Aerospace employment conditions for engineers improve; salary gains mixed

  • 29-Jun-2012 02:40 EDT

Employment prospects and salaries have improved for the majority of aerospace engineers since the end of the global recession, according to the recently released 2012 SAE International Salary Study. Whether one’s salary went up or down depends heavily on where one works.

The mean salary for aerospace engineers and related technical positions around the world increased by a mean average of 2.4%. In the U.S., the mean base salary for aerospace engineers increased from $98,000 in 2010 to $100,200 in 2012, an increase of 2.2%. When supplemental cash income—including retirement plans, bonuses, commissions, profit sharing, and educational reimbursement—is added to the mix, the U.S. engineer fared better, with total compensation rising from $109,200 in 2010 to $112,300, an increase of 3.8%.

Outside of the U.S., the mean base salary stayed relatively flat ($78,000 in 2010 and $77,900 in 2012). During the same time, supplemental cash income decreased from $8300 to $6300, resulting in a mean average total cash compensation for non-U.S. markets of $84,200 in 2012, a drop of 2.4%.

For the first time this year, SAE International is publishing salary data by country. Across the three industries served by the organization, 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).

Other key findings: mobility professionals that are also SAE International members in the U.S. make more on average ($102,300) than nonmembers ($101,500); female mobility professionals that are also SAE International members working outside the U.S. make more ($86,500) than their nonmember associates ($85,500); and female mobility professionals in the U.S. continue to close the compensation gap with their male counterparts, 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, aerospace professionals were asked to indicate what types of adversity their company had experienced in the past 12 months.

In 2012, 51% of aerospace respondents from around the world said their company had implemented one of eight policies generally considered negative to employment conditions, such as hiring and pay freezes, layoffs, or forced time off. This is down from 71% in 2010. Layoffs continue to be the most prevalent policy (24% in 2012, down from 45% in 2010), followed by hiring freezes (24% in 2012, down from 36% in 2010), and pay freezes (16% in 2012, down from 31% in 2010). Benefits were reduced 14% of the time (down from 19% in 2010), no bonus 10% of the time (down from 19%), time off without pay 5% (down from 14%), and pay cuts only 3% (down from 11% in 2010).

For U.S. mobility engineers in general, 54% of full-time employees experienced one of eight changes, a decrease from 81% in 2010. Meanwhile, employees in Europe, Asia, Canada, and Central and South America say only 41.9% of their companies implemented one of the eight changes, down from 61.7% in 2010.

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.

The full report and an online interactive salary calculator can be accessed for free at

Click here to read an article published April 23 that looks at the survey in broader terms across all vehicle sectors: commercial-vehicle, aerospace, and automotive.

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