Civil engineering salaries inched higher in ‘08

The median income for civil engineers in 2008 was $78,000 a year – a 1.2 percent increase from the $77,000 median in 2007 – according to a survey that outlines compensation ranges and trends in the engineering industry.

The survey – conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers – also found that the median income for all fields of engineering combined is $85,000, a 7.6 percent increase from 2007.

The survey included some 15,000 responses from engineers across the country in a variety of fields and at all levels of practice.

Regionally, engineers in California, Hawaii and Nevada are among the highest compensated, earning a median income of $94,900, while engineers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are among the lowest compensated, earning a median income of $73,000.

In New Hampshire, geography plays a big role in how much an engineer earns. For instance, according to the survey, engineers in the Lowell, Mass.-southern New Hampshire area earned among the highest median incomes in the country, $103,500, as did engineers in the Portsmouth-Rochester-southern Maine area, where the median income is $100,650.

But engineers in the Manchester area – a few miles to the north and west of the two areas — had among the lowest median incomes in the country, $62,500.

The 10 top highest median incomes by metropolitan area are: Syracuse, N.Y., $121,950; Brazoria, Texas, $113,440; Houston, Texas, $108,500; San Jose, Calif., $105,000; Santa Fe, N.M., $105,000; Jersey City, N.J., $104,750; Lowell, Mass./N.H., $103,500; Oakland, Calif., $103,000; Trenton, N.J., $101,355; and Portsmouth-Rochester, N.H./Maine, $100,650.

The lowest median income by metropolitan area was found in Missoula, Mont., $56,000, followed by: Corvallis, Ore., $57,750; Wichita, Kan., $60,371; Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah, Wis., $62,500; Manchester, N.H., $62,500; Burlington, Vt., $62,750; Flagstaff, Ariz.-Utah, $62,882; Tallahassee, Fla., $64,530; Iowa City, Iowa, $66,693; Billings, Mont., $67,000 and San Juan, Puerto Rico, $67,000.

Survey respondents who are licensed professional engineers earned higher than average salaries, with a median of $92,100, and those with a professional engineers license and a second professional registration earned the highest salaries, with a median income of $106,675. Those engineers without professional licensing or certification earn significantly less, with a median annual income of $86,000.

The survey also found that median income consistently increases with the increase in engineering experience.

For instance, the median income for engineers with less than a year of experience is $53,000, whereas the median income for an engineer with more than 25 years of experience is $116,279 — a spread of 119 percent.

Similarly, the median income increases with each additional level of education acquired. Survey participants holding a doctorate in engineering have a median income of $104,500, while those with only a bachelor’s degree in engineering have a median income of $78,200. However, those holding a master’s degree in business administration, or an MBA in combination with another master’s level degree, earn more than those who solely hold a master’s degree in engineering.

Overall, the median income for female engineers is $69,000. While the survey results show that among female engineers with more the 25 years of experience, the median income is significantly lower than that of male engineers with similar experience — $106,534 and $117,000, respectively — the median incomes for female and male engineers with only four years of experience — $60,000 and $60,500, respectively — are closer.

An engineer’s job function or the industry in which they work also has a significant impact on their compensation. Those working in executive, administrative and legal positions earn the highest median income, $129,000, while those working in drafting or estimation earn the lowest median income, $60,160.

In the middle of the range are those in the areas of training/technical writing, production/quality management/maintenance and project management/engineering/operations, with median incomes from $84,750 to $93,500.

According to David G. Mongan, president of ASCE, “in order to maintain a pipeline of qualified civil engineers who can meet our nation’s ever increasing demand for infrastructure service, salaries are going to have to become more competitive with other engineering and science-related fields.”