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RE: Salary Survey

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I've been staying out of this thread for various reasons, but now I need to

I am a structural engineer working for an in-house engineering office of a
large chemical manufacturer.  Your comment that I have to worry about
downsizing is actually quite humorous.  We have hired many engineers from
private consulting firms primarily because we provided a much more secure
working environment.  couple that with the need at a large corporation to
pay all engineers, regardless of specialty, similar rates and our excellent
benefits package (do you get 21 days of vacation a year?), I can understand
why some engineers choose to work for industry.

now, you could argue that we don't do as "sexy" work as say a bridge builder
or a skyscraper engineer.  However, my structural skills have been tested on
how to support items that weigh 500,000 lbs. in an EQ zone.  or how do I
support a 200 ft. tall distillation column in a heavy wind zone.  As I
explain to potential recruits (yes, I get to go out and recruit at my alma
mater for all disciplines of engineers), the design constraints in
industrial work are far greater than that in the commercial sector.  I won't
go into as much detail as why I feel that way - suffice it to say it.

Lastly, since I do work for an industry where my work is viewed as a cost
center, not a cost generator, the ability to turn a profit off of our
manufactured products ensures that I am working with the latest IT tools.
As long as the investment in IT means that we can build plants quicker and
cheaper, we buy it.  We'll get the profit from increased sales, not
increased billings.

So, before you start to slam the other side of the fence, take a peek.  The
grass isn't greener over here, but it sure isn't brown either.

-----Original Message-----
From: Caldwell, Stan [mailto:scaldwell(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 1999 11:46 AM
To: 'Steve Strapac'; 'SEAint Listserv'
Subject: RE: Salary Survey


You offered advice, but it neglected the question and was somewhat trite.
Chemical engineers make significantly more than Structural. So do
Electricals. Why?

Because the majority of chemical and electrical engineers start their
careers in industry, working for Corporate America.  Most structural
engineers start their careers in private consulting firms or in government,
both of which pay much less than Corporate America.  However, after 10 or 20
years, there is no reason that a structural engineer should not be making as
much, or more, than his chemical and electrical engineering brethren.  Also,
the structural engineer should have better job security, without the worry
of corporate down-sizing!

Why has the average salary declined for so many years?

I don't agree that it has declined.  Surveys of engineer's compensation are
historically next to worthless.  I have never met an engineer who's salary
has ever declined.

Perhaps the fact that you feel it is unproductive to discuss is the reason
that Structurals in general have such poor salaries in comparison to other
engineers, if that is a "shared" attitude.

Structural engineers in general do not have poor salaries, at least not
those who proactively manage their careers.  On the other hand, a structural
engineer who never grows beyond the production of basic structural
engineering design is ultimately little more than a technician with a
degree, and should be paid accordingly. 

You have to compare apples to apples. Rock stars represent 1/1,000,000 of
musicians. Its like winning the lottery. What are your chances of being a
Rock star???? But, if you go to school you can be a Chemical engineer and
pretty much count on $80,000. On the other hand, Structurals can't count on
as much as a Chemical. That was my point/question.

I never wrote anything about rock stars.  How about doctors?  What is the
average compensation of a doctor?  What is the maximum?  These questions are
impossible to answer.  Many doctors are now abandoning the medical
profession due to inadequate compensation in the age of "managed
healthcare".  There is no such thing as an "average" structural engineer.
Quit trying to paint them with a broad brush, it just isn't valid!  Chemical
engineers have no guarantee of wealth, and many are unemployed or frustrated
with their careers.  

Are structural engineers as a group more willing than Chemicals to accept
low pay?

Not unless they are particularly stupid, or completely lack ambition and

I don't need to worry about this since I chose CM, you can stand around in
the sun and make almost double what a structural does!

As long as you are really happy out in the field, so be it.  Just don't try
to blame your personal career choice on the structural engineering

Steve Strapac, P.E.

Best Regards,

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.

Hockeytown, Texas


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