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June 27, 2003

Our annual survey shows salaries are up--by the smallest increase in 13 years

According to our 2003 Salary Survey, the "average" process control engineer's salary increased only 1.2% over the previous year--a far cry from the past year's 6% increase and even farther from 2001's 6.8% increase. Still, 1.2% is better than no increase at all and way better than being in the unemployment line.

The picture drawn from the results of our survey reflects the general mood of the economy: struggling, ho-hum, wobbly, mediocre--pick your adjective. The full effects of the slam into the 9/11 brick wall are finally showing up in our survey, and the halcyon days of 6% raises and fat bonues appear to be behind us, at least for a while.

Still, things are not all gloom and doom. Our average process control professional is making $78,842 this year and will score better than three weeks of vacation. If he (and it usually is a "he") was one of the lucky 40% who got a bonus, it was an average of $1,500. That's enough to keep most folks from being reduced to living in a refrigerator box under a bridge.

Maybe it's a matter of perspective. Few of you are doing as well as you were in the glory days of the late 1990s--nor was well as you'd like to be--but you're not hurting either.

In this first installment, we'll show the hard numbers: who's making how much and how the numbers compare to others in the field.

Two months down the road (in both the August issue of CONTROL magazine and about that same time on this web site) we'll talk about the "soft" side of the equation--job satisfaction, working conditions, hopes for the future. In short, what makes the control job worth doing even when the numbers are not as good as any of us would like or had hoped.

V.I.Lenin, Where Are You Now That We Need You?

According to our survey, the bosses are earning $33,595 a year more than their plant maintenance people. Thats a difference of 47%. But it could be worse. H. Lee Scott, Jr., CEO of Wal-Mart, took home $11,613,000 in 2002. An assistant department manager at a Wal-Mart makes $21,700. Do the math.

It Finally Hit

Salaries reflected the struggling economy. Increases this year were less than half of last years. In fact, this years "average" engineers salary increased only 1.2% over last year,the smallest increase in our surveys 13-year history.

Never a Decrease

Salaries since 1991 have risen 57%, but the increase from year to year has not been a smooth curve. The 6% increase in 2002 is a lagging indicator. Raises early that year probably did not reflect the sudden post-9/11 decline. The 2003 numbers do.

Were Shocked! Shocked!

Corporate management makes more than the rest of us, but theyre also feeling the pinch. The honchos surveyed this year reported incomes of $3,603 less than last year. R & D engineers fared the best, reporting a 17.3% increase.

You Have Options

You don't have to be a control engineer for life. Consider these alternatives.

Industry Matters

The business you choose to work in does matter. Independent engineering companies offer the highest average salary; primary metals the lowest. While those with independent engineering companies made the most on average, it was the folks in food and beverage manufacturing who got the best raises with an average of 3.7%. But pity your colleagues in instrumentation and controls. They took an average -.2% cut.

P.E. License: Its a Good Thing

Twenty-five percent of our respondents are licensed professional engineers, but they make 17% more on average than their non-licensed colleagues. PEs averaged $88,996, while non-PEs reported salaries averaging $76,034.

Geezer Gang

Of those surveyed 52.1% fall in the 46-60 age bracket. They have an average of 17.5 years with their employers. They earn an average $85,912 per year.

Rules of the Game

The CONTROL Salary Survey is an annual look at the financial well-being and job satisfaction of process control professionals who read CONTROL magazine. This years survey was mailed with the January issue. Responses were collected by mail and fax through March 15. We received 516 responses in time for tabulation. Figures called "average" in the story are statistical means. Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding or missing or invalid responses.

As we said, in two months well talk about issues of job satisfaction and security.

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