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Skills shortage rewards civils with booming pay

ICE news - Civil engineers are far more prosperous than they were five years ago, says the ICE's latest salary survey - and the youngest engineers are benefiting most.Damian Arnold reports.

CIVIL ENGINEERS earn ú43,000 (ú80,000) on average.

This is the average salary (ú40,000 basic) of nearly 3,000 UK based ICE members who responded to the Institution's latest survey.

According to the survey, on leaving college you can expect to pick up an average wage of just under ú22,000. But if you become a chartered civil engineer you can eventually expect to double that figure.

The poll highlighted that chartered engineers - 58% of the ICE membership - earn ú47,000 on average. Graduate members (29% of the membership) earn ú29,000 on average and technicians can expect to earn ú33,000.

So as the BBC's statistics guru Peter Snow might say, we see a persuasive financial incentive to become a chartered engineer.

The figures show you will reach a peak in earnings between the ages of 50 to 54, earning an average of ú48,000. But should you be one of the august 4.6% of the membership that becomes a fellow you will be reasonably wealthy as well as distinguished, with a basic salary of ú64,000.

A comparison of the 2004 survey with the 1999 survey shows increasing prosperity for civil engineers and especially for the young. The industry skills shortage has forced up salaries of 'on the job trainees' by 22% to ú21,629 from ú16,880 in 1999.

The scale of increases reduces with seniority, with the pay of senior project managers up 19.3% from ú31,921 to ú39,532; managers/directors up 9.5% from ú44,155 to ú48,810 and MDs/CEOs up 11.6% from ú59,180 to ú66,945. A comparison by age shows a similar trend with under 25s enjoying a 28.5% leap in pay in five years.

'The lower salaries have increased at double the rate of infl ation in the past five years, ' says the survey. 'By contrast managing directors/partners and chief executive officers have only matched the rate of infltion.' However, according to the survey, average bonuses for MDs/CEOs are now ú27,000, pushing their incomes towards ú100,000 mark.

In fact 40% of all respondents got a bonus of some description, with fellows averaging ú10,689, MICE ú6,307, T/AMICE ú4,236 and graduates ú2,294.

If none of these rosy figures applies to you a change in career to project financing may be appropriate. This has shown a five year jump of 49.93% in earnings followed by quality control (24.75%), management (23.78%), research (20.84%), development and design (20.47%%) and maintenance and servicing (20.01%).

So are civil engineers still paid poorly compared to other professions- Not if you set the average wage alongside those for other professions published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These show that financial managers earn just under ú60,000; solicitors, judges and coroners earn just under ú50,000 and marketing and sales managers at ú48,000. What is more, civil engineers earn the same as management consultants and economists and slightly more than IT strategy and planning professionals or financial and accounting professionals.

These encouraging figures are backed up by the fact that only 23% of respondents are dissatisfied with their salary compared to 25% who are indifferent and 48% who are satisfied.

And there is an 80% chance that you will have had your salary reviewed in the last 12 months, with the under 30s on average getting an above inflation raise of 3% to 5%.

Shorter working hours were cited as the biggest factor to improve working life (25%) followed by more holidays (22%), more fl xible working hours (18%) and more training (11%).

Over half those surveyed work more than 41 hours a week (55%) and the older you get the more likely you are to go over the 41 hour threshold. But while so many civil engineers are probably exceeding the working hours written into their contracts, only 15% are getting paid overtime - at an average of ú3,000 a year.

Once again the younger members come out on top with 27% of graduate members paid overtime compared to only 8% of MICE, 4% of managers/directors and no MDs or CEOs.

And as salaries continue to rise, loyalty to employers seems to be doing likewise, with 71% satisfied with their employer. Just one in three respondents said they planned to change their jobs in the next 12 months and about half of those said they would seek a new job with the same employer. Sixty per cent of over 50s have been with the same employer for more than 10 years and 30% for more than 20 years. More than 70% of respondents have been with their current employer for more than five years.

Overall the results of the survey were 'very encouraging' said ICE head of communications Anne Moir.

The full survey is available at a discounted cost of ú250 for ICE members and ú300 for non-members.

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