Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey, 2016

Control Engineering research shows nearly a 5% increase in salaries among respondents to an average of $94,747; analysis of salaries by years with employer shows upward salary pressure for engineering new hires. Respondents continue to indicate they like their jobs, by more than 80% this year, but financial compensation is becoming more important, as the economy is seen as the biggest threat by far to manufacturing today.

By Mark T. Hoske May 11, 2016

Salary for respondents to the 2016 Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey increased about 5% to $94,747, compared to an average of $90,367 for respondents last year. This year, data analyses include tables showing compensation by seven criteria, allowing benchmarking; the tables also show upward salary pressure to get younger engineers in the door. More than 80% were satisfied with their jobs, and 44% love going to work every day, and while technical challenge remains the top factor contributing to job satisfaction, it was a statistical tie (39% and 37%) with financial compensation, which jumped from 28% last year.

Looking at key issues, the economy is perceived as the biggest threat to manufacturing business, and, perhaps most disturbingly, 12% of respondents said no cyber security program was in place at their site. (See a separate cyber security research report from Control Engineering at

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Thank you to survey respondents; with 222 responding between March 7 and March 18 via web-based survey, the margin of error is plus or minus 6.6% at a 95% confidence level. A gift card incentive was used.

Salary increases

The average base annual salary for the 2016 set of respondents to this year’s Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey was $94,747, up slightly compared to that of respondents to the 2015 survey, when the average totaled $90,367. In 2016, 67% expect a salary increase. Among respondents, 54% expect a 1% to 3% increase, 9% expect a salary increase of 4% to 6%, and just 4% expect a more than 6% increase. About 31% of respondents expected salaries to stay the same (compared 25% last year), and only 2% expect a pay cut in 2016 (see Figure 1).

Year to year, those answering the survey differ; this year’s demographic information is provided later. The nonsalary compensation average among the 74% of respondents getting a bonus was $13,290 in 2016, and among all respondents, the average is $9,780. In 2016, 27% of respondents expect more nonsalary compensation, 16% expect less, and 57% expect the same (see Figures 2 and 3).

A larger majority of survey takers, 80%, said bonuses are tied to company profits compared to 61% last year. Among criteria, also up significantly was personal performance, 59% compared to 48%, and safety at 31% compared to 21%. Other criteria were product profitability at 29%, quality 26%, plant or line productivity 25%, reducing plant costs 21%, uptime/downtime 18%, and energy efficiencies at 12% (see Figure 4).

NEW: Salary benchmarks

Responding to reader feedback, tables were added to show salaries by age, education, years with employer and industry, job title and function, and number supervised, allowing benchmarking by taking an average of each that most closely fits your situation.


To see the totals for each benchmark area, with higher granularity by age, sample sizes, with additional trends, graphics, and analysis, download the salary survey report.


Salary averages are $58,376 under 30, with an average nonsalary compensation of $7,211. Salary average increases above $86,000 for those in the 30s, nearly $97,000 for those in the 40s, about $95,000 for those in the 50s, increasing to over $106,000 in the 60s, and above $105,000 for 70 or older, which had the highest nonsalary compensation, but sample size was very small, just two 70 and over.

More education generally resulted in more salary, except for those only with the high school diploma, where the sample size was very small, only four.

Number of years with current employer showed salary pressure to attract new employees; those onboard fewer than 5 years averaged more in salary than two other 5-year tenure periods.

Number of years in current industry increased steadily up to 20 to 24 and then dipped a bit for the next 10 years, continuing the upward trend 35 years and up.

Best three titles to have for salary are project manager, engineering manager, and vice president. Worst three are manufacturing engineering, plant engineer, and owner (although don’t feel sorry for the owners; they had the third largest average nonsalary compensation at $25,000). Controls engineer came in about the middle of the pack, at 12 among 20.

Nonsystem integration consulting had the lowest among primary job functions, just under $73,000; system integration was more than $92,000; and general or corporate management was the highest, nearly $125,000.

Compensation by numbers of employees managed also increased with number, except for zero, which also may reflect higher upward salary pressure to attract new engineers.

See additional salary information about job satisfaction, age and experience and the hours engineers work, and data about outsourcing.

Job satisfaction

The majority of respondents, 81%, were satisfied with their jobs: 37% responded that they thought their jobs were satisfactory, and 44% reported that they love going to work every day; 18% said it was tolerable, and they’re willing to consider a change; only 2% said they’re heading for the door at the first chance they get.

The survey found that the top five factors contributing to job satisfaction were technical challenge 39% (down from 44% last year), financial compensation 37% (up from 28%), feeling of accomplishment 33% (down from 39%), relationship with colleagues 25% (about the same, 24%), and job security 20% (down from 25%). Job security was nearly tied with benefits, relationship with the boss, and location all at 19%.

Rounding out the double digit responses were feeling of recognition 15%; advancement opportunities 12%; and workload 11%. The lowest reported factors influencing job satisfaction were physical or ergonomic factors, along with company size, at 2%. The 9 percentage-point increase in the importance of financial compensation for job satisfaction corresponded to a decrease in bonuses. See Figure 6 for other factors.

The large majority—75%—considered manufacturing secure, about the same as last year. Those with responsibilities in automation, controls, and instrumentation often have differing views about what areas should get emphasis compared to those that actually do. According to respondents, the three areas that get the highest emphasis are operations (29%), automation and controls (24%), and safety (19%). They felt automation and controls should get the highest emphasis (24%), followed by safety (19%) , and operations at 16%. Operations is getting nearly twice the emphasis as it should, and training is most neglected, getting 2% of the emphasis, when it should get 11%, respondents said (see Figure 7).

Education, skills

Survey respondents are well educated. When asked about their highest level of education, 44% have one bachelor’s degree (another 4% have two), 20% have a master’s degree, and 4% have a doctoral degree. Other responses included associate’s degree 13%, some college 6%, trade or technical school diploma or certificate 7%, and high school diploma 2% (see Figure 8).

Among engineering disciplines studied among respondents, electrical or electronic was the most popular by far, followed by controls, mechanical, chemical, industrial, and instrumentation, all in double digits (see Figure 9).

Among skills needed to advance, respondents heartily agreed (64%) that engineering skills are most necessary, with project management, communication and presentation skills, computer skills, and team building rounding out the top five (see Figure 10).

Outsourcing and why

Nearly 40% of respondents didn’t outsource functions, but when outsourcing was needed, system integration and maintenance were the two most common at 26% each. (Maintenance was up 5 percentage points from last year.) See Figure 10.

Reason for outsourcing was in a statistical dead heat among better cost management (43%), better focus on core competencies (42%), and lack of skilled staff (40%).

In a separate question about threats to manufacturing business, 8% chose outsourcing, which was fourth behind the economy (29%); lack of available skilled workers (13%), which could lead to outsourcing; and government or political interference (10%).

Age, experience, hours

Among respondents, the largest 10-year age period is 50 to 59 at 40%, up from 37% in 2015 and 32% in 2014. The largest 5-year age period is 50 to 54 at 23%. The ’50s decade had more respondents than the ’30s and ’40s combined (35%). An aging workforce may increase pressure to find enough engineers with the desired skill sets.

Again in 2016, more than half of respondents reported working for their current employers for more than 10 years, the largest single group, and also like the last two years, were respondents at their current employer less than 5 years, now 27%. Continuing up the scale, 5 to 9 years 15%, 10 to 14 years 19%, 15 to 19 years 9%, 20 to 24 years 7%, 25 to 29 years 10%, and 30 or more years 13%.

Similarly, the large majority of respondents (77%) reported having been in their industry for 15 years or more, up from 71% last year. The under 15-year group was 22%, compared to 29% the year before. The largest 5-year-period respondents in their industry were 25 to 29 and 30 to 34, both 16%.

Average number of hours worked per week was 45, and the largest group was 40 to 44 hours per week at 39%; 45 to 49 was 29%; 50 to 54 was 15%, and 55 or more was 8%, same as last year. Fewer than 40 hours accounted for 9% of respondents.

Region, titles, function

The region where the most respondents work is East North Central at 23%. Reported next were outside the U.S. and South Atlantic, each 12%, West North Central 11%, Pacific 10%, Mountain 8%, West South Central, Middle Atlantic, and New England each with 7%, and East South Central 2%.

Energy, size, staffing

Primary businesses or products manufactured at the respondents’ locations were: chemicals, engineering or architectural services, and system integration and were the largest areas at 12% each. Consulting, business or technical services and instrumentation, measurement or control systems or devices were each 11%. Industrial machinery including commercial, agricultural and other; and industrial controls, test or medical equipment or instruments were both 10%. Automotive or transportation rounded out the top eight, which together accounted for 87%. The next eight industries accounted for 47%. (More than one selection was allowed.)

Leading job functions were system or product design, control or instrument engineering 27%, and three were tied at 17%: other engineering 17%; operations or maintenance; and process, production, or manufacturing engineering. Rounding out double digits was system integration at 11.

Energy, size, staffing

Among respondents, 37% were responsible for managing or reducing energy for a line, process, or facility.

The distribution of employees at respondents’ locations follows: Less than 100 at 32%, 100 to 249 19%, 250 to 499 15%, 500 to 999 14%, and 1,000 or more 20%.

Management responsibilities among respondents were 1 to 5 employees at 33%, 6 to 25 at 21%, 26 to 100 at 5%, and more than 100 at 1%.

Half of respondents do not expect number of employees in their department to change in the next 12 months, about the same as last year, while 39% expect an increase, up from 33% last year. Decreases were expected by 10%, about the same as last year.

Among respondents, 36% expect their plants to add new product lines or shifts within 12 months, up from 33% last year.

Asset management, cyber security, safety

Several questions asked about various programs in place. An asset management program is in place at 58% of respondents’ locations, 12% more plan to implement one this year, and 7% more are going to look into it; 14% have no plans in this area.

The survey assessed stage of development (maturity levels) in four areas.

Cyber security program:

34% mature

32% developing

21% underway

12% nonexistent.

Safety program:

63% mature

27% developing

6% underway

4% nonexistent.

Maintenance program:

52% mature

26% developing

13% underway

9% nonexistent.

Management program:

46% mature

29% developing

13% underway

12% nonexistent.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,, with data from Amanda Pelliccione, CFE Media research director,


Key concepts

  • Many engineers like their jobs, and financial compensation is now about as important as technical challenge for job satisfaction.
  • Breaking out salaries by variables allows benchmarking.
  • The economy ranks as the biggest threat to manufacturing business today.

Consider this

What’s your plan for demonstrating and documenting your value this year?

ONLINE extra

See past Control Engineering Salary and Career Surveys linked below.

Author William Aja offers additional reasons to consider a career in industrial automation in an online-only story. Learn more here.