Engineers show their salaries in SAE survey

  • 22-Oct-2010 02:36 EDT

Most of the compensation data for the SAE survey was derived from responses by the 3312 U.S.-based full-time employees participating.

Managerial responsibility is key to earning a fat paycheck, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind global survey of automotive, aerospace, off-highway, commercial vehicle, and other mobility engineers. Survey results were recently released by SAE International.

"The biggest impact on an engineer's compensation is how many people you supervise, and the differential between managing five to 10 persons or managing 10 or more engineers was as much as $20,000. That's a real eye-opener," said Bill Cariello, Manager of Web Strategy/Operations for SAE International, during an SAE Convergence 2010 press conference on the survey Oct. 19.

SAE's mobility engineering salary survey of SAE members and nonmembers was compiled from online questionnaires completed by 5288 engineers working across the globe.

Conducted by Readex Research, the survey (with a ┬▒1.7% margin of error) provides an economic context to an engineer's compensation based on experience, geography, industry sector, managerial and budget responsibility, and education level.

"There is quite a substantial pay difference between an engineer having a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Having a master's degree can bump an engineer's annual salary by approximately 21%. But the difference between an engineer with a master's degree and an engineer with a Ph.D. is 5% or less," Cariello said.

Most of the compensation data was derived from 3312 U.S.-based full-time employees, more than half working in automotive and one-third working in aerospace.

The average yearly total compensation for an engineer working in the U.S. is $105,800, with 24% earning more than $125,000 a year.

Although the greatest U.S. geographical concentration of engineers is in the Midwest, engineers earning the highest compensation are on the West Coast. Engineers with the lowest compensation reside in the Northeast.

SAE members earn approximately 10% more than nonmembers.

"We have 128,000 members in 110 nations," Cariello said. "The survey results showed that an SAE member in an engineering management job earns $126,000 on average compared to a nonmember earning $112,000, while an SAE member in a manufacturing management position earns on average $100,000 compared to a nonmember earning $78,000."

The survey revealed a gender pay gap, with women engineers earning 20% less than male engineers. About that, Cariello said, "We have work to do."

An overwhelming number of engineers have seen significant shake-ups on the job.

"One of the questions asked on the survey was whether there had been a change in job status over the last 12 months, and 81% reported changes in employment or compensation levels at their company, including layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, and hiring/pay freezes," said Cariello.

Engineers who received a raise in the past 12 months collected on average an additional 4-5%. "More than half of the respondents (54%) received a raise year-over-year while 32% of the respondents reported their salaries remained unchanged. It's significant that 16% of the respondents received a raise of 5% or greater, far outstripping inflation," Cariello said.

The survey's executive summary is available free to the global mobility engineering community through, while full, detailed survey results are free to SAE members through SAE's EngineerXchange portal ( that officially launched on Oct. 19.

An online salary calculator at the EngineerXchange portal enables SAE members to compute 10 variables for "what if" scenarios, while nonmembers can compute five variables for "what if" scenarios at the site.

"If you are looking at a career transition or if you are trying to determine if you have transferable job skills, you can find out if you'd earn more money or less money than your current job," Cariello said. "The salary calculator doesn't include cost of living factors, but it can provide you with a good indication of what your salary would be if you went from one sector to another sector or moved from one geographical region to another."

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