lower-than-usual number of responses to the survey — this seems to afflict many surveys at the moment. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to have had a major impact on the data pool. The only standout abnormality: a chemical engineer’s average salary.

In 2019 and 2020, chemical engineers reported an average salary of $113,000, the highest we’ve tabulated since the 2008 recession, but in 2021, this number fell to just $106,000. However, the survey revealed several factors that could play a role in this lower average.

The main likely reason is that a larger pool of young, less experienced engineers took the survey. In fact, the average age of our respondents is just 47, the youngest we’ve ever reported; in 2020 and 2019 the average worker was 50 years old.

Another is that far fewer respondents report receiving raises this year, with many directly blaming the pandemic for the freeze. This led to an average raise of just 3.7% compared to 2020’s 4.12%.

“I’m happy with my overall salary and benefits, but not happy with how my company has handled the pandemic. They cut raises for the next year, but the company did perfectly fine on the balance sheet. Pretty disappointing,” grumbled one survey respondent.

2021 Salary Survey eHandbook

Our detailed survey contains more information than we can cover here, so be sure to download our eHandbook that includes additional data, charts and comments from engineers about the industry’s outlook as well as advice for aspiring chemical engineers. 

>> Download It Now

“There was a dramatic reduction in salary and benefits instituted in 2020 blamed on the pandemic. It’s a challenge to experience that when there is much inefficient spending, inexperienced people managing projects inefficiently, and lack of experience in the management organization,” griped another.

“I feel my compensation and benefits are fairly good... I think the bonus plan is nice and so are pay raises, but during the pandemic those were cancelled last year,” shared one participant.

“Although raises this year were less than in the past, I’m satisfied with my compensation as a result of a long history of recognition resulting from hard work. My company provides a very good benefits package that was largely unchanged this year,” said one satisfied individual.

Bonuses also fell, but only slightly. The average bonus for 2021 sits at $6,015, compared to $6,101 in 2020.

“Over the last several years our annual salary increase has continued to be a lower percentage and our bonuses as well,” revealed one participant.

“We did not get bonuses because of the pandemic, but did get an extra week off,” shared another.

Initially, we expected a potential upswing in retirements to play a major role in the lower salary levels this year, but in our March 2021 issue, we polled readers online asking how has the pandemic affected retirement plans. The majority disclosed their plans remain on track, and only 10% shared they were retiring earlier than planned or were forced into retirement this year.

Echoing this trend in the salary survey, retirements increased only 1% from last year’s numbers.

We also noticed an increase in more part-time workers, some retired, and of course, layoffs.

“I work part time and get a very good salary. It will do fine until I retire,” shared one participant.

Covid-19 Impact

In 2020, our salary survey kicked off right as the pandemic was starting to shut down the country, and when we asked readers if the restrictions had any impact on their salary, 72% said, “No, not at all.” Now, more than a year into the pandemic, that number has dropped considerably, with only 58% of respondents revealing that COVID-19 hasn’t influenced their salaries.

Furthermore, in 2020, 26% said they did receive pay cuts due to the slow downs. This year, that number increased to 32%. On a more positive note, those reporting pay increases as a result of the pandemic jumped to 10% for 2021, compared to just 2% in 2020.

Meanwhile, 4% report taking on more work. And nearly 40%, compared to 23% in 2020, say they are now working on-site regularly.

Similar to last year, the remaining 11% say they were furloughed temporarily, given reduced hours, or lost their job.

>> Download the PDF of the 2021 Salary Survey 

By downloading the survey, you'll gain access to all the charts and web-exclusive content on grateful workers, a look ahead regarding the economy and staffing concerns many survey respondents have regarding the chemical industry as well as advice for aspiring chemical engineers.

About the Author

Amanda Joshi | Managing Editor

Amanda Joshi has more than 18 years of experience in business-to-business publishing for both print and digital content. Before joining Chemical Processing, she worked with Manufacturing.net and Electrical Contracting Products. She’s a versatile, award-winning editor with experience in writing and editing technical content, executing marketing strategy, developing new products, attending industry events and developing customer relationships. 

Amanda graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2001 with a B.A. in English and has been an English teacher. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and daughter, and their mini Aussiedoodle, Riley. In her rare spare time, she enjoys reading, tackling DIY projects, and horseback riding.

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