Electrical engineers this year reaped the highest salaries in the last decade. But at the same time, the competition for jobs intensified, outsourcing continued unabated, and continuing education remained a difficult chore for many engineers.
The average electrical engineer’s salary in 2016 was $106,250, up almost 6% from last year, according to data gathered from 2,200 engineers surveyed by Electronic Design. The data also showed that most engineers are satisfied in their current position and feel intellectually challenged by their design projects.
The salary growth is evidence that compensation for electrical engineers is recovering after years of stagnation. In 2007, survey respondents were earning an average of $104,320 adjusting for inflation, but that number declined with the economic recession. The gains also mirror the overall economy: the United States Census Bureau said in a recent report that median household incomes grew 5.2% last year.
This report does not examine salaries for specific jobs, education levels, and locations. Instead, it provides a diagnosis of entire electrical engineering workforce. Future articles will study the data in more detail.
While employers are paying more for engineering expertise, they are also having trouble finding qualified job candidates. Around 41% of respondents said that they had difficulty hiring analog engineers, up 4.8% from five years ago. Nearly 33% are striking out with embedded designers, a 4.1% increase from five years ago.
Higher salaries have done little to alleviate work concerns, such as long working hours—most engineers spend 14 hours each week working outside the office—and tight deadlines for delivering products. These concerns have remained extremely consistent over the years.
The survey was conducted as the job market for electrical engineers slowed. In the United States alone, the number of electrical engineering jobs in 2015 was 315,900, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number will likely remain the same for the next eight years, the agency said.
In the written responses to the survey, many engineers shared their views about the job market. Many respondents pointed to companies employing people with specialized knowledge, while outsourcing general tasks like manufacturing and testing. Others pointed out that there were tons of opportunities for young people—but the number of engineers entering the industry is dwindling.
“Engineering jobs continue to change. As long as you are willing to keep up with it, the opportunities continue to exist,” said one of the engineers that answered the survey. Others said that those opportunities are difficult to turn into jobs: “It seems like employers are much pickier and less willing to take chances on people,” said another respondent.
Many electrical engineers, however, are optimistic. Around 62% of the survey’s respondents believe that their prospects for salary advancement are higher than they were in the previous year, up from 47% in 2006. The data also found that two-thirds of engineers think that their company pays them adequately.
There are also new opportunities for engineers working in high-growth industries, like renewable energy, biomedical engineering, and the Internet of Things. With venture capital firms raising record amounts of funding, there are also opportunities for engineers to work for start-ups.
What has not changed over the last few years is that respondents want to see more young people in engineering. Nine out of 10 survey respondents said that they would recommend engineering as a career path to young people. While engineering jobs have their shortcomings, there is always room for young engineers to grow, they said.