It sounds like our paths are somewhat similar. Straight out of HS mine started in a small shop making minimum plus a little bit. I should'a went to college but I didn't like the first 12 years enough to sign up for more of the same.
Lots of tweaking my skill-set along the way and after 40 years in manufacturing I now supervise 2nd shift production in an aerospace lithium battery company, I'm still the go to guy for the tough CNC work but that is not too often anymore, I have a decent working knowledge of electronics, can debug and repair our machinery (much of it is custom built w/robots)... and I even have time to keep my crew busy and usually fairly happy.
One of my main duties is designing (which I enjoy immensely... 2 words SolidWorks) and then building test equipment. I do most all the design/fabrication of our artillery simulation fixtures. They see thousands of Gs and go from 0 to 10,000 RPM in a heartbeat. They must be reusable and provide a clean electronic connection to the test equipment.
The last time someone else designed/made one of these it turned into small pieces on the first shot. Some of mine are well beyond 100 shots, with minimal maintenance.
So yeah, we do engineering work as took makers, especially as we get more experience... I still wish I had liked school enough to get a degree way back when.
This survey demonstrates a danger of working for a small employer in an isolated industry. 10 years ago my salary was in line with surveys similar to yours, but today it pales in comparison. I work in manufacturing, specifically sheet metal stamping, and came into engineering through the backdoor (ie. out of the shop). While not a degreed engineer, I do engineering design and function. However, I never call myself an engineer, but I am a designer.
I work for a one owner company and have been fortinate to weather the whole reccesion without losing one days pay, while other similar manufacturers in the area have been up and often down. But, in that time, we have stayed pretty isolated within a small customer base, and wages have been pretty stagnate.
I was shocked to learn that tool engineers at a company with whom we do business, were making $20,000/year over me. These are men I deal with on a daily basis so I know their attitudes and capabilities. Frankly, they are incapable of doing the work that I do and not all of them are degreed engineers.
Today I am so close to retirement that a job shift is really impractical and despite what I am saying, I do enjoy my job, the challeges it brings and am treated very well at the company.
My point is, "It is always wise to keep feelers out, and be aware of what the competion is doing." I have seldom changed jobs, but I never did it without a pay raise, except being fired one time which is a whole other story and still sticks in my craw for the reasons given.
I am not griping, but to the earlier poster who said "If salary was the only consideration no one would go into certain fields", do not be lured in by the propaganda from some fields. I have teacher friends here in St. Louis, who retired at 53 for 75% of the average of their 5 highest years pay, which is in the nieghborhood of $65,000/year for a masters (paid for by the school district) while continually complaining about how underpaid teachers are. I even gave that a whirl on a part time basis and while ther are certainly challenges, I did not find them any greater than those in industry. They made choices and so did I and we both live with them. I just say, always be aware of what others in your field are doing.
While the increasing salary numbers are a nice surprise to see, there's a bit of reality to inject here.
Companies aren't appreciating their engineers more because business is good. They're starting to do so because there's not enough qualified engineers to be had for the amount of business there is. A telling sign is the number of recruiter calls on the rise (second highest on the list). The lack of engineering talent is about to get wider as more people reasonably want to retire while they still have benefits to use.
Yes, there is work to be had in some industries, but the "dot.com" era has taken its toll a little more than a decade ago and the flaky hire/layoff patterns in many engineering companies that followed the bubble(s) bursting discouraged nearly half a generation from engineering.
Who can blame them? 50 hour work weeks, no pensions, out-of-pocket medical insurance costs have more than doubled. Ask anyone 30-45 to compare their benefits with those retiring today? Many take their talents elsewhere. Appreciation starts with real incentives like growing salaries and hiring enough people so you don't have to run 4 guys 50 hours/week when you should've hired a fifth engineer?
Engineering pays well because its a discipline that requires a lot from its students either in raw talent or just the tenacity to finish. It's a good profession, but WAY undervalued.
@apresher: I think it's prudent for students to think generally about their prospective earnings before choosing a major, but it shouldn't be the most important thing; if it were, nobody would ever go into social work or early childhood education. But engineering students are going to earn relatively well in any case; regardless of which engineering discipline they choose, they will earn more than most of their non-engineering major classmates.
There was an interesting study a couple of years ago comparing the value of various college majors, but it would be a shame if students only think about the values of their degrees in terms of money. It's a cliché, but money doesn't buy happiness; more precisely, once you make enough money to be reasonably comfortable and economically secure (which is apparently about $75,000 a year in the U.S.), additional money doesn't lead to any additional happiness.
I think students should think about what it will take for them to be able to achieve economic independence, and should have realistic expectations about the earning potentials associated with different majors. Nobody should go into social work expecting to live like Paris Hilton. But they should pursue careers that they will enjoy, that they will excel in, and that will give meaning to their lives.
The good news here is that employers seem to appreciate engineers. Although virtually every engineer has a few job complaints, the profession as a whole is earning approximately double the average household income in the U.S. In 2011, the median U.S. household income was over $54,000. By 2011, it had dropped to $50,502. So while engineers aren't paid like doctors or lawyers, average salaray is still quite high and job satisfaction seems good.
Dave, There is more and more talk about ROI being a measurable for college decisions. But I don't that many students actively consider that to be a factor in their decision -- even though employability is definitely rising as a criteria.
@taimoortariq: I don't think "return on investment" should be at the top of engineering students' lists when choosing a program. Engineering is a reasonably well-paying field, and even the engineers who are complaining about not making enough money have incomes that put them in the top 25% of the U.S. population. As the survey shows, job satisfaction for engineers has more to do with solving interesting problems and having the freedom to pursue creative ideas, than with being able to afford a luxury house or a big yacht. I'd advise engineering students to choose a program that will allow them to do something they enjoy every day.
It is great to see engineers getting well rewarded for the services they offer in their area of expertise. This update will definitely relieve the young students who have set out for engineering, although It is a vast field and the major in which one specializes in counts greatly towards the future professional development. So, Its always nice to do the home work before selecting an engineering program, to explore which program might bring fastest return to the investment.
"It's great to see that engineers are gettig the recognition (or at least the pay) that they deserve."
Richnass, we won't be able to say that they are suitably rewarded or they are getting what deserves. Those who are in continuing with the same employer will get a nominal hike (from my experience) and always new joiners re grabbing financial benefits from the job market
"2013 is turning out to be a good year for engineers because for the third year in a row salaries have increased, and this year the average salary has broken the six-figure mark."
Lauren, thanks for sharing the interesting survey details. We know that for last couple of years the percentage of salary hike is very less when compare with previous years. Last year average hike is 5-8% for regular employees. But those who are trying for a change with employer then may get 20-30% hike.
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