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Earning some respect

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NCE's latest salary survey shows that civil engineers have, at last, managed to earn substantial pay increases over the last few years.

A surprise, perhaps, to some, but the facts are there. Young engineers, for example, have seen pay jump by 33% in real terms since our last survey in 1999, while mid-career civils' spending power has grown by 18%. The increases represent positive change within the profession - although, no doubt, they also reflect the falling numbers available for hire.

Nevertheless it is good news for employers busy trying to encourage new recruits into the industry. And it is good news for engineers looking to benchmark salaries with their peers.

Yet amid this positive change, many working civil engineers will remain dissatisfied with their careers. Many will look at the survey results and conclude that the rewards offered in the profession are still way out of kilter with the amount of time taken to train or the level of responsibility taken on at work.

Certainly NCE gets a continuous stream of letters from readers expressing frustration that their chosen profession has not pushed or taken them far enough up the ladder of social achievement. They are disillusioned that other professionals are able to reap so much more.

And they are quite right.

Compared to many lawyers, accountants and management consultants, civil engineering professionals still lag behind on the salary scale. But is it a fair or appropriate comparison?

Pay alone is, of course, not the answer to job satisfaction. There will always be someone earning more than you for doing less. It's unfair, but it's life.

Yet sadly, so many civil engineers still continue to look 'over the garden fence' at other professions and find that, yes, it looks greener, and that there are many others earning more than civil engineers.

But why worry about what you cannot control. A better solution is surely to focus on what you can do something about - your own career development, for one.

Are you, for instance, up to date with the latest thinking in the profession? Are you delivering innovative solutions to your clients? Are you able to discuss the key issues facing the profession with knowledge and experience? Do you take your professional development seriously?

Rest assured that your law and accountancy counterparts will be. Not only is it compulsory for them to maintain their professional status but it also proves to clients and potential clients that they are on top of their game - worthy of high fees, if you like.

So why not take control of your career prospects this week by, for instance, leaving your desk or site for the day to visit Civils 2002 at the NEC in Birmingham. Why not make it an office day out.

As you will have seen in NCE last week, Civils will gather together a mass of information, companies and engineers to broaden every engineer's knowledge of the profession. And it will also have also a range of hard facts to help you to maximise your professional development and boost your career prospects.

So while it is good to see in the NCE salary survey that civil engineering firms are now paying more realistic salaries, it is still down each individual engineer to demand and justify their own professional standing. Knowledge is power - see you at Civils 2002.

Antony Oliver is the editor of NCE

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