Research

Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey, 2021

Career update: COVID-19 accelerates innovative technology implementations; engineering salaries increase; job satisfaction is high. The lack of skilled workers, economy and lack of necessary materials are biggest threats to manufacturing.

By Mark T. Hoske May 18, 2021
Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Learning Objectives

  • Engineering salaries and bonuses were expected to increase.
  • COVID-19 accelerated technology innovation.

Engineers expect to get paid more in 2021 ($108,096 in 2021 compared to $102,669 in 2020, $101,450 in 2019 and $100,339 in 2018), and 62% expected a 2021 salary increase, down slightly from 69% in 2020, and down from 74% among 2019 respondents, according to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. While survey respondents differ from year to year, the increase in salaries run counter to respondents’ pessimism about increases. This is perhaps due to respondents undervaluing their worth. Also, many respondents work in industries deemed essential, which can create more competition for their talents.


The Control Engineering 2021 Career and Salary Report is sponsored by Miller Resource Group. Click here to download the full report.


Top threat to manufacturing businesses remains lack of available skilled workers, at 37% in a statistical dead heat with the economy at 35%; lack of necessary materials was 27%, reflecting pandemic-related supply chain pressures. (In 2020, lack of skilled workers was 42% followed by competition and the economy tied at 32%, which was similar to 2019.)

This 2021 survey included four questions on COVID-19 impacts. In 2020, respondents answered the survey largely before COVID-19 impacts. In the 2021 survey, most didn’t think the pandemic changed salaries or benefits, but a whopping 92% expected technology innovations implemented as a result to accelerate or continue. (See section on COVID-19 innovation acceleration.)

Figure 1: About half, 51% of respondents, expect a salary increase in 2021. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 1: About half, 51% of respondents, expect a salary increase in 2021. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 2: 23% of respondents expect an increase in 2021 non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 2: 23% of respondents expect an increase in 2021 non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Finally, an overwhelming majority (78%) consider manufacturing to be a secure career. Two-thirds (66%) love or like their current jobs, with 35% loving their current jobs and 31% liking what they do, but would consider switching companies for the right opportunity.

Survey methods

Research for the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Report resulted from an emailed survey to subscribers, producing 151 qualified responses from March 26 to April 5, for a margin of error of +/-8.0% at a 95% confidence level. Survey respondents were invited to anonymously provide their annual compensation information and opinions on the current state of their facilities and industries.

Figure 3: In 2021, the average salary of respondents topped $108,096 (up more than $5,000 from 2020). In 2021, average non-salary compensation was 12,838, up nearly $1,000 from 2020. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 3: In 2021, the average salary of respondents topped $108,096 (up more than $5,000 from 2020). In 2021, average non-salary compensation was 12,838, up nearly $1,000 from 2020. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Engineering salary increases

During times of economic challenge, financial compensation becomes more important among factors impacting job satisfaction. In 2021, technical challenge, financial compensation and feeling of accomplishment finished in a statistical dead heat – within the margin of error.

As Figure 1 shows, 51% expect a salary increase of up to 3% in 2020 (52% in 2020; 63% in 2019; 56% in 2018); 14% expect an increase of 4% or more (18% in 2020; 11% in 2019; 19% in 2018); 32% expect the same (30% in 2020; 25% in 2019; 23% in 2018); and 3% expect a salary decrease (1% in 2020 and 2019; 2% in 2018). Additionally, the 2021 survey noted that of the increases above 4%, 8% of respondents expect a 4 to 6% increase, and 6% said more than 6%, compared to 12% and 5%, respectfully in 2020.

Figure 4: Company profits and personal performance remain the leading criteria for non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 4: Company profits and personal performance remain the leading criteria for non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Positive outlook could add salary pressure

While COVID-19 created economic contraction in March 2020 to 49.1 on the purchasing manufacturers’ index (PMI) from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), dipping to 41.5 in April (below 50 is contraction), March 2021 looked very positive at 64.7%. Upward salary pressures can result from strong U.S. manufacturing results, coupled with demographic pressures of an aging workforce and too few going into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related professions.

In the Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report, among reasons for outsourcing functions, the shortage of skilled workers ranked third at 36% behind cost management at 42% and better focus on core competencies at 54%.

What functions were outsourced? Control panel build/wiring/fabrication was most the most outsourced at 33% followed by information technology at 25%, system integration at 19% and maintenance at 18%.

Figure 5: Top factors for job satisfaction are technical challenge, financial compensation and feeling of accomplishment. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 5: Top factors for job satisfaction are technical challenge, financial compensation and feeling of accomplishment. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Engineering salary, bonus details

For base salary compensation, the minimum was $28,000 ($24,000 in 2020), and the maximum was $250,000 ($800,000 in 2020), for 148 survey respondents providing this information.

For non-salary compensation (Figure 2), 23% expect an increase (28% in 2020); 12% expect an increase of 4% or more (same in 2020); 62% expect about the same (about the same, 60%, in 2020); and 15% expect less (12% in 2020). Among the 12% expecting 4% or more, 8% expect 4 to 6% and 4% expect more than 6%.

For non-salary compensation, the 2021 average received for the most recent fiscal year among 148 respondents was $12,838 (Figure 3), compared to $11,937 reported from 2020 respondents.

Figure 6: 11% expect acceleration of COVID-19 technology innovation among 92% expecting innovations to continue; just 7% expect reversals. Total adds to 99% due to rounding. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 6: 11% expect acceleration of COVID-19 technology innovation among 92% expecting innovations to continue; just 7% expect reversals. Total adds to 99% due to rounding. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Engineering bonus criteria

Two leading criteria for non-salary compensation were company profitability and personal performance, tied at 56% (Figure 4). In 2020, it was 53% for profits and 43% for personal performance. After economic pressures of 2020, 2021 incentives may emphasize profits to a greater degree. Rounding out the top five criterial for non-salary compensation were product productivity, plant or line productivity and new business.

Figure 7: Most (62%) say the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change their salaries and benefits; 7% think the pandemic increased salary or benefits. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 7: Most (62%) say the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change their salaries and benefits; 7% think the pandemic increased salary or benefits. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Engineering job satisfaction, skills needed

As mentioned, the leading job satisfaction factors in 2021 (Figure 5) are technical challenge, financial compensation and feeling of accomplishment, in a statistical tie. (Respondents were asked to rank the top three.)

In 2020, financial compensation was the most important followed by technical challenge, feeling of accomplishment, and relationship with colleagues.

Going down the 2021 list, other attributes included job security, flexible work hours, benefits, ability to work from home, relationship with boss, feeling of recognition, relationship with colleagues, advancement opportunities, and location. Figure 5 show eight more factors for job satisfaction.

For skills needed to get ahead, respondents were asked to check as many as apply. Engineering skills, project management skills and communication/presentation skills were in a virtual tie for first among respondents (68%, 66% and 61%, respectively). Next were computer skills at 57% and team building skills at 46%. Considerably lower were language skills (24%), marketing/sales skills (20%), finance/accounting skills (15%) and recruitment skills (7%).

See related article on job skills advice from respondents with a graphic of skills needed to get ahead.

About half (52%) of respondents studied electrical or electronic engineering, while disciplines of mechanical engineering (23%), controls engineering (19%), and instrumentation (17%) were statistically tied for second. Chemical and industrial engineering were tied at 13%, civil engineering was 2% and other was 15%.

Applying engineering, automation

About one third of respondents, 36%, have fully implemented a program to evaluate and optimize processes to appropriately consider and apply automation and controls. The next largest group was 26%, who had no such plans; 10% said not yet, but soon; 12% more plan to study these issues.

A question asked about automation plans in relation to other key areas. Measuring maturity levels, those in the “mature” development stage were 61% safety, 46% management, 43% cybersecurity, 42% maintenance, 21% process evaluation for consideration of more or upgraded automation and controls, 9% Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and 7% said Industry 4.0.

COVID-19 accelerates innovation, tightens job market

As mentioned, COVID-19 has accelerated technology applications of remote connectivity for 68% of respondents, digitalization for 39%, cybersecurity for 32%, and use of automation and controls for 19% (Figure 6).

For the four areas, the largest boost was up to 6 months acceleration for 68% of respondents, then greater than 1 year boost for 51%, and 6 months to 1 year for 39%.

When or if the pandemic subsides, 92% of respondents expect COVID-19 technology innovations to continue or accelerate; 11% said they expect those innovations to accelerate, 34% expected them to continue at a similar pace, and 47% continue at a slower pace. Only 7% of respondents expected technology gains to reverse.

Most respondents, 62%, didn’t think COVID-19 pandemic changed salary or benefits, 27% said it decrease, 7% increased and 4% unknown (Figure 7).

With many manufacturing sites unable to fill skilled positions, COVID-19 has made it more difficult for 76% of respondents to find qualified employees. However, a quarter (25%) of respondents said it was easier to find qualified employees.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com. Amanda Pelliccione, director of research and awards programs for CFE Media and Technology, conducted the research and assembled the related report.

KEYWORDS: Engineering salary survey, career advice

Engineering salaries and bonuses were expected to increase.

COVID-19 accelerated technology innovation.

CONSIDER THIS

How are you using engineering talents to advance your company’s objectives? Do those evaluating you know?

ONLINE EXTRA

2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report

BENCHMARKING SECTION: See how your salary compares by these criteria: Age, education, years with current employer, years in current industry, engineering discipline, hours worked, facility size, employees managed and primary job function.

 

Figure 8: Age and compensation: It’s a steady trend among respondents to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: The older you are the more you receive in salary and non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 8: Age and compensation: It’s a steady trend among respondents to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: The older you are the more you receive in salary and non-salary compensation. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Figure 9: Education and compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: More education generally results in higher compensation, though not always. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 9: Education and compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: More education generally results in higher compensation, though not always. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Figure 10: Years with current employer and compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: Compensation amounts increase until 25 years, then dip slightly until 40 or more years. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 10: Years with current employer and compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report: Compensation amounts increase until 25 years, then dip slightly until 40 or more years. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Figure 11: Years in current industry and compensation has considerable variance, perhaps related to staff retention. Notably, 2-4 years remains the highest paid in base salary until the 20-24 years group in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 11: Years in current industry and compensation has considerable variance, perhaps related to staff retention. Notably, 2-4 years remains the highest paid in base salary until the 20-24 years group in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Figure 12: Engineering discipline and compensation: For base salary, chemical engineering tops the list followed controls and civil engineering in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. For non-salary compensation, instrumentation leads followed by controls. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 12: Engineering discipline and compensation: For base salary, chemical engineering tops the list followed controls and civil engineering in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. For non-salary compensation, instrumentation leads followed by controls. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

 

Figure 13: Hours worked per week and compensation: There’s not a lot of base salary correlation, but non-salary compensation increases with hours worked according to respondents to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 13: Hours worked per week and compensation: There’s not a lot of base salary correlation, but non-salary compensation increases with hours worked according to respondents to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 14: Facility size and compensation peaks at 250-499 employees in base salary and non-salary compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 14: Facility size and compensation peaks at 250-499 employees in base salary and non-salary compensation in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 15: Number of employees managed and compensation: Base salary varies, but was highest when over 100 employees are managed; non-salary compensation increased steadily by number of employees managed according to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 15: Number of employees managed and compensation: Base salary varies, but was highest when over 100 employees are managed; non-salary compensation increased steadily by number of employees managed according to the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 16: Primary job function and compensation: highest was general or corporate management for engineering for base salary; non-salary compensation was highest for sales engineering in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology

Figure 16: Primary job function and compensation: highest was general or corporate management for engineering for base salary; non-salary compensation was highest for sales engineering in the 2021 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, CFE Media and CFE Technology


Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.