Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

    Posted 07-19-2019 08:12 AM
    Hello all,

    I am currently a student studying Civil Engineering, and I am going to be graduating in the Spring of 2020. I am starting to think about where I may want to work after I am done with college and the type of company I want to start with. One aspect that I do not have a lot of information about while I am applying for jobs is what I should set as a baseline salary that I should not accept below.

    My starting salary as a beginner project engineer is not high on my list for what will make me accept or decline an offer since there are other aspects about a company I value more (like the people at the company, how they treat their employees, and the types of projects they work on), but I would still like to have some knowledge on this before I go into interviews and make choices. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on what I should look for or fight for when it comes to salaries as a beginner project engineer right out of college?

    I live in the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area, so I am not sure if my location also impacts what I should expect as a starting salary or not.

    Thank you!

    Alicia Marie Gonzales, S.M.ASCE
    Student, Civil Engineering Intern
    Case Western Reserve University

  • 2.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

    Posted 07-19-2019 11:50 AM
    Without speaking in actual numbers, I can only direct you to the ASCE salary survey results & calculator: https://www.asce.org/civil-engineering-salaries/

    My advice is to ask about the ownership structure.  Who are you working for?  Is the firm owned by an individual, partnership, family, stockholders, or employees?  This will tell you a lot about how compensation works.  Many firms offer profit sharing... but will they keep their promise?  Is the owner accessible to you or are there layers of corporate hierarchy?  Do they offer 401k matches for contributions?  The answers to these  questions are indicators on how your compensation will grow with time at the firm.

    Chad Morrison P.E.,M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207

  • 3.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

    Posted 07-20-2019 10:07 AM
    You can talk to your professors who previously worked in consulting firms or school alumni who (ideally) are currently working in the same company you're applying. Otherwise, you can check ASCE, glassdoor, indeed or payscale to have a rough idea of the salary range

    Civil Engineers' Incomes Continue to Increase, Salary Report Shows
    Asce remove preview
    Civil Engineers' Incomes Continue to Increase, Salary Report Shows
    The pay trend for civil engineers continues to point up. The 2018 ASCE Civil Engineering Salary Report shows a median $106,500 pre-tax annual income for civil engineers - a significant increase from the $101,000 figure in the 2017 salary report.
    View this on Asce >

    Civil Engineer Salary in Washington, District of Columbia | PayScale
    Payscale remove preview
    Civil Engineer Salary in Washington, District of Columbia | PayScale
    The average salary for a Civil Engineer in Washington, District of Columbia is $73,520. Visit PayScale to research civil engineer salaries by city, experience, skill, employer and more.
    View this on Payscale >

    Salary: Civil Engineer in Washington, DC
    Glassdoor remove preview
    Salary: Civil Engineer in Washington, DC
    383 Civil Engineer Salaries in Washington, DC provided anonymously by employees. What salary does a Civil Engineer earn in Washington?
    View this on Glassdoor >

    Tung Nguyen, MSc
    PhD Candidate
    Washington State University

  • 4.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

    Posted 07-20-2019 01:15 PM
    Hi Alicia. Congratulation in advance on your civil engineering degree!

    Starting salary in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area should be higher than in most parts of the country. Most, though not all, employers will have a very good idea of what the range should be and will be competitive in their offer. If I were you, I would not be overly concerned at this point with what your minimum acceptable number is.

    Best of luck!

    Stacey Morris P.E.,M.ASCE
    ETI Corporation
    West Memphis AR
    (901) 758-0400

  • 5.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

    Posted 07-22-2019 03:55 PM
    As others have alluded it's a very complex questions, and like others I highly recommend trying the ASCE salary calculator to get an idea.  Even still there's a lot more to a job than just the salary in terms of compensation.  When you look over offers, one may pay a lot more but have a lot worse benefits.  In general in this profession you won't receive a low-ball offer, but it does happen.  It's always prudent to negotiate for more, but understand you may not get it.

    When I changed companies over a year ago here's some factors that played into my decision:
    • 401k contributions - Profit sharing and/or matching contributions
    • PTO - Paid Time Off
      • Vacation balance (usually this isn't something you can negotiate until you have more experience)
        • accrued or reset yearly?
      • Sick days
      •  Personal days?
    • Signing/relocation bonus (most of your negotiating will likely happen here)
    • Healthcare (how much do they cover, how much do their plans cost, etc.)
      • Healthcare/Prescriptions?
      • Optical?
      • Dental?
    • Reimbursements - travel, professional organizations, licensure, well being, etc.
    • Expected hours - This one is tricky, 40 is standard but many places will expect 45 even 50 hours a week.  Most just expect you to work 40 then additional as necessary to finish projects.  If one place expects more time than another the salary should also be different.
    • Overtime pay - time and a half, straight time, etc.
    • Company Culture - This is a big one and a thread has been started on it (Company Culture), but it's important.  If you're not happy at work it'll make the days go by much slower
      • Flexible Hours - Fairly common these days, but the ability to leave for appointments or come in early/late, stay late/leave early are very helpful.
      • Wages for that area - One place may offer $5k more a year, over another but the cost of living/taxes for that area may also be substantially higher and you'll end up with less.
      • Education reimbursement - post grad or undergrad assistance?
      • Job security - Is the company doing well, do they lay-off employees, etc.

      All of these (and more) will impact what that salary number is.  What you want to try and determine is what you're take-home pay will be.  Getting it exactly is virtually impossible, but that's the number that really matters.  It's impacted by everything above and so the higher salary may not be (and often is not) the better offer.

      One last tip, when interviewing you'll probably want to know this right out of the gate.  But outside of culture, don't ask about these things until they give you an offer.  It's a social taboo in the workforce, and you'd hate to loose an offer because you gave the wrong impression.

      Good luck with the hunt, it's a stressful time but also one of the most exciting of your life!

      James Smith P.E.,M.ASCE
      Design Engineer
      Grand Rapids MI

    • 6.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

      Posted 07-24-2019 02:54 PM
      Aloha Alicia, I have started assisting with interviews for interns and my supervisor always asks what is their desired salary range. Many interviewees don't have an answer (for many, this is their first job they are interviewing for) and he advises them to always have a number in mind, no matter how low or high you think it is. He says it tells him how much you value yourself and, of course if the number is very high, that might affect an offer. But to him, having a number is always better than not. At the minimum, calculate your expected living expenses, savings needed for retirement, and some fun money and that should give you a good starting point when job searching. Good luck!

      Kristen Yoshida P.E.,M.ASCE
      Belt Collins Hawaii LLC
      Honolulu HI
      (808) 256-7314

    • 7.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

      Posted 07-25-2019 01:09 PM
      There's a lot of great information already so I will try not to be too repetitive.  In short, when you're starting out it's hard to know what to expect.Websites like payscale and glassdoor can be helpful.  So can things like the ASCE salary survey.  Similary, friends, professors, etc. can all provide data points.  However, each person and each opportunity is different so it's hard to really know what to expect for yourself.  Also, location and specific area of focus can have a large effect too.  So, while you'd like a definite answer, there really isn't one.

      Your best bet in this scenario is to identify multiple potential employers and roles that you believe could be a good fit and hope to secure more than one offer.  This will do two things: (1) it will allow you to compare them and gain some insight into your specific potential worth, and (2) it will give you an opportunity to use the offers to negotiate the best deal you can.  As much as you may want to account for culture, future ownership, growth potential, people, etc. you typically won't have enough information to make an informed decision until after you've worked there a while.  It's the unfortunate reality in my experience.  So I'd recommend you account for these the best you can and use your gut instincts to fill in the gaps.  If it works out, great.  If not, there's plenty of other opportunities out there and you'll be more informed as the days, months, and years go by.

      So good luck and don't over think it.  Find something you think you'll enjoy that will give you enough money to feel comfortable focusing on the work instead of how you can earn more, and see where it takes you.

      Cliff Jones Ph.D.,P.E.,M.ASCE
      Portland OR

    • 8.  RE: Advice on Salaries for Beginner Engineering Positions

      Posted 07-26-2019 08:13 AM
      Hi Alicia, congratulations on your persistence as you work towards completing your degree program.
      You already identified perhaps one of the most critical decision factors, "like the people at the company, how they treat their employees, and the types of projects they work on." In my experiences the money will flow towards those who create value for the firm. So, if you continue your search to end up within an organization that has developed trust between their people, across disciplines, top down, and bottom up, you will not be disappointed with your financial recognition.

      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880