Career

Engineering Graduate Starting Salary Jumps 3.9%

In a recent survey from the NACE Salary Survey it has been found that starting salaries for graduate engineers has increased by 3.9% in the last year alone in the United States.

The average first year engineering graduate salary has increased from $59,591 to $61,913.

Breaking down the results in terms of engineering majors aerospace engineering saw the biggest rise at 8.3% and civil saw the lowest increase at 2.5%.

 

How to Increase Your Engineering Salary

Every employees salary is a very emotional topic. Thankfully engineers are often rewarded quite well for their expertise and services. But there are always ways to increase your salary, while at the same time excelling at your chosen profession and improving your engineering abilities.

So how exactly do you go about increasing your salary?

 

Source: BullionVault

Thankfully over the years many engineering professional organizations have performed yearly salary surveys, so there is a lot of data available regarding salary increases, and differences in pay depending on a variety of circumstances. By looking at this data and trying to analyze it there have been found several key differences between engineers and their salaries which you can take advantage of.

So, here are 5 ideas to increase your salary as a chemical engineer:

1. Get Chartered

IChemE have recently found through a salary survey of over 2,500 chemical engineers that those who have been chartered by a recognized professional organization earn as much as £10,000 a year more than those without. A similar salary survey by ASME of 12,000 engineers found chartered engineers command over US$20,000 more than non-chartered engineers.

Getting chartered proves to an employer that a group of professional engineers recognize that you are competent in your work and operate in a ethical manner. Engineers Australia aim to use chartered membership to show that participants demonstrate:

  • The highest standards of professionalism
  • Leadership
  • Up-to-date expertise
  • Quality and safety
  • The ability to undertake independent practice

These qualities are exactly what every employer wants in their chemical engineers, so the ability to prove that you have all of these attributes in extremely powerful.

2. Do Further Study

A masters degree or a PhD in a specific technical area make you (or at least give the perception) more of an expert in that field. In fact, in a the ASME salary surveyit was found that a masters degree can increase your salary by US$10,000, and a doctorate can increase it by a further US$21,000!

The move for a chemical engineer from a technical role to business management is a logical and common progression. It is also another way to increase your salary, although this usually comes with increased responsibilities and work load.

Although the role may not be as challenging from a technical perspective and the amount of money being dealt with make decisions extremely important and valuable to the operations performance and the businesses bottom line.

4. Change Industries

The difference in salaries between engineers who work in the Oil and Gas industry compared with those in food production for example can be significant. APESMA conducted a survey breaking down the difference between annual salary increases by multiple industries where the mining and oil and gas industry vastly outperformed other alternatives such as water treatment or chemical storage.

Source: APESMA

To illustrate the long term impact of an increase in annual salary please view the following graph. Over a 25 year career with a starting wage of $80,000, a 1% change in annual salary increase can result in over $50,000 per year salary increase in the final year as well as $400,000 increase in total earnings!

5. Change Locations

In the same ASME survey it was found that where you live and work can represent a difference in salary of as much as US$24,000. In fact, moving from the Upper Mountain states to the Pacific Southwest could increase your salary by around 30%!

It has also been found that with Australian chemical engineers earning a reported AU$10,000 more than their US counterparts and as much as AU$44,000 more than chemical engineers working in the UK!

This is very closely linked to the previous suggestion, as changing locations can often resulting in a change of industry.

There are literally dozens of career progression opportunities that you can take to increase your salary. The ideas above are just a few possibilities which are proven to result in significant monetary gains.

If you have any other possibilities or you have used one of these methods yourself we would love to her about it - leave a comment below.

 

7 Resume Tips for Chemical Engineers

Your resume is one of the most important documents in your possession, and can have a staggering impact on your career progression. It is a written description of your ability to fulfill a business’ requirements, and is often open to a lot of interpretation. There are thousands of different ways to manipulate the same data (your skills and experiences) to present it in the most compelling way - remember, you are trying to prove to management, technical staff, and human resources that they will be better off with you in their employment.

Source: Vu Hung

A resume is used by companies HR departments to evaluate a huge range of your characteristics to see if you will succeed in the desired position and whether you will fit into the culture, including:

  • Intelligence
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Team Work
  • Communication Skills
  • Problem Solving Ability

The differences between a standard resume and a great resume can result in a significant reduction in job opportunities if your application is dismissed.

Follow the tips below and you can improve your resume to truly reflect your actual ability.

1. Be clear and concise

No-one wants to read a novel to obtain the same information that you can dot-point. Summarize your key points and try to reduce any ‘fluff.’

2. Tailor your resume to each job application

Find out exactly what skills and experience the potential job is looking for and highlight those skills. If the job requires extensive process modelling then demonstrate your process modelling activities.

3. List your key projects and achievements

A potential employer is not interested in the 6 months you spent checking your email during work experience, but they are interested in the commissioning that you were involved in during those 6 months. Highlight achievements rather than timelines.

4. Sell your skills

Remember, you are not selling your personality. You are offering the company a solution, i.e. the ability to improve fuel efficiency, quality, or profit margins.

5. Demonstrate continued learning and education

With technology advancing at ever-increasing rates the ability to continually learn and improve your skills is extremely valuable.

6. Be 100% grammar and spelling mistake free

If you are sloppy enough to make a spelling mistake on a resume, than maybe you will make a mistake in an important calculation or critical decision.

7. Be honest

Do not try to trick your way into a job, or both you and your employer will be disappointed. Your reputation is your most valuable asset and should not be compromised for short term gains.

 

A resume is a document outlining your value and potential. Its importance should not be underestimated, but at the end of the day it is your skills and experiences that really count. Look at improving your knowledge and attributes and your resume will continue to improve.

21 Tips for Graduate Chemical Engineers

When you leave university and get a job most engineering graduates are thrown in the deep end, expected to be competent in the work place and in a new industry. This can be very daunting and is a time full of unknowns. Below are some tips to try to make sense of the exciting new position that graduate chemical engineers find themselves in.

Source: RiverRatt3

1. Learn the value of networking

Networking both inside and outside your profession and industry is extremely important. It is much easier to get a job through the recommendation of a colleague than through a blind resume. Networking also opens the opportunity for business deals, and career progression, and can be done in any social event.

2. Build your reputation

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Benjamin Franklin
Having a good reputation goes a long way to achieving success both in terms of everyday work activities and long-term career progression.
3. Set career goals

What do you want to get out of your current job? High pay, development opportunities, ability to travel, experience? Think about what you are trying to achieve and you may see things in a different perspective. Look forward 2, 5, and 10 years and set clear, achievable goals. This will give you direction and purpose in your work and your career.

4. Get a mentor

Learning from an experienced engineer can significantly reduce the amount of time wasted at a new job. Find out who the shot callers are, the history of the plant, previous successful projects, and potential career opportunities.

5. Get to know the people on the coal face

The people actually doing the work, operating the process, and maintaining the equipment see the problems and potential solutions everyday. Get to know them and hear their ideas and you will save yourself a huge amount of time. For a graduate engineer there are a lot of practical systems that are critical to process improvement that you will not know without operating the equipment. Get your hands dirty and it will help you in the long run.

6. Take time to develop yourself

Your own development as an engineer is something that you should work on throughout your entire career. Professional associations, conferences, and networking opportunities are all ways to progress your skill and career. Technical experience and improving your soft skills take time, but are worth it in the long run.

7. Never stop learning

University teaches the general overview in terms of theoretical fundamentals. As you delve into individual piece of equipment, processing plant strategies, and synergy between equipment you will discover that there is a huge amount that you do not know. Go through journal articles, textbooks, and old site documentation and you will go a long way to remove this knowledge gap.

8. Don’t chase the dollar

Chemical engineers are generally very well paid. Early in your career it can be very difficult to refuse a high paying job to focus on gaining experience and exposure to different industries. Think long-term about your development as an engineer and what your current decisions will have on your future career aspirations.

9. Work in the field

What is actually happening in the plant cannot be seen from a computer screen. Studying the process trends is important, but there are many changes that can only be seen visually in the field. Blown pump glands, filter cloth holes, steam leaks, and water ingress can all have a major impact on a processing plant’s performance, and are difficult to identify through instrumentation. Try to spend as much time outside as you can and think of every trip as a learning opportunity.

10. Expose yourself to other people’s expertise

Every project no matter how small will involve dozens of different disciplines, whether it is the process, instrumentation, mechanical standards, site standards, operability or ease of maintenance. Exposing yourself to all these different areas will mean that you can consider their impact in much greater detail and reduce the number of revisions that are required to make everybody happy.

11. Learn how to manage time

In any professional environment there are a lot of urgent matters which will take your attention away from the work that really matters. Learning how to manage your own time as well as prioritize the work that will make a long term difference is important to seeing real process gains.

12. Learn how to manage projects

Project management is an extremely valuable skill to have. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject because the difference between a good project manager and a poor one can result in months of delays and millions of dollars in additional costs. Learn early about how to manage small projects and you will have much greater success in future, larger projects.

13. Improve your technical writing skills

Remember that a lot of processing plants will be running long after you have left and consider the problems that you have successfully and unsuccessfully solved. Imagine a new engineer taking your role and the amount of time that could be saved if they do not have to repeat your mistakes. Documentation is extremely important, and the technical writing ability to show the full story is critical. Technical writing also allows you to justify capital expenditure, change operating practices and improve general plant performance.

14. Change your presentation style

Universities provide opportunities for students to practice presenting to a group of their peers, but in the real world you will be presenting to very different groups of people - business leaders, management, technical experts, operations, maintenance, and every group in between. The ability to persuade and effectively present your point of view can be the difference between project success and cancellation. Find out who you are presenting to, what you want to gain out of the presentation, and how you are going to achieve this long before you actually present and you will go a long way to achieving success.

15. Study the P&IDs

Learning how your process works is more than just looking at the flow diagrams. Studying the P&IDs will teach you were important instrumentation is, line sizes, drain lines, possible line-ups and dozens of other useful and practical tools. Going out into the plant and following the lines with an accurate P&ID should be one of the first activities any graduate does.

16. Never trust the P&IDs

Particularly with older processing plants - never trust the P&IDs! After various ‘quick fix’ solutions, maintenance changes, and equipment age it is inevitable that some P&IDs do not accurately represent the actual plant. Make sure you verify all information before making any important decisions. A small amount of time checking could save you a lot of errors and embarrassment down the track.

17. Spend as much time on site as possible

You can work in an office when you are old and grey. No amount of design is as important as how the equipment is actually used. Take every opportunity to see different unit operations in production and you will gain a lot of insight into problems and potential improvements.

18. Think about the big picture

As much as it feels like your project is the only thing that matters, it can often be a small piece in a much larger puzzle. Take a step back and look at the big picture. This will often give you more insight into the real purpose of your project. Are you looking at energy efficiency gains for production increase, cost reduction, or environmental reasons?

19. Teach as much as you are taught

Although it often feels like you are a complete beginner, remember that you have years of education that others do not. Passing this knowledge on to processing plant operations is a great way to improving the decisions they make. Everything that you learn is something that other people may not know. Take the opportunity to train the crews and they will reward you in operational excellence.

20. Don’t re-invent the wheel

Unless the processing plant that you are working at is already operating at near full capacity and theoretical fuel efficiency there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Tried methods for improvement are simple and effective, and usually do not require brand new technology. Look for the ‘low hanging fruit’ and work on projects that are simple and provide the biggest returns on your time/investment. Once you have got some more experience then start looking for the major industry breakthrough.

21. Experience, Experience, Experience

Try to experience as many different pieces of equipment, analytical methods, control strategies, projects, and processes as you can. This gives you a major advantage over other engineers, and allows you to draw solutions from many different systems. The ability to pick the best from a wide range of situations is key to success.

 

Graduating from university as a chemical engineer is just the first step. If you have any advice of your own to share please comment below.