Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2013

Average annual base salary was $92,918 among respondents to the 2013 Control Engineering salary and career survey, with 70% expecting an increase and average bonus of $10,486. Best skills to get ahead are engineering skills, project management skills, communication and presentation skills, and computer skills. Other career advice follows.

By Mark T. Hoske March 25, 2013

Average base annual salary for 2013 is $92,918 for those responding to the Control Engineering salary and career survey. Among respondents, 70% expect an increase (53% a 1%-3% increase, 13% a 4%-6% increase, and 4% expect more than a 6% increase), while 27% expect base pay to stay the same, and 3% expect a decrease. (Note that some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding.)

Bonus compensation average among respondents is $10,486, with 21% expecting some increase (11% expect a 1%-3% gain, 5% expect 4%-6% more, and 5% expect more than 6%); 62% anticipate the same, and 17% expect a decrease.

Bonus criteria are overwhelmingly tied to company profitability at 64%. Other criteria were plant/line profitability 20%, safety metrics 19%, product profitability 18%, quality 17%, reducing plant costs 14%, uptime/downtime 11%, energy efficiency 7%, and 24% other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Education, skills

While it’s safe to say survey respondents are learning something new daily, the most common highest level of formal education completed was bachelor’s degree, completed by 45% of respondents, followed by 20% master’s degree, 10% associate’s degree, 9% college attendance, and 7% trade/technical school diploma, with about 3% each for dual-bachelor’s, doctorate, and high school level degrees.

Skills deemed necessary to get ahead in the current position are engineering skills at 63%, project management skills 63%, communication and presentation skills 48%, computer skills 47%, team-building skills 38%, finance/accounting skills and language skills each at 16%, and marketing/sales skills at 15%. Other skills were 4%.

Job satisfaction

Factors having most impact on current job satisfaction were technical challenge 40%, feeling of accomplishment 37%, financial compensation 28%, relationship with colleagues 27%, and location 21%. Sixth was job security at 19%, and the least cited factor was physical or ergonomic environment at work at 3%. Graphic shows responses to a dozen other criteria for job satisfaction.

Demographics among salary survey respondents

Most respondents were in the 55-59 age range (18%), followed by 50-54 (17%) and 45-49 (16%); those aged 60 and older accounted for 15% of respondents, while those 35 or younger totaled 14%. (For age and other data points not shown in graphs here, see the full report online.) Among respondents 1% were under 25, 6% 25-29, 7% 30-34, 8% 35-39, 12% 40-44, 16% 45-49, 17% 50-54, 18% 55-59, 9% 60-64, 5% 65-69, and 1% 70 or over.

Leading engineering disciplines studied are 45% electrical (EE) or electronic, 24% mechanical (ME), 15% controls, 11% chemical, 10% industrial, 8% instrumentation, 2% civil, and 14% other.

Half of respondents worked less than 10 years for the current employer, while 35% are in the 10- to 24-year range: 7% less than 1, 22% 1-4, 21% 5-9, 17% 10-14, 9% 15-19, 9% 20-24, 7% 25-29, and 8% 30 or more.

In contrast, more than 75% have been employed in their industry (or industries) for 15 or more years, and more than 30% more than 30 years. The breakout is 1% less than 1, 5% 1-4, 8% 5-9, 11% 10-14, 13% 15-19, 16% 20-24, 15% 25-29, and 31% 30 or more.

Survey respondents working hours are as follows: 5% work fewer than 40 hours on average, 69% work 40-49, and 26% work 50 or more; 1% work less than 30, 1% 30-34, 3% 35-39, 36% 40-44, 33% 45-49, 16% 50-54, 6% 55-59, and 4% 60 or more.

Company specifications

For regional dispersion of company locations where respondents work, Midwestern and Southeastern states were highest, closely followed by Northeastern. Locations were 21% Midwestern states (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI), 15% Southeastern states (AL, DE, FL, GA, KY, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV), 14% Northeastern states (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT), 12% Pacific states (AL, CA, HI, OR, WA), 11% Southwestern states (AR, LA, OK, TX), 8% North Central states (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD), 6% Mountain states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY), and 13% other.

Among industries where the company is involved, engineering or system integration services was the most common industry. Top 10 follow: 21% engineering or system integration services; 16% instrumentation, measurement, or control systems/devices; 16% plant/facilities engineering or maintenance services; 14% chemicals or pharmaceuticals; 14% industrial controls, test, or medical equipment; 13% industrial/commercial/agricultural machinery; 13% oil, gas, or petroleum refining including coal products manufacturing; 12% food, beverage, or tobacco; 12% other manufacturing; and 11% consulting, business or technical services.

Top 10 leading job titles are controls engineer, senior engineer, engineering manager, manager, project engineer, electrical engineer, maintenance manager, engineer, plant engineer, and project manager.

Engineering, maintenance, or supervisory functions lead in primary job responsibilities: 31% engineering, maintenance, or supervisory; 22% system or product design, control or instrument engineering; 16% process, production, or manufacturing engineering; 10% system integration or consulting; 9% general or corporate management; 5% other engineering; 5% other; and 1% purchasing or purchasing management.

Energy efficiency is an important part of job functions, with 41% of respondents responsible for managing or reducing energy use for a line, process, or facility.

Respondents came from companies of various sizes: 23% less than 100 employees, 15% 100-249, 12% 250-499, 12% 500-999, and 38% 1,000 or more.

Many respondents do have other employees under direct or indirect management or supervision:

31% 1-5, 24% 6-25, 7% 26-100, and 3% more than 100.

Growth in companies expected

Among respondents, 38% expect an increase in the number of employees in their department, 53% expect the same number of employees, and 9% expect a decrease.

“Does your plant expect to add new product lines or shifts in 2013?” the survey asked. Forty-two percent said yes, within a year: 12% within 3 months, 12% within 4-8 months, and 18% within 9-12 months.

Lack of skilled workers is the biggest perceived threat to respondents’ manufacturing businesses today, according to respondents: 28% lack of available skilled workers; 16% regulations, codes, standards, etc.; 14% poor management; 13% outsourcing; 9% downsizing has hurt productivity; 5% taxes and tariffs on products; 2% union pressures; and 13% other.

More on satisfaction

Most consider manufacturing secure and satisfying. Among respondents, 63% consider manufacturing a concerned career, and 41% love going to work every day; 40% think it’s okay and are glad to have a job; 16% find it tolerable but have ears open. Just 3% said, “First chance, I’m outta here.”

Training and safety are two areas of the operation that should get higher emphasis, according to responses to questions about areas of emphasis.

Click to the next page to see a table, methods, and additional career advice.

Table: Area that gets highest emphasis vs. what should get highest emphasis

Gets emphasis Should get emphasis Areas

34% 19% Operations

21% 19% Automation and controls

13% 16% Safety

8% 8% Maintenance

3% 3% Energy

3% 3% Instrumentation

3% 13% Training, education

2% 1% Manufacturing IT

13% 18% Other

Survey methods

Control Engineering published a link to an online survey and received 977 responses between Dec. 4, 2012, and Jan. 11, 2013. A short article about the survey was published in the February 2013 print and digital edition, and it was mentioned in several Control Engineering e-mail newsletters. As incentive, one $100 gift card was awarded randomly to five survey respondents. Respondents were not limited to subscribers; anyone could take the survey; 977 responses were qualified based on those who said they were currently doing engineering or managing engineering functions at the field or corporate level within their companies. Responses per question varied from 106 to 2,895.

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager with Control Engineering, CFE Media, can be reached at Amanda McLeman, managing editor, conducted the survey and compiled the accompanying online report.

Key concepts

More respondents expect salary increases than decreases

Adequately prepared personnel are difficult to find

Continuing education and training are key to success

Technical challenges aid job satisfaction

Consider this

Schedule time this month to mentor a team member with less experience and/or seek mentoring from one with more experience.

Online extra – see below

– More details, not in March 2013 print/digital edition

– Full report online has data points and extra graphics

– Concerns and advice from two write-in questions

Online extra

Two open-ended questions asked for input on the biggest concern for 2013 and engineering career-related advice offered to others.

Among concerns were:

Not having enough time to finish a project correctly due to overload.

Economy slowdown

Staying technically adept

Job advancement and financial compensation

Government regulations, tax increases

Personnel to take care of heritage systems

Getting new and or continuing business from our customers.

Timeline for next expansion.

New product development

Job recognition and career advancement.


Personnel shortage and lack of support from Management on training of existing Automation workforce

Not enough people to support the large amount of growth.

Staying competitive

Some of the advice, divided into four categories, follows.


The best additional skill to be good at engineering related jobs is project management.

Get an engineering degree and a MS in business. Try different jobs to decide what you like. Find a mentor and/or sponsor in the organization; your life will be a lot easier.

Get as much education as possible, BUT don’t limit yourself to one engineering / science discipline. Make sure you have an extremely firm foundation of higher mathematics, including ALL the calculus and statistics families. Along with that, ensure a deep understanding of PHYSICS as a science, since much of engineering hinges directly on the equations of mathematics AND the Laws of Physics. For those so inclined, also be knowledgeable in things "chemistry," since it is fundamental to the building blocks of life! While I realize that is a tall order for a modern technologist, the state of advancement of technology is such that to be truly successful a person MUST possess these aptitudes.

Never stop learning! Make use of the tremendous resources available online and through trade publications.

Continue to stay current on new technology.

Diversify. And learn as much as you can.

Workplace strategy

Lean manufacturing requires you to wear many hats, make sure you keep focused on the overall priorities of the operation.

Find someplace that you can engage with your colleagues and enjoy going to work each day because you spend a large portion of your life at work. Negotiate fair salary and benefits because no one will offer more than they must.

Concentrate on activities that make your boss’s job easier.

Keep trained in your skill work hard early make a name for yourself and don’t get associated with bad people and programs

Get as many different experiences as you can and make sure you contextualize the effect on your competencies and capabilities.

Know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.

Look for jobs that give you the opportunity to hone skills that are useful with outside companies as well as your own.

Don’t believe anything including your schooling, nothing is stead fast. Always approach with an open mind, no matter how simple or dumb it looks from the outside, keep an open mind before dismissing.


Find something you love to do and you will do it well.

Never lose sight of your common sense. If something doesn’t ring true it probably isn’t!

Make sure you like what you’re doing, otherwise going to work will be an unwanted chore that will only receive a portion of your potential. Happy employees = productive employees.

Patience. Advancement is based on knowledge and experience and not time.

Stay curious, always question how / why.


If you’re already employed in an engineering profession, develop leadership and communication and ability to work with a diverse group of people (interpersonal skills).

Prepare yourself with presentation and communication skills.

Learn everything you can about relationships, TRUE listening, and communication. It will greatly help you not only in your career but your entire life.