Editorial: Crunching the Numbers | AIChE

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Editorial: Crunching the Numbers


Emily Petruzzelli

The results of the 2023 AIChE Salary Survey are in. The overall median salary for all respondents of the 2023 survey was $150,000, an 8.3% increase from the median salary reported in our last survey, published in 2021. However, when adjusting for inflation rates, the median salary of 2023 has a lower buying power than that of 2021 — by about 6%.

This year, we wanted to investigate how the “Great Resignation” impacted the chemical engineering workforce in the U.S. Although this social movement had less impact on chemical engineers than other professions, the 2023 survey found that approximately 17% of respondents left a job over the past two years. Of those who resigned, 55% were seeking a better company culture — greater than the number of respondents who were seeking higher salaries.

Of the more than 1,100 respondents who took the Salary Survey, 76% were men. This percentage echoes the gender distribution found in the past two AIChE Salary Surveys, published in 2021 and 2019.

According to the 2021 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) “Engineering & Engineering Technology by the Numbers” report, 38.5% of chemical engineering bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women in 2021. Although in total only 22% of the respondents of the 2023 AIChE Salary Survey were women, among the youngest age bracket of those surveyed — aged <25–30 years old — 37% of respondents were women. This number seems to reflect the data presented by ASEE.

Not only are women underrepresented in our profession — they also have lower average salaries, the survey found. Men and women with less than 11 years of work experience have nearly identical median salaries, but as experience and age increase, men in general out-earn women. This is a trend that we’ve seen time and time again in past surveys. Looking back at our 2013 Salary Survey, for instance, women with 6–10 years of experience actually had a higher median salary than men in the same range ($96,000 vs. $93,550). Today, those engineers would have 16–20 years of experience; however, the 2023 Salary Survey found that, in today’s 16–20 years cohort, men earned a median salary that was $24,000 higher than women. Based on data collected over a decade of Salary Surveys, the disparity in the pay of men and women ChEs isn’t simply a problem of inferior negotiating skills when it comes to starting salaries (a rationale I’ve heard used to explain the gender wage gap among engineers).

Going back more than 20 years to CEP’s 2002 Salary Survey, this passage caught my eye: “Women, on average, have less labor force experience, are not as well-represented in high-paying management positions, and are less likely to have graduate degrees than men, accounting for much of the disparity in income. Nonetheless, when controlling for these and other variables, the men in this sample earn 6% more, on average, than the women.” Considering that even after 20 years we haven’t seen a significant decrease in the gender wage gap (according to our data), we will likely be discussing this same issue in many future Salary Surveys.

The 2023 Salary Survey contains 11 pages of fascinating infographics, figures, and tables to dig into — flip to page 21 to get started. For even more data, download the extended report at www.aiche.org/cep.

Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief


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