A profile in perseverance

Plant engineers put themselves on the front line on a daily basis. Learn more about the results from the 2021 Plant Engineering salary survey.

By CFE Media February 14, 2022
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Engineers and maintenance managers who took part in the 2021 Plant Engineering salary survey are a set of highly trained workers who, at an average age of 55 years old, take home an average of more than $100,000 a year in annual compensation. They feel secure in their positions, as the U.S. lack of available skilled labor is a big constraint on their employers. In a big change from previous years, nearly half of survey respondents say they love going to work every day.

Download the 2021 Plant Engineering salary survey.

Given the remarkable times in which we live, before turning to the specifics of the Plant Engineering 2021 salary survey, let’s take a brief look at some statistics relevant to the manufacturing industries as a whole.

The manufacturing industries started adding back jobs in 2010, as the economy began recovering from the effects of the recession. But the nature of some of these jobs has changed, with fewer jobs on an assembly line and more jobs running computers or machines, according to an analysis found on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. BLS) website.

In addition, some manufacturers are moving production back to the United States as they factor in variables such as increasing labor costs abroad, the high cost of transporting goods, and the risks associated with foreign manufacturing. “Every week we’re hearing about a new company building a plant in the United States,” said Gardner Carrick of the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C. “We’ve seen four straight years of job growth in manufacturing.”

But employment still has not returned to pre-recession levels, and it is unlikely to do so as technology has eliminated the need for some types of workers.

Some numbers for annual salary

According to a January 7 report on employment in manufacturing by the U.S. BLS, manufacturing employment continued to trend up in December 2021 (+26,000), following gains in November (+35,000) and October (+52,000).

In 2021, manufacturing added 349,000 jobs. However, employment is 219,000 below the February 2020 level. More manufacturing industries are adding jobs than are losing jobs. Manufacturing employment gains corresponded with strength in both the Institute of Supple Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) and the IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI, which measure business sentiment and expectations.

Respondents at a glance.

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In December, employment in durable goods rose by 20,000. Machinery added 8,000 jobs, reflecting the return to work from a strike. In December, average hourly earnings for all employees in manufacturing increased by seven cents to $30.28. Average hourly earnings of production workers increased by 11 cents to $24.33, according to the U.S. BLS.

Average weekly hours of all employees fell by 0.1 hour to 40.3 hours in December. The average workweek of production employees remained unchanged at 41.4 hours. Average weekly overtime hours for all employees fell by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. Overtime hours for production workers remained unchanged at 40.1 hours in December.

Finally, the median salary for all U.S. architectural and engineering managers is $149, 530 per year, according to the U.S. BLS, based on the answers provided by the respondents to the Plant Engineering 2021 Annual Salary Survey, the median salary for plant engineers is almost $100, 500 per year.

Who we are

Highly trained, highly experienced: Electrical engineering is a primary skill. Highlights of the respondents’ profiles, telling us who they are, include the following:

  • Respondents to the Plant Engineering salary survey say they work an average of 45 hours a week.
  • Respondents indicated they have been with their employer an average of 15 years, with an average of 28 years in the industry.
  • One half of respondents say they have at least a bachelor’s degree (50%), while close to 20% say they have a master’s degree (19%). The electrical or electronic engineering discipline was the most studied (41%), followed by mechanical (33%), industrial (18%) and maintenance (18%).
Annual salary report. Ranges of ages of the respondents.

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Annual salary report. What is the highest level of education you have completed?

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Annual salary report. Work experience.

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Annual salary report. Primary job function.

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Annual salary report. Which of the following engineering disciplines did you study or are you studying?

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What we think

Labor shortages and supply chain disruption present challenges and some opportunities, as well. Many still enjoy going to work every day. Supply chain disruption and shortages of skilled labor are forcing changes in the structure of the manufacturing industries, including increasing use of managed services and outsourcing.

The manufacturing industries are essential and have taken the Coronavirus pandemic in stride, while having to deal with increased absenteeism and supply chain delays. On the other hand, reports indicate personnel exiting the manufacturing industries due to stagnating wages and Covid-related frustration.

Almost half of all respondents were willing to admit they love their job., while seeing the necessity to earn a living as the primary factor motivating them, followed by thirst for technical challenges.

Looking at factors that impact job satisfaction, the feeling of accomplishment significantly increased from 28% to 43% year-over-year. The previous #1 factor, financial compensation, has decreased from 36% to 27% between 2020 and 2021 data.

More than half of professionals are not looking to change jobs in the near future, while 27% are actively searching and 11% plan to retire in the next two years.

It is not excessive regulation or government interference that makes Plant Engineering readers’ jobs harder, it’s the lack of available skilled labor and the pace of global capitalism.

Annual salary report. Effects of COVID-19.

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Annual survey report. Respondent attitude towards current job.

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Annual survey report. Top ten factors that influence job satisfaction.

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Annual salary report. Skills needed to get ahead.

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What we earn, annual salary

Taking responsibility reaps its rewards. Impact of inflation yet to be seen. Because their skills are highly sought after, the survey participants make, on most accounts, decent money.

It’s safe to assume the expectation the majority of respondents have for their salary change in 2022 (3% to 12%) predates the ongoing onset of inflation in the United States, currently running at about 7% per annum.

Respondent base annual salary.

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Respondent non-salary compensation.

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Expected change to compensation.

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Average compensation by education level.

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Average compensation by discipline studied.

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Check out the 2021 Plant Engineering salary survey for a more in-depth look.

Author Bio: Since its founding in 2010, CFE Media and Technology has provided engineers in manufacturing, commercial and industrial buildings, and manufacturing control systems with the knowledge they need to improve their operational efficiency. CFE delivers the right information at the right time around the world through a variety of platforms.