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Engineering salaries escalate

Engineering salaries escalate

Engineeringsalaries escalate

Exclusive Design News survey reveals design engineershold rewarding jobs

By Gary Chamberlain
Senior Editor

If you are a design engineer not making more money than you did last year, you are in the minority. At least that's what readers reported in Design News' latest exclusive Careers/Salary Survey.

More than 20% of engineers surveyed earn from $50,000 to $59,000 a year.

Raises on the rise. How big were the raises? Average raises equaled nearly 5% throughout the U.S. However, it appears to pay to job-hop: Those engineers who changed jobs during the past year reported their average pay raise totaled a hefty 7.2%, as compared to the 4.6% raise for engineers who did not change jobs.

Reflecting the higher base salary for engineers who have worked longer, the percent raise does tend to flatten out. Those on the job only two to five years got a raise of 6.7%, while engineers with more than 20 years on the job came away with only a 3.5% increase in pay.

Location, location, location. Where engineers earn their livelihood can make a big difference when it comes to how much they earn. But even in the South Atlantic region, where engineers recorded the lowest annual base salary of $57,800, this comes out to $1,000 more than the mean salary of all engineers who responded to last year's survey.

Salaries in computers and business machines, where sales continue to skyrocket, are in the lead.

Learn to earn. As might be expected, those engineers with the most education pull down the highest salaries. But, interestingly, while respondents with a two-year associate degree in a technical field took home an average of $52,300 a year, those with no college degree did slightly better, averaging $52,800 in wages.

Large companies, larger bucks. Engineers who work in companies that employ 1,000 or more people command the largest salaries, $66,500 a year on average. But this does not hold true across the board.

For example, engineers who work in companies that employ from 100 to 500 people earn on average $60,900 a year, while those employed by companies with 500 to 999 workers earn $3,700 less. At the low end of the pay scale are engineers working in companies that employ less than 100 people, where the mean salary is $52,500.

When its comes to raises, the West is best. Mountain State engineers made out better, while engineers in the Middle Atlantic states fared the worst. The same Western bias holds for base salaries as well.

Job longevity. The longer you work the more you earn is no old wives' tale--you're gaining invaluable experience on the job.

The more you learn the more you earn is evident from survey results based on education backgrounds. And just like with big degrees, if you want to earn the biggest bucks, check out job opportunities at the biggest companies.

Engineers with more than 20 years service and working in the Mountain State region fared best among all, with an average base salary of $77,500. The six- to 10-year engineering veterans who work in the Pacific region top the list with an average $57,500 in wages. The under-two-year engineers who have jobs in the Pacific and West North Central regions tied for top honors in take-home pay, with a mean salary of $45,000.

To manage or not. If you like to manage people and budgets, you will find the work more financially rewarding as well in most instances. The only group bucking this trend is those engineers with less than two years experience. In this bracket, engineers with both supervisory and budget decisions earn $7,300 less than their non-supervising counterparts. However, they may be willing to make this sacrifice knowing that, over the years, they will reap more rewards.

Happy campers. Among the survey respondents, 41% note that they have been at their present job for more than 10 years. Another 37% have worked at their current place of employment for three years or more.

Asked if they expected to stay at their present company for the remainder of their careers, even in today's dynamic job environment, 54% answered yes. Asked if in the future they plan to work for themselves, 31% answered yes. When asked why, they listed "freedom" as the most important reason for self-employment. What kind of work will they do? A total of 43% say they will do general consulting, while 36% say they will continue doing product design work.

Not to worry. Despite the boom economy, last year corporations laid off 103,000 workers, the highest level in five years, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, outplacement specialists. We don't have any statistics that show how many design engineers were among the unemployed. However, a recent Newsweek article reported that 92% of job seekers who had been laid off last year eventually found jobs with equivalent or better salaries.

From an engineering supply viewpoint, the same article had somewhat of a less than rosy picture to paint. Of freshmen declaring majors in 1998, only 8.2% cited engineering as their professional choice. This compares with 16.5% who declared business as a major, followed by 11.8% seeking educational degrees, and 11.1% wanting to earn their livelihood in the medical profession.

On the other hand, two engineering disciplines, the Newsweek article notes, far outpaced other professions when it came to starting salaries. Newly recruited chemical engineers were hired at a base salary of $45,104, while electrical engineers start out at $43,282. Business administration majors commanded a starting salary of only $31,454, and much-in-demand computer science majors managed a starting salary of $41,949 on average. Among the hottest jobs: wireless engineer with an annual salary of $80,000 to $120,000. Listed among the fastest-growing jobs: computer engineer.

Engineers on the job the longest enjoy a proportionately higher income. But if you hold down a supervisory and budgeting position, you'll reap even greater rewards. florin

For a more in-depth look at the Design News survey results and how survey respondents and others envision the "workplace of the future," check out the ensuing features in this year's career/salary package.

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