While a majority of engineers around the world reported earning a bonus during the past year, the overall trends this year for total compensation hardly compare to those of a decade ago, when engineers were being courted with signing bonuses and stock options.
We went back 10 years to revisit the findings of our 2000 Salary & Opinion Survey, and the results and attitudes of engineers in 2000 differ as markedly from this year’s results as today’s global economic conditions contrast with those boom times. Back then, engineers were far more concerned with the Y2K threat than with job cuts.
For instance, fully 62 percent of respondents at the beginning of the new millennium said they had received a bonus for personal or company performance during the previous year. Nearly 70 percent of managers reported having received a bonus. The highest percentages of engineers earning additional compensation in the 2000 survey were computer (78.6) and communications (70) engineers. Even new hires reported receiving signing bonuses a decade ago.
The odds of receiving a raise were also much higher in 2000. Among the roughly 800 respondents we surveyed that year, a whopping 86.6 percent said they had earned a raise. Just under 12 percent said their salary had remained unchanged over the previous year. Only 1.6 percent of engineers surveyed in 2000 reported a pay cut.
For those earning a raise, total compensation for engineers in the 2000 survey hovered around $90,000 a year. By comparison, North American mean total compensation in 2010 was $107,300. But the percentage of those earning bonuses over the past year was lower (59 percent at the high end) and the bonuses themselves smaller than a decade ago.
Working conditions also have declined over the past decade as a result of layoffs, acquisitions and the addition of new company divisions. More than half of the 5,093 respondents in this year’s survey reported engineering shortages at their companies. One result is that, on average, most engineers work more than 40 hours a week (Japanese engineers led the way, working an average of nearly 50 hours a week), and a quarter of European and North American engineers said their employers expect them to be available all day, every day.
A decade ago, when engineers were far less connected than today, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they had achieved a proper balance between work and their personal lives.
Salary figures aside, the other fundamental change over the past decade has been the rise of the Chinese and Indian engineer. Many were trained in the United States, and a significant percentage of those have returned home either to work for emerging technology giants or to start their own companies. With a global perspective, many of these engineers told us their base salaries are not comparable to those of other engineers with the same qualifications.
That growing frustration is translating into restlessness. Our 2010 survey found that 41 percent of the Chinese respondents and 35 percent of the Indian engineers are looking for new employers. Their colleagues in North America and Europe are less satisfied professionally than a decade ago but are less likely than their counterparts in China and India to move on.
If the economic booms continue in China and India, something will have to give.
Globalization, an aging U.S. engineering profession and other factors yet to be accounted for will likely drive salary trends over the coming decade.
|Despite economic uncertainty, more than half of all the respondents in our global survey said they had received a bonus in the past 12 months.