4 responses to “Ask The Readers — How Much Is An Engineer Worth?”

  1. brian slater

    Hi Chris, your post raises several important questions, mainly related to what your value is to your company or how much your company should pay you in relation to what others may earn.
    The salary of a policeman is based on many dufferent criteria’s mainly his rank, experience, qualification,knowledge, service and the value he adds to his/her force. Also policeman are a slightly different breed in that they are here to protect us and with that comes a risk. Police salary’s are laid down and fixed to a certain degree across the country.
    An engineer like we both are/were in my case, i’m recently retired, a victim of down sizing but that’s another story.
    An engineer who seeks a higher salary has very specific avenues open to him. That is, gain higher/better qualifications, take on more responsibility agreed with your immediate manager for a certain time to specifically increase output/production/quotas etc in the hope of a pay raise later in the year when your success can be measured. Move to a company that seeks your skills and is willing to pay for them. Move to a new area/region. Different regions pay higher salary’s based on a) can they get the staff at the required level they need. b) Is the geography or position of the company not suitable to raise a family. I know of at least two companies that pay higher than norm just to get people through the door in an area where no one wants to live.
    There are plenty more of reasons why an engineer earns what they do and why a policeman earns what they do, the two aren’t really comparable, let me ask you this, would you swop your salary to be a policeman today? I think your answer would be no as mine would be.

  2. Girish Patil

    Can you just measure engineer’s worth by present salary that too comparing with policeman. Can policeman change job for salary jump? Can policeman do for higher studies and jump to higher level. Its unnecessary to compare technically qualified person with other from another field. For a good engineer sky is the limit. If he start his own business in engineering then he employs the people of the salary you are talking about.

  3. ferd

    I’m afraid that you’re asking the wrong audience. You need to ask C-level executives. Then you’ll probably find that they act the way most other people do: they value their own interests and skills higher than those of others. They figure that they do the “real” work, and that they can hire help to do the stuff they cannot or will not do fairly cheaply and easily – especially during a down economy.

    Admiration for engineering generally changed when the balance of power changed at the top of business. Many companies were started by engineers or others with technical backgrounds, and while those executives were in power life was good as an engineer. Management understood what it took to create products and get them out the door. But then the company grew to where it needed people with business and finance backgrounds to take over day-to-day operations. As many people do, those business and finance people valued their own skills more than skills that they didn’t understand (engineering). Next came the New Golden Rule: those with the gold, rule. Engineering transitioned from being the company’s foundation to a cost center. In too many companies playing the Stock Market and generating reams of spreadsheets became more important than product research and development, to the point that we now have a faltering GDP and have lost our world technical leadership in many areas.

    Anybody’s value is based upon what they’re perceived to contribute. If you value safety, law and order then you can support high police pay. If you value the illusion of somebody in complete control then you can support high CEO pay. If you value the quality and usefulness of a product then you might support higher engineering pay, but there’s a caveat. Most engineers work outside of the public limelight. Most people do not know what engineers really contribute, and others (like those business and finance people) tend to steal their spotlight. So engineers are under-valued.

    It depends upon how much risk and exposure an engineer is willing to take. If he toils in his cube and does what he’s told, he will be taken advantage of. If he is willing to start his own company and go the extra miles required to make it work, he can break the mold. That is how I access value upon everybody: the results of the actual efforts that they themselves make.

  4. Ed

    My company’s revenues and profits are tied to engineering productivity (in Defense, profit is limited to 8%). So take 92% of company revenue, divide by number of engineers, ignoring overhead staff (managers, HR, IT). That’s how much the engineers are worth. In my particular company it works out to about $200/hr. They pay about 1/2 of that in salary and benefits. So there’s a $100/hr return on investment. As long as there is easily accessible growth potential, my company would be smart to hire as many engineers as it can, because we generally return $2 for every $1.