Engineers are happy—mostly

The 2015 salary survey showed consulting engineers are, for the most part, satisfied with their jobs. But a few complaints crept in.

By Amara Rozgus, Consulting-Specifying Engineer November 30, 2015

In this year’s salary survey, the number that jumped out the most for me concerned job satisfaction: 88% of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. That number, however, was in direct contrast to another statistic: 32% of respondents have worked for their employer for less than 5 years, meaning they’ve changed jobs recently. While that can be chalked up to some recent college graduates responding to the research study, or to the economic downturn and layoffs in the recent past, that doesn’t account for the large percentage (44%) of respondents who have worked in the industry 30 years or more.

So, why the high job satisfaction level of respondents?

  • Consultants generally are not micromanaged, which can lead to job dissatisfaction. You have the leverage to make informed decisions—often in a group setting—and given enough guidance via codes, standards, and company policy to excel.
  • You work well alone. And you also work well in groups. Though the stereotypical engineer is often seen as having his nose in a book or being antisocial, consultants are external-facing and must meet with colleagues, clients, contractors, and others to get the job done. So while you’re independent, you also play nicely on a team.
  • The structure at your firm is clear-cut. You achieve traditional professional goals to move upward within the company hierarchy. You know where you stand with your peers. Office politics weren’t touched on in this research study, however.
  • The end game is always in your sights. You know the goals of the project (building, campus, retrofit, etc.), and you know what needs to be done to get there. Oftentimes, you even have a checklist to ensure you’ve completed each task successfully. There’s even someone to oversee your work (the conversation about the authority having jurisdiction is a good one—let’s discuss that another time).

It’s easy to see why the vast majority of respondents are satisfied with their current jobs. But what about the negative aspects?

  • You’re working too many hours. Seasoned engineers have a heavy task load, which leads to burnout and mistakes … and higher compensation via billable hours.
  • One-third of respondents felt their company was behind the competition. This may include low salary/bonus compensation, lack of additional training, not enough people working on a project, a lack of mentoring programs, or any number of things. All of these showed up as complaints in our study.
  • Specific technical skills are missing on the team. Responses included very specific skills, such as BIM and CAD, or more general skills like marketing and project management. Respondents have many responsibilities, some for which they have not been trained to fulfill.

Share your personal experiences about your job via LinkedIn or directly with me at I’d like to hear more about your successes and challenges.