Salary Survey 2012: The Way We Are

The Results of the 2012 Salary Survey Are In. Here's What Readers Told Us About Their Professional World View

By Nancy Bartels

Every year we ask our readers how they see the process automation world from their desks, in terms of the money they make, the benefits they accrue and the satisfaction their jobs bring. What follows are the results of this year's pulse-taking based on a survey of a 1000 of our readers during March and April 2012.

Table 1
Profile of an Engineer

He's a he. . .95.5 % are male.
He's over 45. . .61%; 28% are over 55.
He lives in the U.S.. . .65%; 11% each live in Europe or Asia.
He's Caucasian. . .75%.
He's married. . .85%. . .with children. . .82%.
He's a college graduate. . .76%; and of these, 26% have post-graduate degrees.
He's either an electrical or a chemical engineer. . .42% and 19%, respectively.
He averages 16 years in the business. . .44% have 20+ years.
He works in engineering, design and construction. . .47.5%;
plant maintenance. . .15%; or production and plant operations. . .14%.
He works long hours. . .average is 39 hours a week, but 75% say they work 40-60 hours per week.
He works in oil and gas. . .19%; chemical. . .11%; energy. . .10%;
or for an instrument/controls supplier. . .10%. The rest work in a variety of fields.  
He's somebody's boss. . .averages 7 years of supervisory experience.
He's not a PE. . .only 27% of respondents are Professional Engineers.
He's not necessarily a joiner. . .of the half of respondents who stated a membership, 50% belong to ISA; 11% to AIChE; and 9% to ASME.
He's a long-timer. . .with an average of 6 years at his current job, nearly a quarter (23%) have
been at their job for more than 20 years.

Table 2
Who Gets How Much?

Table 2

Being an engineer pays. Just over 50% of respondents make more than $90,000 a year, up 6% from last year. Another 20% make between $70,000 and $90,000, down 2%. However, a full 74% do not get paid overtime.

Table 3
Small Increases

Table 3

Even in tough times, our respondents reported raises, although they were small for most. A third (34%) reported a raise of no more than $1000, and another 45% reported raises between $2000 and $4000 dollars. That puts approximately 79% in these two categories, up 5% from last year.

Table 4
What About the Benefits?

Table 4

Most of our respondents receive the usual expected benefits, medical, dental, life insurance, disability, etc. The percentages remain largely unchanged from last year. Two noticeable changes were 4% drop in pension plan offerings, and a corresponding increase in 401K plans. Also, there was a 5% increase in flex time (up to 32% from 27%), and a 3% increase in telecommuting (up to 15% from 12%), perhaps reflecting the growing ubiquity of network connectivity.

Table 5
But Wait There Is More!

Table 5, 1

Two-thirds of our respondents received bonuses this year, about the same as last year. Their bonus as percent of salary was also largely unchanged. Those receiving more than 15% was up by about 3%. Those receiving less than 2% was down by 2%.

Table 5, 2

Table 6
Heading for the Fishing Shack

Table 6

Our respondents work hard, but they also get generous vacation time (assuming they feel free to use it). A whopping 82% of our respondents get three weeks or more vacation, and 29% say they get more than four weeks. These numbers probably reflect the seniority of the bulk of our respondents.

Table 7
Happy All the Time?

Table 7

In spite of some concerns—45.5% say they're worried about job security—our respondents seem to be a happy bunch overall. Three-fourths say they're happy in the automation profession, and that they would encourage their children to enter it as well. Key to this satisfaction is challenging work (43.5%). Trailing that by 25 percentage points is a good salary and benefits (18%). Appreciation for a job well done comes in third at 15%.

Table 8

Table 9

The Pain Points

Some of the pain points for our respondents are the usual complaints: clueless supervisors, penny-pinching bean counters, badly prepared newbies. But, based on their comments, the three that seem to really hurt are lack of appreciation, the continuing do-more-with-less attitude and the policy of outsourcing work. (A full 65.5% of companies outsource, according to our survey, and 30% are increasing that activity.) Here's what those surveyed said (we've kept the quotes anonymous):

"My company has already trimmed the fat and is now hacking away at bone. We have outsourced core knowledge of maintenance and engineering such that we can't function without certain contractors on site. However, when it comes time to cut expenses, the contractors are first to go, without regard to function." 

"Lack of appreciation from upper management. Management makes decisions that undermine ability to perform tasks on time and with high degree of quality, then blames the engineering side for not meeting expectations."

"At times, there is not an overall understanding or appreciation for what the controls professional does day in and day out. That is not to say some don't see it, and are glad we employ some, but there is a devaluing of in-house talent."

"Workplace issue #1 in the past year: The hidden costs of outsourcing to India are that Indian engineers generally need so much training, guidance, instruction and support that it is rarely economical to outsource to them."

"The do-more-with-less [attitude] is starting to affect the work force in our environment. Some equipment is not getting the attention that it should due to lack of proper staff availability."

"Management does not have an understanding of process control. This undermines appreciation, challenging work conditions and career progression."

"Engineering is too often relegated to doing all the detailed work, being responsible for costs, technical accuracy, etc., but is seldom recognized for their efforts."

"The company is still trying to do more with less, and keeps stretching things thinner and thinner. The bean-counters are still running the show."

"We've been using lots more contractors in everything from front office staff to high-risk field work. As we invest more in this scalable workforce, more of our knowledge is invested outside our permanent staff. We're under pressure from corporate to pursue lower-cost contracts and minority-owned companies, so our tried-and-true resources leave our site and take that knowledge with them. I think it ends up costing us more in the long run because we seem to be spending more and more time with contractors getting up to speed."

"Have to do more with less people. Contract engineering quality is spotty. Some good, some lacking."

"Companies are looking to subcontract engineering from China regardless of local availability."

"Asked to do more and more, while being paid less and less in real terms."

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