No question, some parts of the engineering job market are hot right now. “That means anyone with experience in ‘green’ and sustainability industries,” says Tri-Star Search recruiter Edrie Bezak in Portland, Oreg. “I could probably place people in those areas without even speaking to them.”
Bezak says the demand is particularly high for engineers who can certify that buildings are living up to ASHRAE environmental standards, or U.S. Green Building Council LEED ratings. Ditto for engineers with experience running and commissioning wind farms. “We are seeing people coming from Denmark to fill those positions. That goes for slots in field operations and installation, all the way to day-to-day operation of wind farms,” she says.
Employers are paying up for these kinds of skills. “On the west coast, the low end of the range is about $75,000 and the high end is $110,000 for mechanical or electrical engineers with green or sustainability skills,” says Bezak.
Also in demand are electrical engineers with experience in running utility substations and working with high voltages. “High-voltage engineers with experience are pushing the $100,000 mark,” she says.
Another healthy area is in radio-frequency work. “RF stuff on the west coast is in the $70,000 to $80,000 range,” says Bezak.
Salaries are moving up quickly for hard-to-find engineering candidates, she claims, but “for run-of-the-mill jobs, they are stagnant if not going lower,” Bezak says. “There is not much going on in the semiconductor industry because so much of that industry has gone offshore. That will probably continue.”
In other areas demand seems to be steady, though not superheated. “A lot of areas have been flat for the last few months, probably because of anxiety about where the economy is going,” says Allan Vohden, general manager of Vohden Associates LLC in West Simsbury, Conn. Nevertheless, Vohden has seen hiring activity by medical-device makers, factory-automation firms, process-engineering concerns, and petrochemical processors. “There has also been a steady demand for engineers who can design with plastics, as well as mold designers,” he says.
But Vohden doesn’t see a lot of upward pressure on salaries in these areas. “Employers are still working on tight budgets. My impression is that salaries are basically flat for these jobs,” he says. Typical starting salaries tend to cluster in the $59,000 to $65,000 range, Vohden says. The figure might rise to between $65,000 to $75,000 for those with 10-years experience, “perhaps up to $80,000, depending on the industry,” he says.
Echoing that sentiment is Lee Holland, vice president of Carnegie Resources in Charlotte, N.C. “Hiring is spotty,” he says. “Salaries are going up slowly except in companies that have to fill a position left by someone who had a lot of specialized experience.”
Holland says he is seeing engineering salaries in the $65,000 to $85,000 range, but “I’ve seen them as high as $90,000 to $100,000 for real specific skills. You are going to pay $90,000+ for a highly experienced gear designer,” he says.
Others in demand include engineers with experience designing conveyor systems and in metalforming. “We have been inundated with requests for people with experience designing tools and dies, particularly from the food-service suppliers and from Tier-1 and Tier-2 auto suppliers. The automotive industry has lost a lot of tool and die designers to retirement. There aren’t a lot of young people going into that industry,” says Holland.
“Heavy industrial companies also are looking for engineers and seem to be doing well,” says Lucas Group executive senior partner Erik Kessinger in Atlanta. “And a lot of companies are doing well in composites and defenserelated work,” he says.
Kessinger is also getting calls for electrical engineers with a background in consumer products, mechanical engineers with skills designing plastic parts, and both mechanical and electrical engineers familiar with medical devices.
Regardless of the industry, a few engineering skills seem to be universally useful. Most recruiters we contacted mention a background in Pro/Engineer as a big plus. Several also mentioned SolidWorks familiarity as helpful.
Finally, age doesn’t seem to be as much of an impediment to hiring as it once was, at least according to recruiters. “If the engineer has the right background, age doesn’t matter,” insists Carnegie Resources’ Lee Holland. “Age is only a problem for some of the strongly skilled engineers who didn’t finisher their degree,” says Edrie Bezak. “For those with a degree, age is no problem whatsoever.”
Carnegie Resources, carnegieresources.com/
Lucas Group, lucasgroup.com/manufacturing/index.asp
Shanklin & Associates, techjobsearch.com/
Tri-Star Search, tinyurl.com/2hq7gb
Vohden Associates, vohdenassociates.com/
Engineers in the Most Demand
- Gear designers
- Tool-and-die designers
- Plastic-part designers
- Medical-device designers
- High-voltage engineers
- “Green” building engineers
- Wind-farm operators
- Automated-equipment designers