Process engineer job satisfaction survey

Process engineers are stable and generally happy people who say they enjoy their work. The pay's not bad, too.


As we emerge from the great recession, we asked process engineers how they feel about their jobs and how they weathered the downturn. All in all, the results were encouraging and suggest a high level of satisfaction for people in process industries. Responses came from all over the world, including Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe, South America, and North America. Most seemed willing to give their names and companies, although we’re not so sure about Mr. Bubba and Mr. Peon.

Almost all respondents are degreed engineers (92%), although the specific discipline varies. The largest group was electrical and electronic engineers at 40%. Chemical engineers accounted for 28%. Mechanical engineers and other subcategories comprise the balance. Most are responsible for direct interaction with the process and equipment. (See chart.) The largest single category was process improvement and optimization, followed by instrumentation and control.

Salaries cover the full range with 20% in the <$30,000 category. (See chart.) This group was typically the least experienced and outside of North America. Generally there was a strong correlation between experience and salary. All those who reported cracking the six-figure barrier (more than one-third) had at least 13 years in the business. Ironically perhaps, the 16% who reported times of unemployment since 2007 were also all in the more-than-10-year category. Time off ranged from three to 20 months.

The level of salary change over the last year varied evenly across the pay spectrum, although the news is generally good. Only 20% reported a decrease, 36% said that it stayed the same, and 32% said it went up. Team headcount stability followed similar numbers, with 80% reporting no change or an increase.

Satisfaction numbers are high with nearly half reporting that they love going to work every day. (See chart.) Another third think it’s OK. That high satisfaction also correlates to experience, but one respondent with 20 years reported that he would leave given the chance to pursue design work. His reasons cited a lack of respect and unrealistic expectations from management.

When asked, “What could make your job more satisfying?” respondents gave a wide range of answers. Some mentioned bureaucratic aggravations or management interference, such as, “I love what I do, but I do not like the current office politics. The many facets of what I do keep things fresh and interesting. It keeps me getting up in the morning; however, the petty office politics that have developed recently are stifling!” Another reported, “While safety is paramount, the daily burden of complying with new safety mandates, safety audits, etc., is sapping my energy.”

Some suggested they could do a better job if given the freedom to try new things. For example, “More time/projects to experiment with the capabilities of new products and how they could fit into our process.” And, “More free time for independent research and projects.”

The respondent who reported the longest time in the business at 42 years, all at the same company, summed up his situation with, “I enjoy doing technical work. The more challenging or never-been-done, the better.”

Peter Welander is content manager for Control Engineering. Reach him at pwelander(at)

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