The letters expressing disbelief at the £43,000 average annual salary reported in NCE are somewhat disappointing (NCE last week).
Salaries are not distributed on a bell curve. The pyramid hierarchy present in most organisations ensures there are many staff on (relatively) low salaries and only a few on very high salaries.
Chris West, for example, is therefore wrong to expect that the average salary is that paid to 26 out of 53 people - he's thinking of the median. The median, if reported, would probably both be more consistent with the real expectations for a mid-career civil engineer as well as indicative of how a few very high figures can skew the average for any non-bell curve distribution.
Perhaps if NCE could publish results using medians next time there would be less disbelief. The information would also be far more useful to your readers: the average (i. e. median) engineer is never going to earn the average (i. e.mean) salary.
Brian Duguid (M), Mott MacDonald, 33 Stamford St, Altrincham WA14 1ES