Engineer salaries up overall, SAE survey shows

  • 23-Apr-2012 12:37 UTC

Mean total cash compensation for U.S. mobility professionals climbed from $105,800 in 2010 to $115,200—an 8.9% increase.

The good news for engineers and related technical professionals is that employment prospects and salaries have improved for the majority in the automotive, aerospace, and commercial vehicle industries since the end of the global recession. That’s one of the conclusions drawn from the recently released 2012 SAE International Salary Study.

However, whether your salary went up or down depends heavily on where you work.

With this second biannual salary survey, SAE International is continuing the commitment it started in 2010 to help engineers chart their careers through some of the choppiest economic times in modern history.

Around the world, the mean salary for engineering and related technical positions in mobility industries increased from $89,700 in 2010 to $91,800 in 2012, or 2.3%. Engineers in the U.S. fared better than the global average, enjoying an average base salary increase of $6000, or 6.3%, from $95,700 in 2010 to $101,700. When supplemental income is added to the equation, the U.S. mobility professional enjoyed an even sharper jump, with total cash compensation increasing from $105,800 in 2010 to $115,200—an 8.9% increase.

Within the U.S. mobility industries, commercial vehicle engineers and related positions received a 12% increase, with the average salary jumping from $100,200 in 2010 to $112,200. Those in the automotive industry enjoyed a healthy 10% increase, with the mean salary jumping from $107,000 in 2010 to $117,600. The increase for those in the aerospace industry was 2.8%, from $109,200 in 2010 to $112,300.

Mobility professionals outside of the U.S. were not so lucky. Based on the 2012 salary study, the mean salary decreased from $74,900 in 2010 to $70,500 in 2012. Within the three mobility industries, commercial vehicles experienced the largest salary decline, 11%, with the mean total compensation dropping from $91,800 in 2010 to $81,000. The decline in the automotive industry was 4.8% to $77,500, and in the aerospace industry 2.4% to $84,200.

For the first time this year, SAE International is publishing salary data by country. According to 2012 data, mobility engineers working in Germany are the highest-paid on average ($105,700), followed by the U.S. ($101,500), Australia ($98,900), Japan ($97,800), and Canada ($91,700).

Among other key findings, SAE International members in the U.S. ($102,300) make more on average than nonmembers ($101,500); female SAE International members working outside the U.S. ($86,500) also make more than their nonmember associates ($85,500); females in the U.S. continue to see salary gains, with their mean salary increasing from $80,500 in 2010 to $91,600 in 2012.

To gain an understanding of how the current economic conditions have impacted employment around the world, mobility professionals were asked to indicate what types of adversity their company had experienced in the last 12 months.

In a sign that the economy may be improving, only 54% of U.S. full-time employees experienced one of the following eight changes, a decrease from 81% in 2010. Just over a quarter (28%) experienced a hiring freeze (down from 47% in 2010), 23% layoffs/downsizing (down from 55% in 2010), 20% a pay freeze (down from 41% in 2010), and 19% a reduction in benefits package (down from 32% in 2010). Fewer than one in ten did not receive a bonus (9% vs. 31% in 2010), increased time off with no pay (4% vs. 19% in 2010), and/or a pay cut (2% vs. 18% in 2010).

The employment outlook in Europe, Asia, Canada, Central America, and South America also appears to be improving. According to full-time employees working in these locations, only 41.9% say their company implemented one of the eight changes cited above.

The 2012 SAE International Salary Study is the only survey of its kind to explore levels and changes in compensation and employment for technical employees in the automotive, aerospace, and commercial vehicle industries. This second biannual study is based on an email survey issued to 55,000 mobility engineers and related technical employees around the world. Survey recipients were both members and nonmembers of SAE International. They were asked a series of 30 questions about their industry, company, educational backgrounds, job responsibilities, compensation, retirement, ethnicity, and more. Out of the initial sample, 5628 answered the survey, resulting in an optimal margin of error of ±1.3% with a 95% confidence level.

“As the transportation equipment industry moves out of the recession and back into a hiring pattern, it’s good for both employees and employers to know the prevailing wage for comparable levels of expertise," said Bill Cariello, Manager, Web Strategy/Operations, whose SAE business unit cosponsored the survey. "This study is a reflection of our commitment to serving the entire global mobility engineering community."

The full report and an online interactive salary calculator will be available from SAE soon at

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