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2012 Brings Increased Salaries & Job Satisfaction

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Beth Stackpole
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Mixed messages on the economic front
Beth Stackpole   8/1/2012 7:42:58 AM
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Interesting that the results of our survey seem to buck the current feeling in the general populace around a stalled economy and stagnant economic growth. I'm running into this mixed messaging a lot lately, depending on the geographic location of who I'm talking to and the type of work/industry sector that they're in. Part of me thinks some of the current economic doom and gloom is too tied to what's going on abroad and the upcoming election, yet there are still so many hard-to-ignore signs that growth hasn't returned to where people expected after four years of "the great recession." In any case, I'm pleased to see engineering as a bright spot and hope there's some kind of filter down or filter up effect for the broader, global economic ecosystem.

Cadman-LT
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Re: Mixed messages on the economic front
Cadman-LT   8/2/2012 5:44:09 PM
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I find this article disturbing. I mean of course the guys making the most money are the happiest. I disagree with that though. Also, only what %56 are actually happy with their jobs. That's crazy. I would rather make less and be happy at work instead of getting paid more and hating every day. Maybe that's just me. I've always worked for small firms and made less, but I was happy. I tried some big firms, but was just lost in the fold. I guess I don't fit into this "survey".

Dave Palmer
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Re: Mixed messages on the economic front
Dave Palmer   8/2/2012 6:40:55 PM
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@Cadman-LT: Actually, 92% of the survey respondents were satisfied with their careers in design engineering.  56% represents the number who were "very satisfied" or "extremely satisfied," but another 36% were "somewhat satisfied."

As for the 8% who were "not very satisfied" or "not at all satisfied," well, there's just no pleasing some people.

The survey only looked at satisfaction, which is different from happiness.  Happiness means having a feeling of joy in your day to day life.  As you point out, that doesn't correlate very well with income (provided that you make at least enough so that you're not constantly unhappy about your financial situation).

Satisfaction is more of a sense that things are going well for you.  This correlates more closely with income.  But it's possible to be satisfied without being happy, and it's possible to be happy without being satisfied.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Mixed messages on the economic front
Beth Stackpole   8/3/2012 8:19:16 AM
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Satisfied and happy can also factor in a lot more than money. There's the type of design work you're doing, the overall company culture, the people you work with, the ability to create an effective work/life balance and the list goes on. I think for a lot of engineers, being able to have state of the art tools and tackle the type of engineering problems that causes them to think out of the box might be more cause for satisfaction/happiness than a few dollars extra in the paycheck no matter how you slice it.

Rob Spiegel
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Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/1/2012 10:54:28 AM
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Nice report, Lauren. It's encouraging that such a high percentage of engineers would recommend their career to a son or daughter. 

As for as the political outlook, it seems to break down like the general population.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Positive about engineering
Jennifer Campbell   8/1/2012 2:23:44 PM
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That is an encouraging sign. I could be wrong, but I believe the respondents to salary surveys going back as early as last year said they would tell their children to run in the other direction, screaming, rather than join the profession. Of course, that could be said for any profession.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/1/2012 3:42:22 PM
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Yes, 83 percent saying they would recommend engineering to a son or daughter is very impressive. I would imagine that comes from a combination of factors: pay, ability to find a new job if necessary, satisfaction with the work, security. The longevity of the engineering positions says a good deal about security. I would imagine it also helps that there is a perceived (and probably real) shortage of engineers in the United States.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Positive about engineering
Beth Stackpole   8/2/2012 10:23:27 AM
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I think all the talk about the shortage of engineers and the focus on upping the emphasis on the curriculum in schools and universities definitely brings interest and prestige to the field. Compared to a lot of other areas that have radically changed over the last few years, engineering has probably fared pretty well.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/2/2012 10:30:26 AM
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I agree, Beth. Through this recession, Silicon Valley companies have continued to compete for engineers. That's probably why Lauren's reporting reveals that the highest paid engineers are in the West. Mark Zukerbeg recently noted that finding a sufficient number of talented engineers was Facebook's number one challenge.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Positive about engineering
Beth Stackpole   8/2/2012 10:44:59 AM
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We're talking software engineers, though, not mechanical or electrical. I think that's a huge opportunity for employment prospects. Same for embedded software engineers or developers.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/2/2012 11:13:59 AM
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Good point, Beth. I've also heard about widespread shortages of automation and control engineers. I remember there was great relief in the plant operation world when the recession (and falling 401Ks) caused boomer engineers to postpone retirement.

jijoh123
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Re: Positive about engineering
jijoh123   8/2/2012 1:16:32 PM
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The fact that the cost of living (housing, rent, utilities etc.) is still unrealistically high when compared to the compensations offered isn't helping. I grew up there and left because it was just to expensive to live there (multi-famly mortgages are a telling sign), work the expected 60-70 hours a week and have a real life. I want to work to live, not live to work.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/2/2012 1:55:07 PM
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Good point, Jijoh123. That could explain the much-higher salaries on the West Coast. When it comes down to it, the much-lower salaries in the Midwest might be a good deal. Housing costs in the Midwest are very low these days.

jijoh123
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Re: Positive about engineering
jijoh123   8/2/2012 2:55:04 PM
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I agree. When a job pays say $80K and a home in the Midwest area is oh, say $125K (1.56:1 cost to salary ratio); a comparable job in Silicon Valley may pay $125K with a "less than comparable home" costing more than $500K (resulting in a 4.17:1 cost to salary ratio). That's not even taking into account the much higher taxes and insurance premiums. HOA also if it's a Condo or in a controlled community can add $200-$400 to the monthly liability you will be subject to (these figures overall are being somewhat optimistic). And if you just want to rent, $1500-$2500 per month for 2Bdrms in a halfway decent neighborhood. Add to that the weekly "Friday Rush" to leave the city, taking sometimes 6 to 7 hours just to go the first 40-50 miles to get out of the "blast radius"... It just does not make sense to me, as I've been there and done that. We discovered the only way to leave the city to go anywhere on any weekend was to plan on a "before noon" departure. Even then traffic was always heavy with best average speeds on the freeway at 15-40 MPH. The theme song from "Green Acres" still rings in my mind when I think about the sum total of 14 years I spent there. I've said enough already.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/2/2012 3:05:27 PM
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Yes, that's a mess, Jijoh123. My little borther teaches at a small college in rural  Indiana. It's amazing how wealthy he is on a professor's salary in that area of the country. A Stanford professor would be way behind in standard of living.

Dave Palmer
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Re: Positive about engineering
Dave Palmer   8/1/2012 4:58:29 PM
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A couple of years ago, a study showed that money buys happiness, up to about $75,000 a year.  Beyond that point, additional money didn't result in additional happiness.  It did, however, result in additional satisfaction. (In this study, "happiness" meant feeling happy on a day to day basis, while "satisfaction" meant having a sense that your life is going as well as it possibly can).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Positive about engineering
Rob Spiegel   8/1/2012 5:33:29 PM
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I agree, Dave. Money affects satisfaction only to the point that you're out from behind the 8 Ball ($75,000 as you say). After that it's the quality of how you spend your day, your family relations, belonging to a positive community. I think design engineers show their greatest level of satisfaction when 83 percent recommend their profession to their children. That's big. 

Mydesign
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Re: Positive about engineering
Mydesign   8/2/2012 2:17:01 AM
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Dave, you are right, the parameters for satisfaction is not yet cleared. If salary is the only parameter, then higher salary or take home can make majority satisfied. If we are considering the other factors like work challenges, facilities, perks, work culture and environment, reporting structure etc, then the satisfaction level may come down further.

NadineJ
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Re: Positive about engineering
NadineJ   8/1/2012 5:05:40 PM
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I think engineers have always been optimistic.  Satisfaction comes from creation more than recognition.

Mydesign
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Salary and satisfaction
Mydesign   8/2/2012 2:13:28 AM
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Lauren, during a financial year I used to participate 2-3 times for similar salary & satisfaction survey with different agencies. In all the cases, they asked for "are you satsfied with the current employment", we can select either satsfied, not satisfies or no comment. This answers are very blind because they had not defiend the parameters for satsfaction.

So far everything is fine with my company but the recent economic slowdown in EU may affect our business and in an unpredicted situation.

Lauren Muskett
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Re: Salary and satisfaction
Lauren Muskett   8/2/2012 9:28:31 AM
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I agree with the comment and the parameters are strictly related to their money and satisfaction in their career instead of taking in other sources. But the information we collected shows people with the highest salaries are the most satisfied. Also, be sure to check out the whole salary survey (you can find the link on pg 3 of this story) because it shows what factors contribute to job satisfaction and contains tons of more great info.

Mydesign
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Re: Salary and satisfaction
Mydesign   8/6/2012 3:11:51 AM
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Lauren, I think we have to give due weightage for all parameters. We used to have similar survey every year from our corporate office. They includes all the parameters including salary, perks, transportation, canteen facility, work environment, culture, challenges, availability of other services and including the service from admin and HR teams. Each has its own weightage and finally the tabulated value is out of 100. I personally feels that such type of surveys are more realistic in nature

RudySchneider
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Skewed (or screwed)?
RudySchneider   8/2/2012 11:31:51 AM
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Perhaps I missed it, but I didn't see any mention of how or if the vast number of currently unemployed engineers (myself, for 21 months, among them) may have skewed these results.

awerle
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Re: Skewed (or screwed)? BEWARE DATA
awerle   8/2/2012 12:34:39 PM
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I took Lauren's advice and downloaded the full survey.  I now recognize that these salary averages are high because it is HIGHLY populated with salaries of engineers with over 20 yrs experience -- perhaps the flip side of your concern, Rudy, would be a lack of repsonses from less experienced engineers!  Although the qty of respondents per region is not mentioned, I'd also suspect the largest block of data comes from CA-AZ-NV, therein also skewing the stated national averages towards high dollar figures.

baldj
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Doesn't Add Up
baldj   8/2/2012 12:03:25 PM
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If nearly half of respondents work for companies with fewer than 100 employees, and only 1/3 of respondents work for companies with more than 500 employees, how can the average be 750?

bobjengr
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JOB SATISFACTION
bobjengr   8/4/2012 12:39:43 PM
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Excellent article Lauren.   I think this annual survey is a great service Design News provides to all working engineers.  It's good to know where you stand relative to others in your profession.   When I joined the engineering workforce in 1966, I was offered $15,000 by Pratt & Whitney.  At that time, it was the "going rate" for mechanical engineers and new graduates.  I remember wondering how would I spend "all that money".  Times have indeed changed.  There are several things that struck me about this survey, as follows: 1.) The length of time within the same company.  Engineers are not "job hoppers" by any measure.   2.)  The level of satisfaction is somewhat higher than I expected. 3.) We, for the most part, are driven by the rewards of the profession and not always the money provided by the professon. 4.)  There seems to be a growing awareness that the future might not be as rosy as the past has been relative to employment.  Does anyone know the unemployment rate for graduate engineers?  I have heard around 4.00% but really don't know if that's correct.  I have several associates who constantly look for qualified engineers and indicate, in their opinion, the pool of acceptable candidates is smaller each year.  I think the profession is extremely rewarding.  Let's hope it stays that way.  

Mydesign
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
Mydesign   8/6/2012 3:18:10 AM
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Bobjengr, now the unemployment statics are categorized to many subtitles based on the main stream. Quiet sometimes back unemployment in engineering and medical professional is absolute zero, when compare with the science and arts steam. According to the recent study, the global unemployment rate in medical profession is 1-2% and in engineering steam is 5-8 %. But when it account for individual countries the rate can be changed.

bobjengr
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
bobjengr   8/6/2012 5:12:31 PM
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Thank you for the information.  I have several friends who find themselves out of work due to movement of companies to China, India and Mexico.     I'm saying the obvious but, the rigor associated with the engineering profession and what we go through just getting our degree means a great deal when searching for a job.  Two of the guys I know changed professions just to find work and have excelled due to their work ethic.   They don't rush from the building when the bell rings.  Company owners realize  that.   One other great asset is resourcefulness.  The engineering profession requires that ability for successful project completion.

 

 

Mydesign
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
Mydesign   8/10/2012 2:51:52 AM
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Bobjengr, now a day's the competition is more and most of the fresh job seekers from campus didn't possess the required skills for fitting to the current market. So it's always better to have a finishing school course, which can bridge the gap between university and industry. In the current market scenario "Finding a Job is the first Job".

Dave Palmer
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
Dave Palmer   8/6/2012 12:11:21 PM
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@bobjengr: A starting salary of $15,000 may not sound like much, but $15,000 in 1966 dollars is $106,240 in 2012 dollars.  As the survey shows, that's more than most experienced engineers make these days.  I suspect that there are very few, if any, engineers who can make that much straight out of college.

I made less than half that much in my first job out of college in 2006 -- and my starting salary was more than most of my classmates, because I already had several years of industry experience.

That being said, engineering is still a very rewarding career, not just in terms of income, but also in terms of being able to do interesting work.  I wouldn't trade an engineering career for anything.

bobjengr
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
bobjengr   8/6/2012 5:03:09 PM
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Hello Dave,  I agree with you completely on the job satisfaction aspects of engineering.   I would not have chosen any other profession.   I also agree that the $15k was a great salary for the time.  As it turned out, Viet Nam was raging, I was right up there with a very high lottery number so I joined the service.   Brown bar making a whopping $321.00 per month plus subsistence pay of $48  and change.  I was very fortunate in that I actually did work as an engineer.   I have difficulties in gaging starting pay now but I can certainly tell you the pay check I made right before retirement was significantly lower than the starting salary of some engineering disciplines.   I know the numbers are "region-specific" but if a person can't live on some of the salaries Lauren indicates the person probably needs a financial assistant.

 

Lauren Muskett
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Re: JOB SATISFACTION
Lauren Muskett   8/6/2012 4:43:31 PM
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Thanks bobjengr, glad you enjoyed the survey. i also found the resluts of job satisfaction interesting and agree that the reward of a profession is an important factor.

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