How much are you worth?

Consulting engineers share information about compensation, job satisfaction, and business development via a national salary survey.

By Amara Rozgus and Amanda Pelliccione, Consulting-Specifying Engineer November 20, 2015

Average salary and additional compensation:
  • Average base annual salary (2014): $99,138
  • Average nonsalary compensation (2014): $12,719
  • Average nonsalary compensation % (nonsalary/base annual; 2014): 14%

Hover over each of the charts to read more about compensation for each engineering discipline. 

The inaugural Consulting-Specifying Engineer salary survey of mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and fire protection engineers shows that the average base annual salary in 2014 was $99,138 and the average nonsalary compensation was $12,719. These numbers are based on the anonymous responses of 706 people from a variety of engineering disciplines and at different levels in their professional career.

Of these respondents, 93% are male and, based on age, the largest grouping (28%) is 50 to 59 years old.

Junior staff, defined by the U.S. Dept. of Labor as 40 or younger, equate to 22% of survey respondents. These professionals, outlined in Figure 1, make an average of $76,823 annually. The majority of these participants listed electrical engineer as their job title.

The good news is that the economy continues to grow, and total compensation has grown for 68% of the respondents as compared with their 2013 compensation. As shown in Figure 2, compensation increased 1% to 4% for 39% of respondents, 5% to 9% for 16% of respondents, and 10% or more for 13% of respondents. Nearly one-quarter of people surveyed didn’t see a change in their compensation.

When compared with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) May 2014 annual mean wage data, the numbers don’t look very different. According to Consulting-Specifying Engineer salary survey data, the typical senior-level electrical engineer earns $99,335; the BLS lists the annual mean wage as $95,780. However, senior-level mechanical engineers in the Consulting-Specifying Engineer survey earn well above the BLS’ general data, earning $99,611 as compared with the national mean wage of $87,140.

Fire protection engineers are not singled out by the BLS; the Consulting-Specifying Engineer salary survey data show that the senior-level engineers in fire protection earn the most at $103,333. The BLS May 2014 annual mean wage data also has a general category for "engineers, all other" that earn $96,350.

Overall, about one-fifth of respondents indicated their title as "senior engineer," which explains the slightly higher wages earned by the Consulting-Specifying Engineer salary survey respondents as compared with the BLS May 2014 annual mean wage data. Figure 3 outlines the top four responses given by survey participants, who chose from among 25 job titles.

Job satisfaction

The roller coaster economy likely required several engineers to shift jobs over the past 10 yr. When asked how many years they’ve worked for their current employer, 32% indicated they’ve been at their company less than 5 yr, and 20% responded that they’ve been there 5 to 9 yr. With 52% of the workforce shifting over the past 10 yr, that accounts for several factors: increased wages due to a job change, additional accreditations and training to keep up with the industry (see Figures 4 and 5), and the need for additional professional development or business skills.

For example, when asked which professional development resources are used, responses included conferences/seminars (66%), online webcasts/webinars (62%), and professional organizations (54%).

Unfortunately, only 45% of respondents indicated that they have a mentoring program at their firm, and 43% have an official training program in place at their company.

On the flip side, job satisfaction among respondents is extremely high. When asked about job satisfaction, 32% indicated they were very satisfied and 56% said they were satisfied, for a total of 88% happy employees.

Some of this workplace satisfaction may be directly related to the varied projects each person takes on. The majority (52%) of respondents work on an average of 3 to 5 projects at the same time. And most respondents (56%) worked on a total of 1 to 20 projects throughout 2014.

Business development

The duty of developing new business is spread across the board. According to respondents, it’s a mixed bag: Principals carry the bulk of the weight (48%), the CEO/president falls next in line (46%), and a dedicated business development manager also focuses on new business (42%).

The task of developing new clients and projects also is a source of discomfort in the workplace. Several respondents answered an open-ended question about the lack of business acumen, marketing, and project management skills. That said, respondents indicated that 71% of their firm’s work comes from repeat clients.

Teamwork tends to be a driver at most firms, as 60% indicated that their project team consisted of 1 to 5 people, and 24% indicated the team included 6 to 10 people.

Survey methodology

A 54-question survey was e-mailed to Consulting-Specifying Engineer audience members, and information was collected Aug. 14 to Sept. 3, 2015. A total of 706 qualified responses were returned, with a margin of error of +/-3.7% at a 95% confidence level. Participants frequently had the option to select more than one response, thus totals do not always equal 100%.

To read the entire salary survey, complete with more data and salary breakdowns, view the digital edition version.