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It's tough at the top

Salary Survey

Salaries for Associate Members and Graduates have risen by more than those for Members and Fellows according to this year's NCE/ICE salary survey published this week.

In money terms, the pay median for all Fellows and Members is up just 1% on last year, not even matching the underlying rate of inflation figure of 2.6% for the same period.

It was a better picture for Associate Members and Graduates, who now typically earn 5.1% more than they did a year ago (see News). Then, half earned less than £20,000 but the latest figure is just 40.9%.

But even among Associate Members and Graduates there were winners and losers across sectors, regions and employers. Contrast for instance earnings in the north west of England, where salaries for these engineers rose by 8.5%, with a similar sized group in Scotland where there has been a slight drop in the earnings.

Associate Members and Graduates in the private sector typically take home 8.1% more than they did a year ago and those in the public sector take home 4.3% more. Biggest rise was in contracting and subcontracting, with the median 13% higher than 1 January 1998.

About half of chartered civil engineers earn between £25,000 and £35,000, while about 2% are on less than £20,000. The percentage getting more than £50,000 has risen slightly from 11.8% to 12.5%.

The survey is based on responses returned last month by 3,704 people from a representative sample of 12,000 across all grades of ICE membership - a return rate regarded as very good. The survey was carried out earlier than in past years, but the data remains directly comparable as it concerns salaries at 1 January.

Average and median salaries are logged, with the median - the half way point - giving the fairest picture of the earnings of a typical member of each group.

Over half the respondents work in one of five fields - civil engineering, building, municipal, transport and water. Median salaries are up in all these fields.

The largest group, civil engineering, has seen typical salaries rise from £25,100 to £27,000, while for the second group, building, the median has jumped from £28,000 to £30,000.

However, these figures hide variations across the age bands. There were rises in civil engineering for all ages apart from 50 to 54 year olds. Younger engineers working in building - the second biggest field - earn less than those who took part in the survey last year, but there are rises in the 35+ age ranges.

The breakdowns by field of employment show marked differences between the Fellows and Members and Associate Members and Graduates. Within the five main fields in which civil engineers work, salaries for Fellows and Members working in the municipal field are lowest paid. Typical salaries for these engineers are just under £30,000.

Median salary for Fellows and Members in the next worst paid group, civil engineering, is £31,000 while that of same grade engineers in building - the highest paid sector - is £34,000.

Turn to the Associate Members and Graduates and a different picture emerges. Municipal and building are equal best payers, each with median salaries of £22,000. This figure shows a rise of 7.8% for municipal. Salaries for Associates Members and Graduates in the building sector fell slightly last year, in contrast to those of Fellows and Members in the same sector. Their salaries showed one of the strongest increases, rising by around 5%.

Consulting engineers are the biggest class of civil engineer employer. Those working in consultancy accounted for about 22% of the survey sample. Their salaries have risen - but not by much. The median is up to £30,500 from £30,000 for Members. Rises were better for Associate Members and Graduates, with the typical salary increasing by £1,300 to £18,800.

Contractors have done somewhat better, with median salaries up to £34,630 from £33,800. There has also been a big jump in the median for Associate Members and Graduates in contracting - up to £22,800 from £20,100.

Engineers in central government and public corporations haven't fared so well, with the median salary for chartered engineers down by £1,800 to £33,500, though for a slightly lower average age than the group which filled in the questionnaire last year.

Half of respondents classify their type of work as design and construction, and the typical salary for this work is up 4.9% on last year. When age is taken into account, it is the 45-49 year olds in this field who are faring best compared to their 1998 survey counterparts last year. Last year their median salary rose by £2,000 to £32,000. The youngest and oldest age groups earn less than a typical respondent of the same age last year.

Greater London continues to be the best paid part of the UK for chartered civil engineers as well as the second most populous work location. The typical chartered engineer in London is 46 years old and earning £38,500 - a 4% rise on last year. His counterpart overseas is on £42,700. By far the biggest group work in the south east of England accounting for 15% of engineers. The median salary remains unchanged at £34,000, though the average is up 3% to just over £38,000, indicating there is a cluster of people at the top end of the band.

Around the regions there were several substantial rises in median pay for Graduates and Associate Members, although in some cases this may be attributed to a rise in the average age of the sample. So, for instance, the median in East Anglia is up almost 17% even though the average age of the region's engineers is now 36, four years older than last year. However, in Scotland the average age rose by two years while the median salary dropped slightly. In the north west, the average age was unchanged but the salary jumped to a median of £20,950 from £19,300.

There were wide variations in the typical salary rises for engineers with different levels of responsibility - and indeed a small fall for the top group of chief executives and the like. The biggest rise in the median salary was in the second most junior group - those who have completed their technical training but who do not yet have a great deal of responsibility. The typical member of this group now gets £19,950, up 6.1% on a year ago. Those responsible for a major part of a project - the largest group - had the next biggest rise, now earning 3.5% more than their counterparts last year.

Over half of Members are in one of two responsibility bands, in charge of a major part of a project or working as section leaders, project managers, senior lec- turers in universities and so on.

By and large there are steady rises in the average ages between bands, but there is an interesting distinction between the section leader/project manager grade and people the next level up, responsible for several sections or projects. As might be expected, there is a big difference in salary between the two - £40,000 as against £30,400 - but the average ages are virtually the same, 46 and 47.

When broken down by gender, the data gives some unexpected findings. There have been substantial changes in the spread of responsibility levels of women, while the pattern for men is virtually unchanged. Last year, the biggest group of women was in the second most junior band; this group is now smaller than those either side.

This leads to some curiosities. At every level of responsibility, the average age for women is younger than men - which implies they are being given more responsibility earlier.

On the other hand, women make up a quarter of the group with the lowest level of responsibility, far more than would be expected, given that about only 10% of entrants to the profession are female.

Median salaries in each band are higher for men than women: from a differential of £250 at the lowest level of responsibility, through to £7,600 for directors or managers responsible for several sections or projects. But this can largely be accounted for by the differences in average age.

Last year, there was a six year age gap between male and female project team leaders and a salary difference of £3,000 - both differences widening on the previous figures. This year, the same pattern can be seen, with the bigger salary difference of £3,550 more than compensated for by a 10 year age difference.

Payment of professional subscriptions by employers remains virtually unchanged, with 42.8% getting one or two fees paid, slightly up from last year's 40.8%. Similarly, car provision is virtually unchanged, with 17.6% supplied with a car and fuel as part of their package.

Over 80% of survey respondents made an estimate of the amount they expect their salaries to rise this year, with almost half reckoning that the increase will match inflation. Another 11.5% gave specific estimates between 2.5% and 3.5%. A further 3.5% expect to receive more than 10% - with one expecting his salary to rise by a third. Is he optimistic, underpaid or just plain lucky?

Copies of the full report are available from Salary Survey, Emap Construct, 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4GB priced £150 including postage and packing. An executive summary is also available priced £25. (See advertisement, page 52).

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