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Engineers: Crisis-proof, Versatile and Well Paid

By Heike Friedrichsen

The labour market for engineers has been unimpressed by the current crisis - engineers remain in demand. And there have been no concessions regarding salary either: engineers continue to earn above-average salaries.

Engineers: Crisis-proof, Versatile and Well Paid© Charles Taylor - 123rf.comEngineers continue to earn above-average salaries
One phone call - and just a few days later Achim Wagner* signed his first employment contract. "I was directly taken on by the company where I had written my Diplom thesis", recalls the electrical engineer, who specialises in micro electronics. "My boss even got a bonus for it."

Businesses are no longer complaining of a lack of young engineers as loudly as they were a few years ago. And the salary curves for mechanical, process and electrical engineers are no longer as steep as they used to be either. What is more surprising is how little the crisis has affected the labour market for engineers: according to the German Institute for Economic Research (Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, IW), demand for engineers fell from its highest level in September 2008 (68,800) to 21,200 in January 2010. But since then, engineers have again been increasingly in demand. In addition to economic developments, there is also a demographic aspect to this situation: 30,000 students currently graduate from the engineering faculties each year, but 36,000 engineers retire annually. What is rare, is expensive - this rule applies all the more to the labour market. That's why engineers continue to rake in above-average salaries: salary specialist PersonalMarkt has calculated an average rate of 54,700 euros. By comparison, for all other academic careers the average is 49,700 euros.

The highest salaries are in production and sales

Engineers can look forward to comparatively high entry-level salaries right from the start of their careers. For example, engineers in the automotive industry start out with an average salary of approximately 46,600 euros a year. But the job itself is also an important factor: at approximately 54,000 euros, the highest earners are production engineers, followed by sales engineers (approximately 53,000 euros) and engineers in maintenance (approximately 52,000 euros). Due to bonus payments alone, more money can often be earned in sales than in other fields. Engineers in project management follow at some distance with 48,100 euros, then come electrical engineers with 47,800 euros and engineers in construction with 45,300 euros. Salaries increase with increasing professional experience - for example, an engineer in the automotive industry with ten years of professional experience will already earn just under 70,000 euros a year.

Consulting pays best

In addition to the actual job, the industry also strongly affects salary. The highest salaries are paid in industrial jobs, where engineers earn an average of 64,300 euros. The service industry on the other hand only pays 55,600 euros. The industries that pay best include the semi-conductor industry (68,600 euros), telecommunications (67,600 euros), the chemical industry (65,800 euros) and the automotive industry (64,200 euros). The options available to engineering students today not only include a career as a consultant; they can also achieve a significantly higher salary by working at a consultancy firm: on average 70,300 euros a year. Engineers in the textile and garment industry earn significantly less (44,200 euros), and so do those in engineering companies (43,700 euros).

A tip for salary negotiations from PersonalMarkt:

Under no circumstances allow yourself to be fobbed off until some unspecified time after the economic crisis. If in doubt, always arrange a new appointment six months later. Or switch companies. Then the sky's the limit.

Supervisory responsibility pays off

Every step up the hierarchy ladder also means more money. Taking on a managerial position boosts salary considerably. Engineers in administration at an automotive manufacturer for example earn approximately 56,400 euros annually. Project engineers whose remit includes team management already make as much as 65,200 euros a year. Project managers or heads of department in the automotive industry earn an average annual salary of 87,500 euros. And area managers entrusted with managing several levels of staff earn an average of 114,900 euros. A quarter of all area managers whose data were analysed even made more than 144,800 euros a year.

Achim Wagner* has meanwhile switched jobs for the first time; the Diplom engineer now works for a company in the aviation industry - and is earning significantly more. But that's not all: he now works 37.5 instead of 40 hours a week, has a company pension and is entitled to discounted flights.

* Name has been changed