Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey, 2023
Leading-edge automation technologies are helping solve workforce shortages and economic challenges by adding efficiency. Automation salaries increased more than bonuses fell. Worker shortages were cited as a threat by nearly half of respondents in 2023.
- Learn about key threats to manufacturing from the 2023 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey.
- Examine skills needed to advance in engineering.
- Compare and benchmark your career progress with peers.
Continuing manufacturing workforce shortages and the economy were cited as the biggest threats to manufacturing; threat of worker shortages was cited by 48% of respondents, down from 57% in 2022, but still up significantly from 37% in 2021. Leading automation technologies are helping resolve those issues. Salaries increased 7% from last year to $111,345. These were among the key findings in the 2023 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report.
This year, the economy, cited among biggest threats by 43%, was within the 6-percentage-point margin of error for the research, making it a statistical tie with workforce shortages as the biggest perceived threat to manufacturing. Economy was third in 2022 at 31%. Supply chain concerns eased: “Lack of necessary materials,” backed off to 30%, down from 42%, which was second in 2022 and about even with 27% in 2021. Energy concerns also fell (see more below).
More engineers expect to receive a salary increase in the coming year: 71%, up from 67% in 2022 and 62% in 2021; while 29% expect benefits to increase, compared to 26% in 2022 and 23% in 2021.
While Control Engineering subscribers answering the survey differs from year to year, salary and benefits increased with the strong demand for automation, controls and instrumentation talent to help fill the labor market skills gap. Average annual salary for survey respondents was $111,345, up 7% from $104,071 last year. Average salary increased more than bonuses decreased, however. Non-salary compensation decreased to $15,929, for those receiving bonus or profit-sharing, down 16.9% from $19,162. Leading criteria for bonuses were 55% company profitability and 43% personal performance, similar to last year.
Help from a stunning diversity of automation-related technologies
In results reflecting Control Engineering’s diversity of controls, automation and instrumentation coverage, subscribers placed double-digit value on all 23 technologies listed in the new question: “What technologies are most likely to help you in the coming year? Check all that apply,” with four replies in a statistical dead heat for the top spot: 32% Process optimization; 31% Automation applications/upgrades; 28% Automation: Robotics, collaborative robotics, mobile robotics; and 27% Analytics: Data analytics. Interestingly, no technology on the list of 23 was separated from any other by more than 3 percentage points, except “other” at 2%, at the bottom, well below the lowest 11%, representing a nine-way statistical tie for last, but still in the double digits. (See “What technologies” table.)
Job satisfaction, skills, hours for those working with automation, controls
Three factors with greatest impact on job satisfaction were technical challenge and financial compensation tied at 30% and feeling of accomplishment at 25%.
Top three skills to get ahead were 72% engineering and communication/presentation and project management virtually tied at 62% and 61%.
Hours worked increased among respondents, with an 8-percentage point increase of those working 50 or more hours in 2023 compared to 2022.
9% worked fewer than 40 (11% in 2022)
42% worked 40 to 44 hours (43% in 2022)
24% worked 45 to 49 hours (29% in 2022)
14% worked 50 to 54 hours (9% in 2022)
3% worked 55 to 59 hours (same)
8% worked 60 or more (up from 5%).
How to advance skills in automation, controls
A new question asked the best ways to advance skills in automation, controls and instrumentation: 84% said hands-on experience, 68% said continuing education and, in a three-way virtual tie for third:
Reading industry publications, sites, email newsletters, digital guides, vendor, research and association sites and materials
Networking at conferences, memberships in industry organizations, participation in standards bodies and other industry groups.
Subsequent articles in this section provide advice on engineering employee hiring and retention and related engineering career topics. Articles in every issue of Control Engineering discuss how automation, controls and instrumentation bring greater efficiencies to manufacturing, often to optimize and help with manufacturing workforce shortages.
Survey methods, ChatGPT input
Research for the 2023 Control Engineering Career and Salary Report resulted from an emailed survey to subscribers, producing 266 qualified responses from March 10 to April 4, 2023, for a margin of error of +/-6% 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. To help update survey questions this year, on Feb. 17, ChatGPT artificial intelligence (AI) software was asked to provide “20 questions to help careers of control engineers and electrical engineers and mechanical engineers with automation, controls and instrumentation.” Two ChatGPT responses were among existing questions, and elements of three replies were edited and integrated into questions about skills, technologies and advice needed to get ahead.
Engineering salary, bonus details
As Figure 1 shows, 45% expect a salary increase of up to 3% in 2023 equal to 2022 (51% in 2021; 52% in 2020; 63% in 2019; 56% in 2018); 19% expect an increase of 4% to 6% or more (up from 12% in 2022; 14% in 2021; 18% in 2020; 11% in 2019; 19% in 2018); 7% expect more than 6% increase (down from 10% in 2022); 28% expect the same (32% in 2022 and 2021; 30% in 2020; 25% in 2019; 23% in 2018); and 1% expect a salary decrease (1% in 2022; 3% in 2021; 1% in 2020 and 2019; 2% in 2018).
For base salary compensation, the minimum was $22,000 ($20,000 in 2022; $28,000 in 2021), and the maximum was $300,000, (up from $266,700 in 2022 and $250,000 in 2021), for 266 survey respondents providing this information in 2023.
For non-salary compensation (Figure 2), 29% expect and increase (26% in 2022; 23% in 2021); 14% expect an increase of 4% or more (same as 2022, up from 12% in 2021); 57% expect about the same (62% in 2022 and 2021); and 14% expect less (12% in 2022 and 15% in 2021).
For those receiving non-salary compensation (Figure 3), average received was $15,929, down about 17% from $19,162 from last year’s respondents. The 2023 average across all respondents was $11,518, compared to $12,838 in 2021 and $11,937 in 2020. In 2023, 21% received no bonus.
Engineering bonus criteria
Two leading criteria for non-salary compensation were company profitability at 55%, about the same as last year; and personal performance at 43%, down from 49% in 2022 (Figure 4). Much farther down the scale were new business/sales at 23%, up from 17% last year; product profits at 19%, about the same as last year; plant or line productivity 17% about the same last year; quality metrics also 17%, safety metrics 13%, company stock also 13%; uptime/downtime 11%; reducing plant costs 10% and customer feedback 10%, rounding out the double-digit replies.
Engineering job satisfaction, skills needed
Leading factors influencing job satisfaction for engineers were technical challenge, financial compensation, feeling of accomplishment, relationship with colleagues, flexible work hours, benefits, job security, feeling of recognition, workload, relationship with boss, ability to work from home, location, advancement opportunities and company financial health, filling out the double-digit replies. (Respondents were asked to rank the top three.) Figure 5 shows six more factors for job satisfaction.
For skills needed to get ahead, respondents were asked to check as many as apply. Engineering skills remained with a solid lead at 72%, down just a bit from 77% last year, followed by 62% project management skills, 61% communications/presentation skills in a statistical tie. Computer skills dropped to 47% from 58% in 2022. Tying at 41% were team building and (new to the list of choices) system integration. Filling out double-digit replies were 21% marketing/sales, 18% language and 12% for finance/accounting. See related graphics in the next article, which highlights career advice from survey respondents, covering skills needed to get ahead and technologies likely to help.
Materials and energy are less of a concern among respondents this year and economy and competition are more of a concern. The top three perceived threats to manufacturing, as mentioned, are 48% lack of available skills, 42% economy (31% last year), 30% lack of necessary materials (down from 42% in 2022), 23% competition (up from 14% in 2022), 18% inadequate management, 14% for energy costs (down from 20% last year) as well as government/political interference, regulation codes standards and taxes and tariffs, and 13% lack of investments for equipment and software upgrades (8% last year). (Figure 6)
Age, years at work, education
Demographics help provide context for the numbers, and extra figures online provide more context.
Younger workers benefit from easier to use and optimize automation, controls and instrumentation as more experienced workers retire.
Among those taking the survey, 45% are 60 and older (up from 42% last year); 29% are 50 to 59 years of age (down from 32%), 15% 40 to 49 years of age (16% in 2022), 9% 30 to 39 years of age (up from 7%), 2% under 30 years of age (up from 1%), and 1% would prefer not to say.
Years working for current employer, 36% 9 years or less (down from 43%), 29% 10 to 19 years (up from 26%), 29% 20 to 29 years (up from 18%) and 15% were 30 or more years (up from 13%).
Highest level of education completed increased in master’s degree and decreased in bachelor’s degree respondents: 3% high school diploma, 4% trade/technical school diploma, 8% associate degree, 10% college attendance, 39% had a bachelor’s degree (down from 48%), 30% had a master’s degree (up from 23), 2% dual bachelor’s degrees and 4% a doctoral degree.
Years in current industry: 9% 9 or fewer years; 14% 10 to 19 years; 24% 20 to 29 years; 30% 30-39 years and 23% 40 years or more.
Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org. Amanda McLeman, director of research and awards programs for CFE Media and Technology, conducted the research and assembled the related report.
KEYWORDS: 2023 salary survey, career advice
2023 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, hours worked, facility size, employees managed and primary job function.