Storms clouds clearing

2010 Salary Survey: Clouds of Concern Begin to Clear

March 30, 2010
Survey reveals readers are regaining confidence in their job security.

Before you read the 2010 story, why not check out the 2012 Salary Survey results. Click here to see why we say that salaries are moving ahead, slowly.

Chemical industry professionals believe they've weathered the worst of the economic storm, according to results of Chemical Processing's 2010 Salary and Job Satisfaction survey. This year, 52% (860) of respondents are concerned about job security and 48% (778) are not (Figure1) compared to 58% who were and 42% who were not in the 2009.

Looking at this another way, 49% (800) believe there's a very slight chance that they will be laid off or fired within in the next two years, while an additional 10% (170) think there's no chance at all. About 31% (509) expect there's a moderate chance of being fired or laid off within that period of time. These results mark a 2% improvement from last year. Only 6% (99) think layoffs or firings are likely and 4% (63) believe they're very likely (Figure 2).

"You will not get rich but it will be stable for 20 to 25 years," commented one respondent about working in the chemical industry.

Pay, Raises, Bonuses Drop
For the first time since the survey was established in 2005, the average salaries reported by respondents declined — from $107,804 in 2009 to $97,554 this year. Until now, average salaries have steadily increased. In 2005, the average salary was $85,234; in 2006, $89,690; in 2007, $90,038; and in 2008, $95,231. (Table 1). Small percentage declines in those reporting annual incomes within the $115,000 to $125,000 pay ranges and increases in those earning $80,000 to $95,000 account for the decrease in the average salaries reported.

"The recent economic downturn halted bonuses and raises last year and maybe this year, which is really disappointing considering our site had one of the best years ever," noted one respondent. "I believe that I am well compensated for my skill and education level and the benefits are good."

Average pay raises also fell for the second consecutive year, to 3.68% compared to 4.23% in 2009 and 5.06% in 2008. Additionally, average bonuses decreased from $6,407 in 2009 to $5,835 this year.

"Everyone would like to earn more, but I feel that I am being paid fairly for the job," said another respondent.

That echoes the sentiment of many. Indeed, the majority of respondents remain content with their compensation levels, with 58.74% (968) believing they are adequately compensated. However, 41.26% (426) report they are not fairly compensated.

"Compensation is fine — but a pension plan would be a great improvement," grumbled a respondent. "The current financial crisis makes it very difficult to feel comfortable with security during retirement."

2010 Salary Survey Charts

What Leads to Satisfaction?
Closely related to compensation is job satisfaction — the majority of respondents indicate they are satisfied with their jobs (Figure 3). About 9.9% (164) are very satisfied, 38% (638) are highly satisfied and another 37% (622) are satisfied. Only 11% (184) say they have a low level of job satisfaction and another 2.9% (48) report a very low level of satisfaction.

The above map shows that the bulk of survey respondents are in the U.S., with additional responses coming in from Europe, South America, the Mideast, the former Soviet Union, Africa and Australia.

The challenge and the stimulation of the work lead to such a high degree of satisfaction, according to 74% (1,200) of respondents (Figure 4). Other factors that significantly contribute include: salary and benefits, 57% (976); colleagues, 54% (886); the work environment at the company, 40% (655); and making products that help people, 32% (531).

What's to Dislike?
Lack of recognition irks the largest number of respondents, 42% (635) (Figure 5). The company's work environment follows with 31% (462) and then the hours and workload at 30% (449). Another 26% (400) faulted their salary and benefits.

Image Matters
Negative public opinion of the industry splits respondents (Figure 6). Approximately 13% (208) are very concerned about public opinion and another 39% (645) say they are somewhat concerned. However, 39% (642) are not really concerned about public opinion and another 9% (143) say they aren't at all concerned.

 Several respondents complained that the public undervalues the role of chemicals: "People rally against the industry and the impact of chemicals and our facilities, however our lives would be dramatically impacted if the plastics and chemicals we use in every day life were eliminated," said one respondent. "I do believe the industry needs to continue minimizing our impact on the environment and health but our products are essential to a high quality life."

"I believe the general public thinks our industry is bad for the environment and that there is ignorance to how it actually contributes to new technologies that greatly benefit them," said another.

Others lamented a lack of appreciation for positive steps industry has taken. "It would be nice if the public realized we aren't bad guys," commented one. "We go above and beyond the environmental requirements because we want to be good corporate citizens.

"The chemical industry is still regarded as a major pollution-generating business, with little regard for the community and neighbors, which is in stark contrast to the improvements we have made in safety, process safety, and emissions reduction," griped another. "In addition, media portray "big business" as corrupt and evil, although we provide the necessary chemicals for almost all facets of the public's needs.

How the Data Were Gathered
A total of 1,827 respondents participated in this year's survey. That's second only to 2007 when 1,830 people answered our questions.

Since mid-January, respondents accessed the survey questionnaire via a link listed in the print edition of Chemical Processing, on the Web site, and in e-newsletters and e-mail blasts sent to readers. Additionally, those who follow Chemical Processing on Twitter at Chem_Processing and Facebook at Chemical Processing Magazine were also encouraged to participate.

iPod Touch winner
John Zabrenski, senior project engineer at BASF Catalysts, Iselin, N.J., was randomly selected as the winner of a 8-GB iPod Touch offered by Chemical Processing as an incentive for participating in the survey.

"Thank you for informing me that I won the iPod," he said. "I am thrilled to win this prize. I have never won anything like this before."

We appreciate the answers and comments we received from all of this year's survey participants.

Ken Schnepf is Chemical Processing's Managing Editor. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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