1 October 2006
InTech survey: Engineers and managers content with careers, salaries aren’t bad either
By Gregory Hale
Work days are longer, and the meetings are endless and often get in the way of doing real work, but engineers throughout the automation industry continue to remain steadfast and devoted to their profession.
You can tell, because at the end of the day, the long hours and the meetings are well worth it because the job of an automation engineer remains challenging, engineers said.
Just over 65% of engineers surveyed in the annual InTech global salary survey said they were satisfied in their current job. While 26% of engineers remained neutral in their satisfaction levels, only 8% said they were not happy in their current position. Along those same lines, engineering management showed slightly elevated levels of satisfaction. Of the managers surveyed, 71% said they were satisfied or completely satisfied with their jobs. While 22% said they were neutral, only 7% registered dissatisfaction.
Satisfaction is one thing, but would engineers or managers encourage their children to enter the field? Just around 63% of engineers said yes they would, while 59% of managers said they would recommend the field.
“Process control and automation has always been on the leading edge of technology and is always challenging,” said Martin Putelis, engineering consultant at Cornerstone Controls.
Andy Battler agrees. “Great work. Good money. (This is) something worth being passionate about,” said the control technician at Hartmann North America.
On the other hand, some enjoy what they do, but wouldn’t want to put their children through the same situation.
“(I would like my children) to do what brings them a level of satisfaction and happiness as that will do more for them in life than many other measures of success that the world would indicate,” said Doug Eicher, supervistor of electrical design at DTE Energy. The same can be said from the managers surveyed.
“No matter the encouragement, I raised two daughters to have their own mind,” said Emanuel Bocancea, manager instrumentation and controls engineering at EPCOR. “One is on her way to becoming an academic in archeology, the other one just registered for general sciences, not knowing what way she’ll swing. She knows that she doesn’t want to be an engineer. In my parents family, there were seven siblings, all engineers—one civil and 6 in computers and electrical specializations.”
Timothy Blackburn, manager Electrical/ Instrumentation Group at Orbital Engineering, Inc., would promote the profession to his children … sort of. “Yes (I would encourage them), but with mixed emotion. Engineering is a very time honored profession that has become a very cut throat business.”
“The automation profession is going to continue becoming more and more complex,” said Bob Brauner, senior design engineer at DuPont. “If the USA, in particular, does not realize the dire straits that many industries are going to face in the next couple of years due to the baby boomers retiring, then our economy may suffer drastically due to out sourcing and lack of qualified personnel.”
Show me the money
When it comes to salary levels, and with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting median household income at $43,318, the largest amount of engineers fall in the $50,001 to $100,000 range, with 35% of engineers earning $50,001 to $75,000, and 31% of engineers bringing in between $75,001 and $100,000. It is interesting to note on the low end that 18% of engineers surveyed earned between $25,000 and $50,000.
It is no big surprise to see a larger percentage of managers earn more than engineers. So, for managers, 33% earn between $75,001 and $100,000, while 21% earn between $100,001 and $125,000. On the top end of salary levels, 6% of engineer managers earned between $150,001 and $200,000, while 1% earned $200,000 and above.
Do salary levels correspond with years of experience? When asked how many years of experience working in the automation profession do you have, 24% of engineers said they had 13-20 years on the job, while an additional 24% said they had 21-30 years.
On the management front, 35% said they had 21-30 years of experience, while 28% said they had 13-20 years. It is interesting to note that 2% of those managers surveyed said they had less than two years experience, and 3% said they had between two-four years of experience.
Along the lines of saying employees in the automation industry remain loyal to their profession, but not necessarily to their employers, 22% of engineers said they have been with their company between five-eight years, while 19% said they have been with their current employer for less than two years and 17% said they have been with the employer between two-four years.
Managers, though, are a bit different, with 20% saying they have been with the company between 13-20 years. The second highest level for managers is five-eight years at 19%.
While one has to define the word “old,” the highest percentage of engineers responding to the survey fell in the 36-45 age group. Managers had an older age group, with the highest percentage at 42% responding from the 46-55 category. On the engineering side, 4% were 25 or under, while on the managers’ side, 19% were 55 and older.
A matter of degrees
In the world of engineering, a degree is a requirement, with 46% of engineers surveyed saying they had a four-year degree. As far as post bachelor’s degrees go, 16% said they had a masters degree, and 2% said they had a doctorate. For managers, 48% said they had a four-year degree, while 22% said they had a masters and 3% had a Ph.D.
On the job stress and strain continues, and it shows—70% of engineers responding said pressure to improve productivity has increased over the past year. Likewise, 70% of the engineers said the pressure to reduce costs has increased. From a manager’s perspective, the numbers are slightly higher; 72% said they are under increased pressure to reduce costs, and 71% said the pressure to improve productivity has increased.
Stress comes from quite a few business moves such as increasing productivity and making sure you eliminate any system downtime. Working on disparate systems, however, often means you have to call on different suppliers to work on different parts of the system and attempting to coordinate them is akin to herding cats. You often just can’t get them in one place at the same time.
When asked if their company has a single automation supplier, 87% of the engineers said no. Almost the same answer came from managers; 88% said no.
“By having one supplier you can get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the systems,” said Dave Cochran, instrument mechanic at Air Products. “You may also get better factory support when you need it.”
“Partnering with our automation supplier has been one of the best business decisions we made,” said Greg Monte, automation foreman at Apache Corp. “As long as our supplier runs his business with honesty and integrity, it will be win-win for both companies.”
If they did answer yes to the question, 48% of the engineers said having a single supplier had no impact on their performance as an automation professional. On the managers’ side, 47% agreed, while 45% said having a single supplier made their performance easier; 8% said having the single supplier made it more difficult.
“The market changes too fast for someone to invest too much time in one vendor’s features and training,” said Dennis Dever, project manager at Hough Associates.
Using and learning about the latest technology is important, but some respondents said it should all be put in perspective.
“As automation professionals, we are getting too hung up on the latest technology and not spending enough time on the appropriate technology,” said Randy Underwood, manager of liquid measurement at Enterprise Products Partners.
About the Author
Gregory Hale is the editor of InTech. His e-mail is email@example.com.
Use business smarts to gain ground: Score short-term jobs in stricken areas, but get ahead with business acumen. www.isa.org/link/bizsmarts
Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology www.cpst.org
U.S. Census Bureau www.census.gov
Stepping into the ‘real world’
Are automation professionals properly prepared for the “real world?” Of the engineers responding, 57% said no. Managers agreed; 55% said no.
“I find that most have no real experience with current technology … only theory,” said Phil Sanders, a senior automation engineer at EMCOR.
What abilities were missing? Twenty percent of engineers said basic engineering skills, while 15% said safety expertise. Of the managers, 24% agreed basic engineering skills were missing, and 18% were lacking knowledge in the safety area. (Are student engineers properly prepared to join the workforce? See story on page 30.)
“All seem to have the book knowledge for the job; however, few have the ability to apply that knowledge,” said John Collins, maintenance & reliability engineer with OMNOVA Solutions Inc.
“Most people right out of school have a good grasp of technology and circuit analysis, but they lack troubleshooting and analytical skills needed to automate and maintain a process,” said Jamie Landers, staff engineer at Cinergy.
Bob Stringer, an instrument technician with Amgen, said there is only one way to get experience. “The real world means experience, and that is not taught in classrooms.”
“More automation should be part of the basic training of all electrical engineers,” said Emanuel Bocancea, manager instrumentation and controls engineering at EPCOR. “Back in Romania, all electrical engineers (in different specializations) had to take automatic control classes. Process control also was taught in electrical engineering schools not in chemical schools.”