Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2014

Control Engineering research: While slightly more is expected for salary and slightly less for bonuses in 2014 compared to 2013, concerns about shortages of skilled workers increased significantly, by seven percentage points since last year. In addition, the percentage of employees saying they worked 15 or more years and 30 or more years in their industries dropped by four percentage points each. Safety is significantly more important for bonuses. See more graphics and details online, with links to past research.

By Mark T. Hoske and Jordan M. Schultz May 8, 2014

Slightly more is expected for salary and slightly less for bonuses in 2014 compared to 2013, while concerns about skilled workers increased a significant seven percentage points since last year. The percentage of employees saying they worked 15 or more years and 30 or more years in their industries dropped by four percentage points each. Company profits remain the largest criteria for bonuses, but safety made a huge leap in emphasis, 14 percentage points to 33% in 2014, up from 19% in 2013. Job satisfaction remained strong, and project management and communication skills remained the most valued after engineering skills.

Note: Each numbered section has a corresponding figure (table or graphic) online (numbered differently from the seven figures selected for print). Thank you to 880 survey respondents for participating.

1. Average base annual salary for 2014 is $93,373 for those responding to the Control Engineering salary and career survey. Among respondents, 74% expect an increase; more than 60% expect a 1%-3% increase. Only 9% expect a salary increase of 4%-6%, and 4% expect a more than 6% increase. A quarter of respondents expected their salaries to stay the same compared to last year, and only 1% expected a pay cut in 2014.

2013 comparison: $92,918 was the average annual base salary and 70% expected an increase; 27% expected the same, and 3% expected a decrease.

2. and 3. Bonus compensation average among respondents is $10,045 in 2014, with 23% expecting more, approximately 61% expecting it to remain the same as last year’s, and only 16% expecting a smaller bonus. (Fourteen percent of respondents expect an increase of 1%-3%; 5%, an increase of 4%-6%; and 4%, an increase of more than 6%.)

2013 comparison: $10,486 was the average expected bonus, with 21% expecting more, 62% the same, and 17% less.

4. A large majority of survey takers, 69%, said bonus criteria are largely tied to company profitability. Respondents indicated less importance for other criteria, including safety metrics (33%), quality metrics (29%), plant or line productivity (28%), plant cost reduction (26%), product profitability (26%), up- or downtime (20%), and energy efficiencies (13%).

2013 comparison: Bonuses tied to profits: 64%. Safety metrics 19% and quality metrics 17%, and plant/line productivity 20% were among others. 

Job satisfaction

5. The majority of respondents, 82%, were satisfied with their jobs: 43% responded that they thought their jobs were satisfactory and 39% reported that they love going to work everyday. The survey found that the top five factors contributing to job satisfaction were feelings of accomplishment (39%), technical challenges (38%), financial compensation (31%), relationship with colleagues (28%), and location (22%). The lowest reported factors for job satisfaction were travel and physical or ergonomic environment at work, both at 2%.

2013: 81% were satisfied, 40% thought their job was satisfactory, and 41% love going to work daily. Top five factors ranked the same.

6. The large majority-67%-of survey takers reported that they consider manufacturing a secure career, while 33% do not.

2013: 63% considered the career secure and 37% did not.

7. and 8. Operations, safety, and automation and controls deserve and get the most attention, according to respondents. 2013: Training and safety should get more emphasis.

Education, skills

9. Survey respondents are well educated—50% of respondents have a bachelor’s degree and 20% have a master’s. Other responses included associate’s degree, 10%; some college, 9%; trade or technical school diploma or certificate, 6%, dual bachelor’s degree, 3%; and high school diploma, 2%. Only 1% of respondents reported having a doctoral degree.

2013: 45% respondents had a bachelor’s degree, with same percentages for master’s, associate, and some college attendance.

10. Respondents agreed—65%—that engineering skills were the most necessary. Other important skills included project management (62%), communication and presentation (51%), computer (50%), team building (43%), finance and accounting (16%), language (15%), and marketing and sales (14%).

2013 skills needed: 63% engineering skills and project management, 48% communications and presentation skills, 47% computer skills, and 38% team building. 

Respondent demographics

11. The majority of respondents—77%—were between 40 and 64 years old (respondents aged 40-44 years old comprised 11%; 45-49, 14%; 50-54, 18%; 55-59, 22%; and 60-64, 12%). Only 17% of respondents reported being under 39 (respondents 35-39 years old comprised 4%; 30-34, 5%; 25-29, 5%, and under 25, 1%).

2013: 68% of respondents were between 40 and 64 years old.

12. As for engineering discipline, approximately 46% of respondents study or studied electrical (EE) or electronic engineering; 23% study or studied mechanical; 12%, chemical; 11%, controls; 11%, industrial; 6%, instrumentation; and 2%, civil. Fourteen percent of survey takers responded "other."

2013: EE 45%, ME 24%, controls 15%, chemical 11%, industrial 10%, instrumentation 8%, 2% civil, and 14% other.

13. More than half of respondents reported working for their current employers for more than 10 years (17% have worked for 10-14 years; 11% for 15-19; 8% for 20-24; 8% for 25-29; and 11% for 30 or more). Approximately 20% reported having worked for their current employers for 5-9 years and another 20% reported 1-4 years. Only 5% of respondents responded that they have been with their firm for less than one year.

2013: Half worked more than 10 years for their current employer.

14. Similarly the large majority of respondents—79%—reported having been in their industry for 15 years or more. Of all survey takers, 35% have been in the industry for 30 or more years; 17% for 25-29 years; 15% for 20-24; 12% for 15-19; 8% for 10-14; 8% for 5-9; 5% for 1-4; and 1% for less than one year.

2013: 75% worked for 15 or more years in their industries, with 31% for 30 or more years.

15. Among respondents, 96% work 40 hours or more per week on average. Just 4% report working 60 or more hours per week on average; 7% report working 55-59 hours; 16%, 50-54; 36%, 45-49; 35%, 40-44; 2%, 35-39; 1%, 30-34; and 1%, less than 30. 2013 was similar: 95% worked 40 or more hours, 4% worked 60 or more, 6% 55-59, 16% 50-54, 33% 45-49. 

Company specifications, job roles

16. Survey takers work primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. Approximately 23% of respondents reported working in the Midwest (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI), 20% in the Southeast (AL, DE, FL, GA, KY, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV), 17% in the Northeast (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT), 11% in the Southwest (AR, LA, OK, TX), 10% in Pacific states (AL, CA, HI, OR, WA), 9% in North Central states (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD), and 6% in the Mountain states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY). Approximately 4% of respondents reported living somewhere not listed above.

2013: Similar, no more than 4 percentage points difference in any region.

17. Among industries where the company is involved, survey takers reported that chemicals or pharmaceuticals (18%) and engineering or system integration services (18%) were the most common industries. The next 10 top-reported industries follow: instrumentation, measurement or control systems/devices, 14%; food, beverage, or tobacco, 14%; industrial controls, test or medical equipment, 14%; other manufacturing, 14%; plant/facilities engineering or maintenance services, 14%; oil, gas, or petroleum refining including coal products manufacturing, 13%; automotive or transportation, 12%; industrial/commercial/agricultural machinery, 12%; utilities or telecommunications, 12%; and consulting, business, or technical services, 11%.

2013 didn’t vary by more than 4 percentage points in any industry.

18. Respondents reported many job titles. The most popular response, 22%, was other. The next 11 top-reported titles follow: control engineer (11%), engineering manager (7%), senior engineer (7%), maintenance manager (7%), project engineer (6%), electrical engineer (6%), manager (5%), project manager (5%), plant engineer (4%), engineer (4%), and process engineer (4%).

2013 titles were similar, to within two percentage points.

19. Nearly 36% of respondents reported that their primary job function was engineering, maintenance, or supervisory. Other responses included: system or product design, control or instrument engineering (22%); process, production, or manufacturing engineering (17%); general or corporate management (8%); system integration or consulting (7%); purchasing or purchasing management (2%); other (6%); and other engineering (2%).

2013: 31% of respondents reported that their primary job function was engineering, maintenance, or supervisory. Other responses included: system or product design, control or instrument engineering (22%); process, production, or manufacturing engineering (16%); general or corporate management (9%); system integration or consulting (10%); purchasing or purchasing management (1%); other (5%); and other engineering (5%).

20. The majority, 51% of respondents, work for firms of 500 employees or larger. Here’s the breakdown: 41% of respondents work for firms of 1,000 or more; 10% for firms of 500-999; 11% for firms of 250-499; 15% for firms of 100-249; and 23% for firms of less than 100.

21. The large majority of respondents, 65%, have at least one employee under their direct or indirect management or supervision. Less than 1% of all survey takers oversee 251-500 employees; just 1% of survey takers oversee 101-250 employees; 8% oversee 26-100; 23% oversee 6-25; and 32% oversee 1-5. Approximately 35% of survey respondents have no employees under their direct or indirect supervision. 2013 was similar.

Company expectations

22. The majority of respondents, 55%, reported that they do not expect departmental staffing changes in 2014, while 37% reported that they expect an increase. Only 8% of respondents expect departmental staffing decreases.

2013 was within two percentage points.

23. Approximately 36% of respondents expect their plants to add new product lines in 2014, 11% in the very near term, 12% in the middle of the year, and 13% in the last quarter.

2013: 42% expected to add, 12% in 3 months, 12% in 4-8 months, and 18% in 9-12 months.

24. Nearly 35% of survey takers reported that the lack of available skilled workers is the biggest threat to their manufacturing businesses. Other threats included poor management (18%); regulations, codes, standards, etc. (15%); outsourcing and/or offshoring (10%); downsizing (7%); taxes and tariffs on products (3%); and union pressures and/or restrictions (2%). Twelve percent of respondents identified other threats.

2013: Significantly, 28% said the skilled worker shortage was most critical. That threat jumped seven percentage points in 2014.

25. A full 60% of survey takers took the opportunity to offer "engineering career-related advice" to others. Of the 525 offering advice, 261 offered workplace strategy advice, 235 offered advice related to education, 82 attitude-related advice, and 32 communication advice. (Some advice covered more than one category.) Bits of advice are offered below. See more with this article online.

Get educated in a crafts and trades skill. Machinists, electronic technicians, electricians, and HVAC technicians are in high demand and short supply. Enter your new job with good work ethics such as having a positive attitude, arriving at work early, working overtime, and being dedicated to your job to be a part of a team. Young people don’t want to do this anymore…. Having a college education is not a free pass to a good job.

The workforce is aging. It is time for the next generation to embrace the opportunities the manufacturing industry has to offer.

Work hard, don’t be a clock watcher, stay until the job is done. Continue to study, learn more about your products, equipment, and tools you use. Be the go-to person with all the answers for your boss, coworkers, employees, and customers.

Nobody knows everything. It is quite OK to admit when you do not know something. It is not OK to remain there. Admit you do not know something, commit to finding the answers, then go out and learn and follow up with answers.

Quality needs to be a part of your culture. Focus on the following tasks to ensure a long career: 1) safety, 2) operational excellence, 3) continuous legacy migration, and 4) the gathering of plant floor data to allow management to make fact-based decisions. At entry engineering levels, develop project management (PM) skills and understand what motivates your peers, production personnel, and management.

Pair your engineering education with a communications or business background. Engineering is in demand, but it needs to be augmented with soft skills if you want to advance.

Survey methods

Respondents to this year’s survey numbered 880. Last year, 977 responses were qualified based on those who said they were currently doing or managing engineering functions at the field or corporate level within their companies. A gift card incentive was used.

– Jordan M. Schultz, associate content manager, and Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering. Amanda McLeman, CFE Media director of research, conducted the survey.

ONLINE extras

This online article includes a table tally of other threats written in by some respondents, career advice and suggestions, with more graphics on bonuses and energy responsibilities.