Chartered engineers can earn €100,000 more than untitled engineers over their career, and energy-systems engineers earn almost twice as much as structural engineers, writes Mary Anne Carrigan
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Chartered engineers earn more over the course of their career than non-titled engineers, according to a new survey.

Engineers Ireland’s Salary Survey 2012, to which 2,428 engineers responded, has revealed the benefits of holding a title. For example, a chartered engineer with six-to-ten years’ experience typically earns €5,000 per year more than an untitled engineer with similar experience.

In fact, the median salary of chartered engineers with three-to-five years’ experience is larger than that of untitled engineers with six-to-ten years’ experience, according to the survey.

“It takes about 20 years before the gap disappears – which means that for the first 20 years of their careers, chartered engineers will earn about €5,000 more annually,” explained Paul Sheridan, employment services manager and education advisor with Engineers Ireland. “So that’s an extra €100,000 over 20 years.”

While holding a title was identified as having a significant bearing on salary levels, however, the most important determining factor overall was experience.

Engineers Ireland previously carried out salary surveys in 2003 and 2008. This time around, median salaries for members with less than 15 years’ experience were either less than or the same as the salary levels reported in 2003; however, the 2012 median salary reported by chartered engineers with similar levels of experience still compared favourably to 2003 levels.

Almost 9% of respondents from the new survey reported salaries of less than €25,000, a number that was up from 5% in 2003, however.

At the other end of the scale, some 8.6% of respondents had a salary higher than €100,000 – up from 5% in 2003. In that year, more than 70% of respondents earned between €25,000 and €65,000 – this number is now down to 56%. While this was a clear decrease, it still suggested that a majority of engineers were still receiving highly competitive salaries.

2003 SALARY LEVELS

Paul Sheridan, Engineers Ireland

The survey found that energy systems engineers (€63,000), chemical/process engineers (€60,500), electrical and electronic engineers (€58,000) and software engineers (€53,000) had the highest median salaries in 2012, with mechanical and manufacturing engineers also doing well at €53,000.

At the lower end of the scale, civil and environmental engineers and structural engineers had the lowest median salary, both at €33,000. Civil engineering came in at €43,000.

The statistics show that 36% of respondents reported receiving an increase in salary in the past year. “We weren’t really surprised by this figure, because it’s well known that the multinational sector is doing well and that’s where the pay rises have been,” according to Sheridan.

“Engineers in the public sector have lost a lot of their allowances and benefits, in contrast. You could roughly say that salaries are back to 2003 levels, as so many have lost the gains made in the 2008 survey. But we clearly saw that chartered engineers earn significantly more, on an annual basis, than untitled engineers and they’ve largely held onto their salaries.”

The survey also revealed that 19% of respondents reported receiving a pay reduction in the past year. “Interestingly, the biggest salary cuts have been among the high earners, but the biggest increases have also been among this group. Generally, though, there have been pay cuts across the board, among all levels of engineers.”

FEMALE EARNINGS

The results from the survey indicate that while female engineers’ salaries roughly correspond to those of their male counterparts, a small but discernible difference in the level of earnings reported does seem to exist.

“This is particularly apparent for respondents in the early stages of their career. For example, the median salary of males qualified for three to five years matches that of females qualified for six-to-10 years at €38,000,” Sheridan explained. “The upper quartile for male earning is also consistently higher, which would suggest that male engineers have greater potential for high earning when compared with females.

“That was disappointing to see and the reasons for these discrepancies weren’t clear from the survey,” he acknowledged. “However, it was interesting to see that there was a higher proportion of females going to on do master’s degrees and PhDs than males. The supposition is that females feel this is necessary, in order to compete with their male counterparts.”

The ratio of female to male engineers showed an increase with respect to qualification level. While only 4% of respondents who qualified with an ordinary degree were female, females made up 15% and 22% of those who have received master’s degrees and PhD level qualifications, respectively.

EDUCATION AND CPD

Females made up 15% and 22% of those with master’s and PhD qualifications

With regard to education in general, more than twice as many respondents reported receiving a contribution towards education than in the 2003 survey (1,796 compared to 889). Other benefits have become more restricted to respondents, however, such as bonuses and overtime.

Half as many respondents report receiving these benefits in comparison to the 2003 survey (832 and 277, compared to 2,061 and 546 respondents, respectively).

“The rise in education in lieu of remuneration benefits is interesting, because it suggest that employers are seeing that their staff are talented and that they’re a core part of the business,” according to Sheridan. “They’re recognising the importance of developing staff to ensure that their companies remain competitive.”

Some 75% of the private sector said they received educational benefits and this rose to 89% of engineers in semi-State organisations. Some 80% of multinationals and 86% of public sector engineers also received education. As well as CPD, this included master’s degrees and soft-skills training.

“Training is seen as recognition and reward and it’s an investment in the future – not only is it an immediate psychological reward, but it also adds to future earning power.”

SENSE OF OPTIMISM

Sheridan said that anecdotally, from speaking with survey respondents, there appeared to be a sense of optimism in the engineering sector, outside of construction. “Other areas seem to be doing well. At Engineers Ireland’s employer services, enquiries from construction companies are picking up because it’s harder to find engineers in these sectors – many of the people who lost their jobs in construction are gone and nobody knows if they’ll come back, even when the economy starts to pick up again.

“If I were to make a prediction, I’d say that in the next few years, salaries associated with civil and structural design engineering will creep up, because there won’t be enough engineers to fill these positions. There’ll be a growing cohort of graduates in these areas, but it’ll be hard to find civil and structural engineers – particularly design engineers and site engineers – who have the necessary experience.”

He said that employers were looking for all-rounders who could do the work that was originally done by a number of people. “Employers at the moment want engineers who can do their own drawings and CAD work, as well as the consultancy work, plus designing, contract management site work and business development. What we have to avoid is a repeat of 2000-2001, when the IT bubble burst. After that, computer courses shut down and now we lack enough software engineers. Employers like Amazon, Google and Facebook have to look abroad for staff.”

Sheridan said that Ireland must try to be proactive, rather than reactive and ensure that there are systems to create a sustainable supply of engineers. “We have to be careful that we don’t make the same mistake as in 2001 – there will come a time when there will be high demand for design engineers again. We need to make sure that we’re ‘feeding through’ enough young engineers to meet that demand, when the time comes.”

For the time being, though, Sheridan said the survey confirmed that the engineering profession offered a lot of opportunity. “In summary, the majority of engineers are in the €50,000 to €70,000 salary bracket after ten-to-15 years. It’s satisfying to see that engineering is a great occupation, even in the midst of tough economic times.”

Full details of the salary survey are available to download from your Engineers Ireland profile page. Non-members can buy a hard copy here.

 

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  Chartered engineers earn more over the course of their career than non-titled engineers, according to a new survey. Engineers Ireland’s Salary Survey 2012, to which 2,428 engineers responded, has revealed the benefits of holding a title. For example, a chartered engineer with six-to-ten years’ experience typically earns €5,000 per year...