Salary survey shows highest wages in a decade

Comparing data over the past 14 years, Plant Engineering salary survey respondents reported the highest salaries and bonus compensation

By Amara Rozgus and Amanda McLeman March 28, 2024
Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Salary survey insights

  • The average maintenance professional is 54 years old, works 46 hours per week, has been involved in the manufacturing industries for 26 years and has worked for their current employer for the past 14 years.
  • Seventy-one percent of professionals expect their base annual salary for 2024 to increase; 45% anticipate a raise of up to 3%.
  • Looking at factors that impact job satisfaction, the feeling of accomplishment tops the list with 34% of respondents selecting the option, up from 28% in 2022; other top factors include technical challenge, financial compensation and relationship with colleagues.

The 2023 Plant Engineering salary survey results show that the average professional earned a 3.9% increase over last year. When reviewing the high-level results of the 2023 study, the average base salary was $106,312 and the average nonsalary compensation was $19,105. For full details, see the compensation tables.

When reviewing the average salary data since 2010, average total compensation in 2023 was highest it has ever been at $125,417. In the 14 years of data collection, this is slightly higher than the average total compensation of $116,052.

Figure 1: The average age of respondents was 54 years old, and 16% are younger than 40. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Figure 1: The average age of respondents was 54 years old, and 16% are younger than 40. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Bonus compensation was up year over year, due to a host of reasons (respondents could select several options):

  • Company profitability: 53%.

  • Personal performance: 52%, up from 44% last year.

  • Safety metrics, 19% (new to the list).

  • Quality metrics, 19% (new to the list).

  • New business, sales increase: 16%, down from 23% last year.

For this salary survey, the response group was diverse. When asked about the focus of their job, responses were:

  • Maintenance: 11%, down from 17% last year.

  • Controls: 12%, slight change from 14% last year.

  • Electrical and power: 15%, up from 10% last year.

  • Mechanical (pumps, HVAC): 9% (new to the list).

And most respondents are at smaller facilities, with 78% at companies that have fewer than 500 employees, and 30% at companies with fewer than 50 employees.

These respondents also have another positive attribute: Four in 10 (45%) respondents have a bachelor’s degree, and 22% have a master’s degree, a slight uptick of both from last year. This trends along with the fact that 82% of survey respondents have a job title of engineering, maintenance or supervisor; 16% are in management, with the title of president, VP, general manager or something similar.

The salary survey outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the manufacturing sector remains historically low at 3.0% in February 2024. In comparison, unemployment was 2.8% in 2023 and 3.0% in 2022.

Figure 2: According to the 2023 Plant Engineering salary survey, the typical employee has been in the industry an average of 26 years, worked at their current employer 14 years. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Figure 2: According to the 2023 Plant Engineering salary survey, the typical employee has been in the industry an average of 26 years, worked at their current employer 14 years. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

The average workweek for those in the entire manufacturing sector (all job titles) is 39.8 hours, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the 2023 Plant Engineering salary survey study, the average was 46 hours. Again, this may directly relate to those with management titles, or the fact that respondents are from a varied background with a wide variety of responsibilities.

And most survey participants like their jobs, which 83% believe to be a secure career. Nearly half (45%) indicated “I love going to work every day.” One in four (40%) said, “It’s OK, glad to have a job, I can deal with it,” which is down from 52% last year.

Table 1: The prime years for survey respondents to earn remains in their 50s, and the average age of respondents was 54 years old. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Table 1: The prime years for survey respondents to earn remains in their 50s, and the average age of respondents was 54 years old. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

To improve in their profession, respondents shared details about skills they or others in similar positions could use to get ahead:

  • Engineering: 76%, up from 71% last year.

  • Project management: 68%, down from 70% last year.

  • Communication/presentation: 59%, up from 54% last year.

Table 2: The discipline with the top pay shifted, with only electrical and power employees remaining on the list. The electrical/power discipline was fourth last reporting year. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Table 2: The discipline with the top pay shifted, with only electrical and power employees remaining on the list. The electrical/power discipline was fourth last reporting year. Courtesy: Plant Engineering

Download and review the 2023 Plant Engineering salary survey in full.

A survey was emailed to Plant Engineering audience members and information was collected in December 2023. A total of 243 qualified responses were returned, with a margin of error of +/-6.3% at a 95% confidence level. Participants frequently had the option to select more than one response, thus totals do not always equal 100%.