Friday, 24 October 2014
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Engineers’ salaries took a battering in the recession. Then something exciting happened.

Official data shows some encouraging news for engineers - especially those with Chartered status.

It’s well known that salaries aren’t what they used to be. The recession put a major halt on pay rises and some people were even forced to accept wage cuts. All the while the cost of living kept on rising, meaning everyone was left feeling a little poorer.

Given the much talked-about skills shortage, you’d expect engineers to have not done too badly when it came to maintaining their pay packets. But when The Engineer took a look at the data, we found some surprising results.

From the start of the recession in 2008, engineers’ median salary increases were less than the national average. And in 2010, the median engineering wage actually fell, meaning the so-called cost of living crisis had a particular impact on many engineers.

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What has happened since, however, tells a much more encouraging story. While in 2011, the national median salary was flat, engineers got an average boost of over two per cent. And last year, this increased to around four per cent – double the rate of inflation. So engineers should finally start to be feeling richer.

The big question that remains is how are engineers doing now compared to the 2007-2008 peak. Since that time, the cost of living has gone up by around 16.2 per cent, according to the RPI measure of inflation that includes housing costs.

The national median salary has only gone up by 12.4 per cent – less than the cost of living increase – meaning most people are now poorer. The median for engineers is only a little better at 13.4 per cent.

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But what about those engineers who have completed accreditation schemes, which purportedly offer a significant salary boost. According to figures from the Engineering Council (which regulates accreditation), Incorporated Engineers haven’t kept up with inflation either, with a median salary increase of just 12.5 per cent.

Chartered Engineers, however, are on to a winner. They’ve seen their median salary rise by an inflation-busting 25 per cent since 2007, from £48,000 to £60,000. So while most people, including most engineers, have become poorer, those with Chartered status are much better off.

Data sources:

Average national and engineering salaries - Office for National Statistics (ONS) Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings , 2007-2013.

Incorporated and Chartered Engineer salaries – The Engineering Council 2013 Survey of Registered Engineers and Technicians .


Readers' comments (10)

  • I noticed a few years back that a lot of British companies figured out they could boost next quarters profits by getting rid of, or cutting back on R&D. (The remaining engineers would spend half their time in China, looking for cheap stuff to put a logo on).

    I hope now with a recovery on the way, they've realised they don't have the products to compete, and their scrabbling around for the engineers to make these products.

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  • Excellent. Still a long way to go though.

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  • No such luck for me ... still not got any salary for 5 years when trying to build a new company! i.e -100% salary

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  • Hopefully you'll be the one giving out the salaries in years to come. Good luck!

  • I wonder to what extent C Eng salaries in the UK are being driven by a bigger increase and greater demand for Professional Engineers elsewhere in the world , particularly in O&G and transportation sectors. This Hays report http://www.hays.com.au/cs/groups/hays_common/@au/@content/documents/digitalasset/hays_089071.pdf

    shows that the UK is still behind in worldwide terms and that being an expat pays. Hence the pull of British talent (particularly senior talent) to all parts of the world . The railway picture is very similar to the O&G one , if the UK wants to keep Engineers they need to pay even more.

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  • I wonder if this is because Chartered and good Engineers are in much demand even in a recession; so many left the industry during the recession and do not come back leaving a shortage?

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  • As a Chartered Engineer I can say I do not recognise the quoted median salary level at all. I am lucky to make what is termed an incorporated engineers salary despite being chartered for several years. This is no surprise, however, as the engineering councils salary figures are notoriously unreliable. My guess is that the chartered engineer's salary figures include a large number of directors and other non-engineers.

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  • ONS must inhabit a parallel universe looking at the graph.

    Institution of Civil Engineers Salary Survey recently tried to talk up the report data. Graduates had done well with their salaries increasing, however the more mature Engineers fared nothing like so well. So there has been salary range compression.

    As with most of such organisations the figures take no account of the freelance / contractor / IPro business model so the figures are deeply flawed as a result.

    Personally, as a contractor I have seen little movement in rates over the last 5 - 7 years. Judging by experience today it is not going to change anytime soon.

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  • I agree with Mssrs Wing and Longbottom.

    I have received practically no cost of living increase in the last 5 years so I'm actually poorer despite being more knowledgeable and experienced (and thus more responsibility).

    I have to say that as a Chartered Civil Engineer my salary (or that of my friends/colleagues) is nowhere near the median figures shown above - £60k salary in 2013, I can only dream.

    Mean salaries I would have maybe believed (distorted by high earners/directors etc.), but median, who supplies this info??

    I can only assume that other engineering disciplines pay much better than Civils!

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  • The info comes from the Engineering Council, the body responsible for chartered registration.

  • Our full report can be seen at: http://www.engc.org.uk/engcdocuments/internet/Website/2013%20Survey%20of%20Registered%20Engineers%20and%20Technicians.pdf

    As can be seen in the report, the sample is very carefully selected to be as representative as possible of all those on the national register.

    However, if anyone would like to suggest a more reliable way of determining the salaries of registered engineers we're open to suggestions.

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  • My first thought would be to take the job title of the person. If it is not an engineering role, I.e. manager. Then remove the data. Then widen the search to include none engineering council surveying.

    If companies were willing they could just submit the salaries of all their employees and seperate out the managers etc. They could highlight chartered and none chartered engineers. They can also submit the salary detail without personal information. All companies large and small must be surveyed. In my view I think the average salaries will half.

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