01 September 2004
Find right engineering certification and salaries jump.
By Gregory Hale
The classic supply and demand curve always comes into play when it comes to salaries. This year is no exception judging from InTech's look at median salary levels for engineers, furnished by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) from the annual survey entitled "The Engineering Income and Salary Survey Standard Report."
The supply/demand curve falls into place when engineers earn certifications and licenses in addition to the core degree they already own. Simply put, the more certifications and degrees engineers have, the more they will earn—provided they have advanced knowledge in a specific area in demand.
An engineer who wants additional licensing and certification will earn quite a bit more than an engineer with no professional licensing or certification. An engineer with no licensing and certification has a median income of $68,000, but one with a professional engineer (PE) license has a median income of $79,000. If you have a PE and a certification in forensic engineering, the median income is $100,000, with salaries on the high end between $183,000 and $298,850. If you have a PE and a certification in environmental engineering, your median income is $97,100.
It is no surprise that the salary level will be higher if an engineer has more education. However, the survey had a little variation. If you have a bachelor's degree in engineering, the median income is $11,000 more than what a nonengineering bachelor's degree will bring. However, the interesting twist is if you have a master's degree in engineering, your median income is $75,000, but if you have an MBA, your income is $84,500. In addition, with an MBA and an MA/MS, your income is $100,500. The same thing holds true for your doctorate. If you have a Ph.D. in engineering, your median income is $93,250, but if you have a doctorate in a nonengineering area, your income is nearly $10,000 more at $102,650.
On the other hand, if you are a boss, a teacher, or a salesperson, you have a higher likelihood of earning more than if you are truly producing product, according to the survey. Those classified in the executive/administrative/legal functions earn a median income of $111,300, followed by those in instructional/higher education at $90,000 and sales/marketing/public relations at $88,000.
Meanwhile, if you are in project management/engineering/operations, your median income is $79,500. If you are in production/quality management/maintenance, your median income is $75,000.
You can find the lowest salaried functions in drafting/ estimating–$51,640, design–$57,000, construction supervision–$68,050, not-for-profit/public service–$70,750, and planning/project study and analysis valuation/testing–$70,890, according to the survey.
If you want to know the highest paying branch of engineering, look below the surface because an engineer in the mining industry earns the top money. Mining engineers earn a median salary of $112,000, followed by petroleum at $107,000, nuclear at $98,763, materials at $96,500, and chemical at $96,000. On the opposite end, the branches of engineering that bring in the lowest salaries are geotechnical at $66,750, structural at $69,000, civil at $71,500, transportation at $71,625, industrial at $72,475, manufacturing at $73,250, ergonomics at $73,500, and environmental at $74,416.
Deciding which area of engineering to pursue is a very difficult decision, but so is figuring out the region in which to work. An engineer in a higher cost-of-living geographic location likely earns significantly more than in an area where the cost of living is lower. The highest median incomes are in the Pacific Southwest states of California, Hawaii, and Nevada, where the median income comes in at $80,000, followed by the Middle Atlantic States of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland at $78,000. The lowest area, not surprisingly, is the Upper Mountain states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming at $64,750.
Drilling down a little deeper, the cities or areas with the highest median incomes are Trenton, N.J. at $109,000; Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. at $100,000; San Jose, Calif. at $98,000; Richland-Kennewick-Pasco, Wash. at $95,616; Sioux City, Iowa at $93,000; Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y. at $91,955; and San Francisco at $90,320.
The lowest median incomes are in Burlington, Vt. at $48,250; Provo-Orem, Utah at $53,745; Flagstaff, Ariz. at $54,548; Las Cruces, N.M. at $55,600; Fort Wayne, Ind. at $56,000; and El Paso, Texas at $57,000.
Learning which region where you will be working can bring you peace of mind, but that can also depend on the size of the company. And, as always, there are trade-offs.
There are times when employees who work in a large company may daydream about what it would be like to work in a smaller company where there is less red tape, your plans have a better chance for implementation in a more timely fashion, and you don't spend countless hours/days/weeks in what appears to be a continuation of the same meeting. That is where the trade-off comes in. If you work in a large company, your compensation will be higher. The median income is $70,540 for those in organizations with less than 200 employees, compared to $84,389 for those in organizations with 20,000 employees and over.
When talking about salaries in this fragile economy, a survey is not real unless it also looks at layoffs and downsizing.
Along those lines, of the 9,435 people who took this portion of the survey, 1,453 said they lost a permanent job due to a layoff or downsizing.
In addition, laid-off engineers reported that once they got new jobs, they picked up about where they left off in terms of salary: 13.4% said they received a salary that was 5–9% higher than before, while 12.3% said their salaries were 10–19% higher, and 11.2% said their salaries were 20% higher. On the flip side, 14.6% of those laid off said when they did get another job, their salary was at least 20% lower.
Equal pay for equal work? Not really
When it comes to equality in wages, the survey shows what every other survey usually shows: Males earn more than females. There is one exception, though—in the 20–24-year category. There, the survey furnished by the National Society of Professional Engineers said, women earn $95,750, while men earn $92,000. However, in all other experience levels men out-earn women. It is close in the 1–2-year category with men's median income at $47,160 and women's at $46,630. In the 5–9-year category, men out-earn women $62,196 to $60,240. In the 15–19-year area, men earn $85,354 to $79,332 for women.
Comparison of the income by gender in the four experience ranges with the largest female samples revealed that female engineers received 96.9% as much as male engineers with five–nine years of experience, 96.7% with ten–fourteen years of experience, 92.9% with fifteen–nineteen years of experience, and 104.1% with twenty–twenty-four years of experience.
About the report
When looking at salary levels you can look at mean levels and median levels; InTech decided to review the median salary levels throughout the survey.
Mean salary levels show the annual compensation of all individuals in a particular group, adding them together and then dividing by the number of individuals involved. The problem is that a few very high or very low salary levels can influence this measurement.
Median levels reflect the value of the middle item (or the average of the two middle items) of a group of values from the highest to the lowest. The advantage of the median is that it provides a measure of central tendency not unduly influenced by a few very high or very low data points.
InTech would like to thank the National Society of Professional Engineers for supplying information from the survey they conducted along with the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institute of Industrial Engineers.
For more information on the survey, go to www.nspe.org .