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Some good news now. Some bad news soon. That’s the word from the more than 700 respondents to Control’s 2008 Salary Survey, who collectively reported increasing pay for their richest members, flat or declining compensation at most other pay levels and continuing erosion in standard benefits.
Figure 1: Richest get Richer
The respondents to 2008’s emailed and online salary survey again reported a big jump among those in the highest salary category compared to the year before (Figure 1). Basically, respondents earning salaries above $100,000 increased to 33.7% in 2008 from 27.9% in 2007, while those in almost every pay range below this decreased slightly. Meanwhile, those receiving bonuses of 6% to 10% or 11% to 15% of their salaries increased about two percentage points each. In addition, while those taking three weeks of vacation increased to 31.8% in 2008 from 27.3% in 2007, those with four weeks of vacation decreased to 26.4% in 2008 from 30.6% in 2007, and those taking more than a month off per year dropped to 26.8% in 2008 from 28% in 2007.
Figure 2: Aging Gracefully
Likewise, slightly fewer of 2008’s respondents reported receiving standard benefits than the year before. These small declines occurred in medical, dental and life insurance coverage, 401k, disability, tuition reimbursement, pension plans, profit sharing and company cars. A slight increase was reported by telecommuters.
The most populous group of respondents remains those from 46 to 55 years old. Last year, they composed 42% of our participants, but in 2008 they made up 43.1%, while their older and younger colleagues decreased slightly. However, respondents 18 to 25 decreased a bit to 1.3% in 2008 from 1.5% in 2007, while those over 55 years decreased to 18.3% in 2008 from 19.6% in 2007, most likely due to retirements (Figure 2).
Figure 4: More Experiences Supervisors
In addition, respondents with 11 to 20 years in process control dipped slightly to 30.5% in 2008 from 31.7% in 2007 and 34.8% in 2006. However, those with 11 to 20 years of supervisory experience in process control increased to 25.9% in 2008 from 22.9% in 2007, while those with more than 30 years of supervisory experience swelled to 12.9% in 2008 from 10.9% in 2007. (Figure 4).
Unfortunately, one group that decreased slightly was women engineers. Last year, 6.4% of our respondents were female, but only 5.5% of 2008’s respondents were women. This confirms the trend that women and younger professionals still aren’t joining the engineering workforce in large numbers or at as fast a pace as in other professions.
When it comes to race, White/Caucasian is still the dominant ethnic group with 86.5% of 2008’s participants. Meanwhile, minority groups, such as Blacks, Asians and Hispanics tallied only 2.3%, 5.0% and 3.9%, respectively. However, though most process control engineers and related technical professionals remain overwhelmingly white, male, U.S. residents, who are married with children (Figure 3), there are a few other demographic shifts worth noting. For instance, respondents identifying themselves as married declined again to 84% in 2008 from 85.5% in 2007 and 90.5% in 2006, while those with kids dropped to 84.8% in 2008 from 86.3% in 2007.
Though respondents with four-year undergraduate degrees dipped slightly to 51.9% in 2008 from 54.1% in 2007, the most prevalent academic degree remained “other, mostly mechanical engineering and chemistry” at 37.6% in 2008 compared to 37.1% in 2007. The next most popular areas of study were electrical engineering at 28.6% and chemical engineering at 20.3% in 2008.
Figure 6: Less OT, Hiring; More Promotions
Long hours seem to be the rule in process control engineering. For example, more than 78% of 2008’s participants work 41-60 hours per week and 77.2% aren’t paid overtime.
Likewise, those in the “engineering, design and construction” job category decreased slightly to 41.9% in 2008 from 45% in 2007, while those in “production and plant operations” again increased to 27.6% in 2008 from 22% in 2007. Also, the largest single group (19.8%) works in the chemical industry, while food and beverage and oil and gas each attracted a little over 10% of participants.
Job Security and Economics
Just as everywhere else, national and global economic problems cast a long shadow over many process control respondents, and affecting their work dynamics and company behaviors. Nearly 43% of those surveyed say their employers’ hiring processes have been affected by the economy, while 19.4% say their raises and promotions have been affected. However, despite these stresses, more of our respondents also seem to be optimistic. In 2007, 56.6% of those surveyed said they were unconcerned about job security. In 2008, 58.1% reported feeling the same way.
Several observers report that skyrocketing oil prices and related inflation, new and revived international and domestic process application projects, and an aging workforce are all contributing to increasing demand, competition and compensation for control engineers. Steadily increasing use of process control technologies in pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and hybrid applications also is fueling the need for engineers. Still, the most widely acknowledged factor is the accelerating retirement of older engineers, who aren’t being replaced fast enough because too few students pursue process control and engineering careers.
Because of this scarcity and lower labor costs, it might be assumed that outsourcing would be on the increase. However, while more players report using outsourcing, each adds that they’re using it less. For example, just over 69% of 2008’s respondents report outsourcing professional/engineering services, while more than 67% reported outsourcing in 2007 (Figure 5).
Despite this much-professed need for engineers, hiring and overtime decreased slightly and layoffs increased over the past year. Respondents reporting that their firms are hiring slipped to 47.2% in 2008 from 48.8% in 2007, while those offering overtime dropped to 27.1% in 2008 from 30.5% in 2007. Meanwhile, layoffs jumped to 18.5% in 2008 from 16.6% in 2007.
However, one especially positive note is that companies offering promotions and raises continued to increase to 19.4% in 2008 from 15.2% in 2007 from 11.8% in 2006.
More than 160 respondents to the 2008 Salary Survey offered perceptive comments besides their multiple-choice answers, which may give their fellow engineers and managers some useful insight into issues and, perhaps, the relative health of their various organizations. Some of the most interesting included:
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