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The idea of Manifest Destiny, the expansion of the American economy westward, became a theme in the nation’s budding sense of identity in the 19th Century. This was when the West was characterized by buffalo herds chewing tumbleweed, not 24-year-olds smoking weed and dreaming of Hyperloop fares to Los Angeles for $99. But let’s face it, with Colorado, Washington, California, Nevada, and Oregon all passing progressive legislation, their socio-economic landscape has transformed and entered a period of higher-than-average growth.

The year is now 2018 and we recently published Zweig Group’s 2018 Salary Survey of Engineering Firms. When researchers looked at the data, a few interesting themes were apparent. For one, young women (18-25) made up 15 percent of all women represented. This is up from just 11 percent last year. In contrast, only 9 percent of males fit in that age group this year and last. Though the industry continues to be predominantly male (71 percent), it is encouraging to see younger women becoming a larger part of the picture.

We also a noticed a much younger workforce in the Mountain-Pacific Region. Firms reporting in the Mountain-Pacific had staff that were, on average, 12 percent younger than firms reporting in the Central Region and Northeast and South Atlantic Region. This takes into account job title and tenure from an entry-level engineer all the way up to a principal engineer. Nearly 45 percent of all respondents in the Mountain-Pacific Region were under the age of 35 and only 30 percent over the age of 45. Nationally, less than 40 percent of respondents were under the age of 35 and 38 percent over the age of 45, making the Mountain West Region considerably younger than the rest of the U.S.

Though engineers in the Mountain-Pacific were noticeably younger than the rest of the U.S., they indexed quite high for base salaries in non-licensure positions (engineering technicians, CAD, GIS operators, etc.). It is no secret that the engineering industry has gone through a technological revolution. Now more than ever, the relationship between the engineer and the subject matter is increasingly reliant on technology and less reliant on manual computation of the problem in question. Technician roles have developed into an affordable option for firms to problem solve, deliver projects, and increase capacity. Students can receive an online associates degree in mechanical or electrical engineering and enter the workforce with a base skill set that can immediately position them to help a firm solve a critical problem.

Year over year, we saw an average increase in base compensation of 3.4 percent. Compensation by firms in the Central U.S. gained by 4.6 percent (led by Texas), Mountain-Pacific grew by 2.6 percent, and Eastern firms grew by 3.4 percent. The average project manager in the Mountain-Pacific Region had less than 15 years of experience and made $90,400. For the same role in the Central Region the average project manager had more than 19 years of experience and made $96,900; in the Eastern Region, it was 17 years and $95,800. On average we saw a 27 percent increase in pay from one level to the next. This came with an average 150 percent increase in experience. For instance, if an engineer became a project engineer with six years of experience, their next move to a project manager would happen at 15 years. This would come with a gain in base salary based on a 1.27 multiplier of their salary in year six. We can do the math for you, but you could also check out the Salary Survey and build your own compensation program to best position your firm for growth!

Zweig Group’s 2018 Salary Survey of Engineering Firms is published as three regional collections: Northeast and South Atlantic, Central, and Mountain Pacific. It is available for purchase (print or digital version) at https://shop.zweiggroup.com/collections/2018-surveys.   

Will Swearingen is director of Research. He can be contacted at research@zweiggroup.com.