What Have Chemical Engineers Been Earning in 2018?

Article by Rachael Fraser

Rachael Fraser reviews the key findings from IChemE’s 2018 salary survey

IChemE members were asked to reveal the salaries and benefits they received in 2018, to develop the Institution’s understanding of the key trends in chemical engineers’ earnings.

Data was gathered from countries with the highest concentration of IChemE members. More than 2,200 members took part in the survey in Australia, Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa and the UK.

Chemical engineering salaries are on the rise

Across three of the five countries surveyed in 2018, chemical engineering salaries are up.

Australia, Malaysia and South Africa have all seen a rise in the median salary earned for chemical engineers, as shown in Table 1.

The median salary for chemical engineers in Australia was A$136,800, up from A$136,000 in 2017. There was also an increase of the median salary in Malaysia, from RM68,900 in 2017 to RM87,744 in 2018 (27%). In addition, IChemE members in South Africa reported a median salary of ZAR950,000, a 28% rise from ZAR739,600 earned in 2017.

This upward trend in salaries could indicate that there has been a relief from the impact felt over the past few years from the downturn in oil and gas.

The UK appears to have seen a slight decrease in earnings compared to 2017. The median salary has decreased from £55,000 in 2017 to £54,000 in 2018.

IChemE members in Ireland earned a median salary of €68,100 in 2018. There are no yearly comparisons for Ireland, as the Institution’s salary survey was not extended to members in Ireland in 2017.

Across the five countries, salaries for those at the early-career stage, which IChemE defines as those aged under 25, are relatively similar to 2017’s findings. A chemical engineer aged under 25 in the UK earned exactly the same as that reported in 2017 (£30,000). Those in Australia earned slightly less than the figures reported in the 2017 survey (A$73,000 in 2018; A$73,707 in 2017).

However, early-career chemical engineers in Malaysia and South Africa saw a significant rise. IChemE members in Malaysia earned RM36,000 in 2018, compared to RM 21,600 in 2017. In South Africa, they reported to have earned ZAR264,000 in 2018, compared to ZAR151,683 in 2017.

Due to smaller sample sizes for Ireland, Malaysia, and South Africa, caution is advised in interpreting these results. To aid IChemE’s accuracy in data analysis, regional Congress representatives have had sight of the survey data this year. Their insights have helped to identify anomalies in the data for deletion, which could be attributed to the larger increases for some regions.   

There were some commonly-reported sectors of work across all five countries. Most chemical engineers in Australia, Malaysia and the UK are found in oil and gas exploration and production, according to the 2018 survey results. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products was the top employment sector in Ireland. The results showed a real spread of industry sectors for chemical engineers in South Africa, with popular sectors including chemical and allied products, consultancy, manufacturing, and process plant and equipment.

Article by Rachael Fraser

PR and Communications Executive, IChemE

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