In January I found this question that had been posted in a members-only forum last fall, asking where to find solid data on Welding Engineering salaries. Until I responded near the end of January, not much help had been offered. There’s some good content on management & HR perspectives, and some of the challenges in building a high performance welding team. But mostly I want to put out his question with the answer I posted, to see if anyone else can offer data or suggestions. And if someone wants an excellent project that could strongly benefit many metalworking industries, their HR staff, the welding engineering profession, and recruiting networks - here’s a wonderful opportunity to contribute.
I am looking for a realistic comparison of WE salaries. I have been searching the web, but have found very little applicable data. I am looking for average salaries within the WE field, specifically in the 0-5 years experience range. If anyone can offer any help, I would really appreciate it.
There is a real need for better data on Welding Engineering salaries. Having personally interviewed 150-200 WE’s over the last 3 years, and hunting hard to assemble justification for realistic market salaries while hiring 9 BSWE welding engineers, I learned some things that few understand.
OSU and Ferris State have data on WE grad starting salaries. OSU’s is most complete and easiest to find online, the last I knew. The best data I’ve ever found on welding engineering career salaries is at ThinkEnergy-dot-com. BUT, there’s a huge caveat that they don’t tell you about. While they track Welding Engineering, they do not distinguish non-degreed from degreed WE’s: all figures are lumped together purely by Job Title. That doesn’t sound bad until you realize it’s not at all like other engineering fields, where most Civil Engineers or Chemical Engineers actually are trained in their disciplines – which is why the W.E. salaries look much too low. In the U.S., according to Dr. Yoni Adonyi (Professor of Materials Joining Engineering, LeTourneau University), about SEVENTY PERCENT of “Welding Engineers” are merely appointed to the job title. That’s because they need someone and either can’t find a real W.E., think they don’t need a real W.E., or they aren’t willing to pay for one (for various reasons). The stand-in may have a vocational welding certificate, or an Associates or Bachelors in another field, but in most cases their welding training is very limited.
A title-only “welding engineer” can enable a welding process to function, but struggles to troubleshoot it. While they cannot effectively optimize a welding process, they are convinced they’ve already done it – and since it takes a Welding Engineer to recognize it, their company thinks their processes are optimal. Once they’re called a “welding engineer”, many stay in their new field.
[My apologies to degreed E.E.’s with years in welding. In my defense, I advise companies that if they have to pick someone besides a degreed Welding Engineer, find a good E.E. They have their limits, but they appear to be a far better substitute than any other discipline, and better than some WE’s.]
Looking at it another way, 30% of job-titled Welding Engineers have the degree, and there is no breakdown on that data on AS vs BS vs MS (to my knowledge). You’d have to pool total numbers from the three universities and make estimates. If anyone does that, it would be great to see the data!
So, ours is a world where standard HR and executive management hiring practices work poorly. When you talk real salary requirements and very small labor pool, management disbelief comes into play, they do not comprehend the huge performance gap between the titled and degreed groups, nor the profitability impact, and it’s a difficult task. Every single W.E. we hired was on the basis of selling my vision for where we could go as a team and a company, and that as we proved our value, the company would bring W.E. salaries up closer to market value.
What I finally did was take the ThinkEnergy data, graph it over time, graph the actual average starting and upper 25th percentile starting W.E. salaries onto another curve, and offset them about the same amount to show that the data I represented was more reflective of the actual salary market for Welding Engineers. Based on that, I put together recommended salary increases to move them in the right direction and retain our talent. Then business started to “soften”, so upper management response wasn’t favorable.
Finally, keep in mind the unique “Three-Year Bump” in W.E. salaries (also reflected in ThinkEnergy data). There’s the new-grad salaries ~$60k avg, then about 2 – 4 years into the first job, the W.E. leaves for his second job to work for a company that better understands his value and wants to pay him… usually $65 – 75k base depending on talent, company, position, perks, & cost-of-living.
A whole lot more I could say, but I trust this is helpful.
Update – note that this resource includes salary info culled from federal labor data: What is a Welding Engineer. I have included this as a permanent link in the right sidebar section “About Welding and Welding Engineering”.
LeTourneau University ‘87