Mean Base Salary for U.S. Auto Engineers Approaches $100k

This is the first year for SAE’s salary survey, so it’s difficult to determine whether these pay levels reflect a significant decline throughout the recent automotive recession.

Special Coverage

2010 Convergence

DETROIT – Several years of turmoil have pushed the auto industry into an unprecedented era of downsizing, bankruptcies, plant closings, pay cuts, furloughs and job elimination. But through it all, engineers have remained well-compensated.

A new study commissioned by SAE International, which is hosting the 2010 Convergence auto electronics conference here this week, finds the mean annual base salary for full-time engineers working in the transportation sector to be $95,700 in the U.S. and $74,900 internationally.

In all, 3,312 U.S. engineers and 1,337 working elsewhere participated in the online survey, conducted jointly with Readex Research between Aug. 19 and Sept. 2. The response rate was 10%, and the margin of error is plus/minus 1.7 percentage points.

More than half of U.S. participants identify their principal industry as automotive, while the rest are from aerospace, off-highway, heavy-equipment, marine and rail.

Factor in bonuses, 401(k) retirement plans and other supplemental income, and the mean salary level rises to $105,800 in the U.S. and $82,600 internationally.

Some 40% of respondents say they do not receive compensation other than salary, and 18% say they received $15,000 or more in additional pay in the 12 months prior to Aug. 1.

This is the first year for the salary survey, so it’s difficult to determine whether these pay levels reflect a significant decline throughout the recent automotive recession. However, the study finds 81% of respondents say their companies have endured pay cuts, furloughs and other cost-saving actions.

SAE officials identify the typical respondent as a 44-year-old white male; only 10% of respondents are female.

Among automotive respondents, 36% say they work for an OEM, while 21% work for a Tier 1 supplier. Also represented are engineers working for Tier 3 suppliers (8%), consulting services (7%) and Tier 2 suppliers (6%).

With regard to education, 43% of respondents hold a bachelor of science degree, while 33% have master’s degrees and 11% doctorates. Only 5% have associate’s degrees and 6% a high-school diploma or equivalent.

Slightly less than half of participants graduated with mechanical engineering degrees. The typical respondent has been in mobility engineering for 15 years; 14% report less than five years’ experience.

Within the U.S., 38% of respondents say they work in the Midwest, the highest concentration of engineers. International participants largely identify the U.K. and Canada as home.

The typical U.S. full-time engineer reports his organization’s total revenue in 2009 as $726 million.

SAE officials say the survey hopefully will be done every other year going forward.

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