Which Engineers Make The Most Money?

It depends on your field and where you live found the IEEE-USA annual survey

28 January 2016

This is a good time to be an electrical and computing engineer in the United States. At least that’s one of the things I took away from the results of the latest IEEE-USA Salary and Benefits survey.

When you look at incomes from all sources for U.S. IEEE members, the median went from US $129,000 in 2013 to $133,000 in 2014, an increase of 3.1 percent. Of the 12,199 members who took the survey, 9,044 were employed full time in their fields of interest. The typical respondent was a male in his mid-40s with an advanced degree and 20 years of professional experience.

The survey results haven’t always been so positive. From 2000 to 2010, salaries did not rise all that much. Now not only are salaries increasing, but also the pay gap is closing for women engineers and non-Caucasians. The results also show job satisfaction is a bit higher than previous years. Members are most satisfied with the technical challenges of their jobs, however they are least satisfied with advancement opportunities.

WHO MAKES THE MOST?

Members working in communications technology have the highest median incomes, US $150,000, followed by those working in circuits and devices at $143,008, and signals and applications, who make on average $141,062. 

There may be several reasons communications salaries are so high. For one, it’s a growing and evolving field closely linked to R&D. The rapid evolution going on in communications technology leads to a strong demand for leaders in the field, who garner a higher salary. Another reason may be many communications companies are located in high cost-of-living areas.

Speaking of locations, the study breaks down median incomes by geographical areas. Highest median earners are in the western United States ($144,000), followed by the Northeast ($135,000), East ($131,225), Southwest ($129,980), Southeast ($120,000), and Central ($113,200).

And the study finds those in management positions surpass all others. Members in general management earned a median salary of $165,000, while those in technical management earned an average of $157,100.

CLOSING THE GAP

By comparing our most recent survey to previous ones, we can gain a historical perspective. One of the positive things we’ve seen deals with pay equity. Although pay gaps remain between men and women, the good news is the difference fell. Women’s salaries trail men’s by an average of $13,635, a gap that has narrowed by $3,000 from 2013.

While African American engineer’s salaries still trail Caucasians by an average of $15,482, the gap is down $2,000 from 2013. We hope future surveys show these pay disparities continuing to narrow and eventually disappear altogether.

HOW THE DATA BENEFITS YOU

One of the main things we do at IEEE-USA with all this data is create compensation calculators. These calculators help members benchmark their salaries against others in similar positions. You can use it to enter information such as your line of work and location. You can also enter another location to find out how much you could expect to make in a different part of the country.

If you have already responded to the 2015 survey you should have received free access to the calculator. Others can access it for $65 for up to five times. It’s also valuable to human resource professionals to help them set salaries and benefits packages for prospective and current employees. (Members can purchase unlimited use of the salary calculators for $495; $595 for non-members.)

The IEEE-USA Salary Service also offers industry-specific reports, including ones for communications, power and energy, and systems and control. In April, we’ll be sending an e-mail invitation to U.S. IEEE members to participate in this year’s survey.

IEEE Life Senior Member Jim Jefferies was the 2015 IEEE-USA president.

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