Payback time

The best-paid engineers and technical professionals answering our 2007 Salary Survey are growing more numerous and collecting bigger bonuses, while their lower-paid colleagues are decreasing.

By Jim Montague

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In addition, this middle-aged uptick occurred even though respondents with 11-20 years in process control decreased to 31.7% in 2007 from 34.8% in 2006, while those with more than 30 years experience swelled to 15.8% in 2007 from 10.2% in 2006. However, as might be expected, respondents with two to five years of supervisory experience decreased to 20.1% in 2007 from 21.8% in 2006 (See Figure 3 below), while those who supervise 11-20 people increased to 9.3% in 2007 from 6.3% in 2006.

FIGURE 3: MORE MID-LEVEL SUPERVISING

Big-Picture Economics
Pay hikes for the highest-paid respondents can be attributed to several consistent causes. While many of those in oil, gas, and other petrochemical-based settings continue to benefit from high prices in those industries, increasing use of process control technologies in pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and even hybrid applications also is fueling demand for process engineers. Possibly the most crucial factor, however, is the swelling retirement of many older process control engineers, who aren’t being replaced quickly enough because too few students are pursuing process control and engineering as a career.

In addition, besides the expected technological advances, today’s control and automation engineers must handle continuously reemerging software, increasingly PC-based solutions, different fieldbuses and Ethernet implementations, plant-floor to enterprise integration, and newly networked and wireless devices. These accelerating improvements repeatedly upstage each other, and often trigger subsequent alterations in many jobs.

Consequently, these forces have forced both rookie and veteran engineers to acquire more continuing education to cope with new technologies. In fact, one reason there aren’t enough process control engineers is because even available training can’t keep pace with especially fast-paced technology updates.

More Outsourcing, Less Mergers/Layoffs
Because the former merger-layoff strategy has been replaced by increased outsourcing of many engineering and other professional services, the proportion of firms doing outsourcing has remained relatively constant. For example, just over 67% of 2007’s respondents report outsourcing professional/engineers services, while close to 65% reported outsourcing in 2006 (See Figure 4 below).

FIGURE 4: OUTSOURCING UP

For the second straight year, some of the best news in 2007’s salary survey may be respondents’ reports that hiring has increased at their companies to 48.8% in 2007 from 44.4% in 2006.

Likewise, those reporting layoffs again declined to 16.6% in 2007 from 20% in 2006 (See Figure 5 below). These results were accompanied by a decrease in overtime to 30.5% in 2007 from 34% in 2006. Fortunately, promotions and raises reported shot up to 15.2% in 2007 from 11.8% in 2006.

FIGURE 5: MORE HIRING AND PROMOTIONS

In addition, respondents identifying “challenging work” as most important for job satisfaction dropped to almost 41% in 2007 from 44.4% in 2006. However, while 22% in 2007 say appreciation is important for job satisfaction, while 19.9% stated it was most important a year earlier.

In addition, 56.6% reported that they aren’t worried about job security in 2007, which was a slight decrease from the 57.1% reporting that they weren’t worried about job security in 2006.

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