Guess Where The Highest Paid Chemical Engineers Live?

According to a United States Department of Labor (DOL) 2008 survey, the highest paid chemical engineers lived in Idaho. Yes, Idaho. You may ask yourself, "How can this be? Don't potatoes grow themselves?" Well I'm not going to answer that question, you and I both know that potatoes come from the grocery store.

The annual mean wage of an Idahoan chemical engineer was $102,620 in the May 2008

  • This is a 15% premium over the national average of $88,760
  • The runner up to Idaho was Washington D.C. with $101,550 followed by California with $99,200.
  • Nebraskan chemical engineers were among the hardest working in the U.S., making an annual mean wage of $67,060

We can attribute much of the wage discrepancy to factors that are specific to each state, such as the cost of living. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research (and with help from a CNN website salary comparison tool), a $51,254 salary in Omaha, Nebraska has approximately the same buying power as a $100,000 salary in San Francisco, California. Other reasons for wage discrepancies include differences in the types of industry found in each state. For example, Boise, Idaho has become a center for semiconductor manufacturing and other high tech products, whereas other states have industries that have had less success in the recent past (such as the auto industry in Michigan). How you define a chemical engineer can have an effect on the data as well. Here's how the Department of Labor defines Chemical Engineer:

Design chemical plant equipment and devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products, such as gasoline, synthetic rubber, plastics, detergents, cement, paper, and pulp, by applying principles and technology of chemistry, physics, and engineering.

As you can see this definition will include those chemical engineers working in oil refineries (but not the lucrative upstream oil sector), which explains the high average salaries for Louisiana ($96,380) and Texas ($95,350) despite relatively low cost of living. Another interesting piece of data I stumbled upon was that the total number of chemical engineers in the U.S. was only 31,020 in 2008. If you find this estimate to be surprisingly low, that makes at least two of us. This number likely excludes those ChEs who decided to work elsewhere besides refineries and chemical manufacturing plants. The states with the most chemical engineers were Texas, Ohio, and California with 5,250, 2,030, and 1,620 engineers respectively. The highest paid ChEs not only enjoy a high standard of living, but quite a bit of elbow as well (120 ChEs in the entire state of Idaho). All statistics were collected from the U.S. Government Department of Labor website. If you would like to find more statistics about employment, commodities, or practically anything else be sure to visit the DOL website or for more information. Did you know that a ChE degree has the highest initial payback of all undergraduate degrees? Check out this post.

image: / CC BY-ND 2.0

Tell us more. Do you feel you've been assertive enough about asking for pay increases? What's your story?


Nemoy Rau's picture

I would argue that being an expat in middle east or west Africa would be higher. There are 2 factors: 1) staying outside US for more then 300 days you are tax except 2) usually they double or triple the wages to get people to come out there

jvasko's picture

Nemoy, you&#39;re right. I guess we were a bit U.S.-centric with the post title. I&#39;m sure there are many places outside the U.S. that would pay higher salaries. But the middle east would have to be the top, especially with the tax exemption. You have to really enjoy hot temperatures I guess ;) And maybe cold temperatures in the office - <a href="" target="_blank"></a> !

Nemoy Rau's picture

Oh, opps I glanced quickly at the article and didn&#039;t realize it was US centered. YAY! for cheap standard of living in the middle of nowhere in Idaho!

Kendall Fosse's picture

The other interesting part of that report is the BLS expects the number of chemical engineers to decline 2% in the next decade. The only engineering group that experiences a decline...

If you&#039;ve never visited the DOL website, I strongly recommend it. You&#039;d be AMAZED what the U.S. government keeps track of.