Engineers are one of the most-cited professions in the United States.
But they’re also the most underpaid.
And a new study published in The Journal of Applied Econometrics shows that, despite their high-profile roles in the technology industry, engineers are not the only ones being paid less than they need to be.
This week, a team of engineers at IBM and Intel will present their findings at the annual meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to explain how they came to this conclusion.
As well as finding that a significant proportion of the engineers employed by large technology companies are working in non-technical jobs, the team found that the salaries of engineering professionals tend to be below the salaries paid to their counterparts in other professions.
“The most common type of engineering jobs pay a lot less than other types of jobs, which means that these engineers are being paid below their skill level,” said the report’s lead author and professor of economics and finance at New York University, Benjamin Sperling.
“In this case, we find that engineering salaries are not only not going up but they’re actually falling.”
Sperling and his colleagues analyzed the median hourly earnings of all engineering employees and then compared the median pay for each type of engineer to that of the median salary for their peers in other fields.
Using the same methodology, they found that only about half of the engineering engineers in their sample had a median salary of $85,000.
However, the study found that among those engineers who did have a median wage, the average amount they were paid was $100,000 higher than what they earned in other industries.
For example, engineers at Intel earned an average of $113,000 per year, more than $60,000 more than the median wage for their industry.
But even among engineers who earned less than the industry average, the median salaries were still lower than what the average engineer earned in the general workforce.
The median salaries of engineers in the software engineering group were $78,000, $29,000 less than their industry average.
Among the other engineering groups, the researchers found that median salaries for software engineers were $85.60 per hour, $23.40 less than average.
The researchers say that this finding, and the overall trend, indicates that the gap between the wages of engineering engineers and the general population is not just in technology, but also in other areas of life.
They also note that many people who work in software engineering also work in other non-technology jobs.
That could mean that the pay gap is also a result of factors other than tech itself.
“The lack of high-skill jobs in this industry is not a product of any one factor, but it’s a reflection of a general lack of jobs in the U.S.,” said Sperles.
“The data suggest that these gaps are not necessarily the result of the high salaries that engineers are earning, but of a systemic problem that is affecting engineering.”
The researchers suggest that the problem may be more widespread than just technology.
“We don’t know exactly what causes the mismatch between engineering and other occupations, but one possibility is that there is a general mismatch between the types of people that work in engineering and the types that work at other types,” said Spencer.
“But another possibility is, as we move into the future, that there may be new types of job opportunities that are less likely to require advanced training, which could lead to the mismatch.”
This paper is an attempt to explore these possibilities and see if we can figure out a solution that might be more beneficial for both engineering and society.