2004 Engineering Salary Survey: It's good to be an engineer

March 18, 2004
Salaries are up again, and engineers are by and large content to stay put with their jobs.
Average salary for engineers with more than 21 years experience grew $3,400. But those with less than three years make only $800 more than last year.
Rather surprisingly, this year's survey found that the average salary for engineers without a college degree, $57,800, is higher than those with an associates degree, $56,200. Most participants, 90% have some type of university degree.

The good news is engineering salaries are up. The bad news is engineers feel they don't get the respect they deserve and are concerned about losing their jobs to offshore outsourcing. The Machine Design annual salary survey polled over 900 readers about their salaries, bonuses, work week, and level of job satisfaction. Compared to last year, average base salary for engineers increased $2,600 to $68,000. The reported median salary is $66,400, up more than $4,400 from the depths of the economic recession in 2002. (See MD, 03/06/03, pg. 46.)

For 56% of engineers responding to our survey annual salaries increased between 1 and 5%. An additional 27% say their salaries remained the same. And this seems to be enough to keep them satisfied with their current position. A majority of participants, 57%, say they are not considering a job search, 33% are considering a change in scenery. Another 9% are actively looking, and 1% are unemployed and actively looking for a job. (Readers should note, however, that unemployed engineers are probably underrepresented in the survey. This is because we solicited responses from active subscribers. Active subscribers are more likely to be employed than the general population of engineers.) Forty-four percent claim to be "somewhat satisfied" with their jobs, and 23% are "very satisfied."

The gender gap rears its head among those polled, but the disparity is smaller than national averages in other professions. The survey found that women earned 90% of what their male peers made. Average salary for women is $61,700, and $68,200 for men.

Would you tell your kid, "Grow up to be an engineer."

We asked survey participants if they would recommend engineering to their children or friends, and a whopping 78% of them said yes. Those who would recommend engineering tended to say it was interesting and challenging. Those who would not recommend engineering felt there was low compensation, no room for advancement, and no job security because of offshore outsourcing.

Here are a few samples of respondents' comments:

"It's one of the few jobs where you can be paid to think."
"My day is always different."
"Engineering is the foundation of all else. Without engineering, nothing!"
"An engineering degree provides a good technical base for most careers."
"Engineering is a chance to build rather than watch, count, or manage."
"Compensation and recognition from the business side of industry is not commensurate with the amount of stress and responsibility bestowed on a typical engineer."
"Not many jobs left for engineers in the States."
"Lack of financial reward plus lack of respect in the business community."

Work week

Eighty-two percent of respondents work between 40 and 49 hr per week. For 76% this is the same as last year, but for 10% the work week increased 1 to 5 hr a week.


Factors that give you the most job satisfaction as an engineer

  1. Challenging work assignments
  2. Work environment and colleagues
  3. Constantly changing technology
  4. Good compensation
  5. Good job security

Factors that displease you most about your job

  1. Too much nonengineering work
  2. Lack of support for management
  3. Uncertainty in job market
  4. Poor compensation
  5. No potential for advancement

Bonus and special compensation

Fifty-six percent of participants say they received a bonus last year, most receiving between 1 and 5% of their base pay. For most, bonuses were awarded based on a combination of company and personal performance.

Is engineering fun?

"Engineering rocks." That was one respondent's comment when asked this question. An overwhelming majority of survey takers, 91%, feel that engineering is fun. Their reasons include the chance to tackle challenging problems and something different every day.

"I like solving problems, being the hero."
"I get paid to break things."
"So many challenges! New stuff to play with around every corner."
"I love proving others wrong."
"I'm like a kid in a candy shop."
"Too hard to keep up with changing engineering tools."
"It used to be, however, paper work, bean counting, and diversity have done away with the fun."

Sources of information you find most helpful

  1. Internet/World Wide Web
  2. Machine Design and similar publications
  3. Other engineers
  4. Other
  5. CD-ROMs

Reasons you use the Internet at work

  1. Supplier search
  2. Communication with clients
  3. News/current research
  4. Other
  5. Entertainment

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