The 2019 Spectroscopy Salary Survey: A Surprising Downtrend


The 2019 Spectroscopy salary and employment survey extracted from calendar year 2018 trends shows an unexpected and marked decrease in salaries from previous survey years.

The 2019 Spectroscopy salary and employment survey extracted from calendar year 2018 trends shows an unexpected and marked decrease in salaries from previous survey years. At the same time nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were either highly satisfied or satisfied with their current positions.

Average Salaries by Gender and Education

The average annual base salary for 2018 (2019 survey) for full-time workers was $79,711. The average male base salary was $84,602, which is comparable to the 2015 survey average and the lowest recorded over the past five years. Female salaries followed a similar trend, with an average value of $67,235, also representing the lowest survey results over the past five years. As for the gender gap in salaries, there is a clear and significant difference between male and female salaries, That being said, the salaries for full-time male workers this past year averaged $84,602 compared to $67,235 for full-time female workers.  This is a negative gap of 25.9%, which is statistically meaningful. Salary gaps by gender are significant and remain that way. Even though there have been variations from year to year, the gender gap seems to be changing very little, according to our survey data over the years.

The 2019 Spectroscopy salary survey results showed a 14% decrease in average base salaries compared to 2018. Of course, the demographics of the survey have a major effect on results and we noted specific differences in this year’s respondent pool. Even though there was a decrease in salaries this year, there is still financial advantage for acquiring an advanced technical degree and even formal management or business training. The distinction between bachelor’s and master’s degrees is not so clear but obtaining a PhD has yielded significant salary benefits, according to the data we have seen over the 19 years of this survey. As in other professions, years of experience generally provide proportional increases in wages.

Average Regional Salary Differences in the United States  

The survey compared average base salaries for full-time workers in different geographical regions in the continental United States. The Southwest and Southeast had a marked increase in average salaries compared to last year. The Southwest had the largest uptick, from $84,132 to $94,049; an increase of 11.8%. Salaries in the Southeast grew 4.3%, from $84,000 to $87,622. Other sectors had decreases in average salaries, with the most dramatic drop in the Northeast, at –20%, a drop from $92,381 to $73,822. This is followed by a decrease in the Northeast of –14.0% with average salaries dipping from $107,313 to $92,295. Midwest salaries decreased 6.5% from $88,940 to $83,172. Overall, the Southwest exhibited the highest salaries followed by the Northeast, then the Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest.

Bonuses, and Salary Increases as Compared to Workload

Fewer than half of respondents received bonuses and these averaged nearly $12,000. The survey indicated that over one fourth of respondents received no increase in pay last year, and only one in seven received a raise of 5% or more. More than 80% received a salary increase of 4% or less. Most respondents believe that salary increases were based on organizational success, that salary increases did not fairly reflect personal performance, and that increases did not keep up with inflation. Well over half of those surveyed said their workload had increased, with respondents reporting that increased business within their organizations or added responsibility for an existing position were the main causes for this increase. Well over half of the survey respondents work more than 40 hours per week, with 1 in 7 working more than 50 hours per week on average. Over half of respondents receive four or more weeks of vacation, while one-fourth receive two weeks or less.

Career Fulfillment Factors

Two thirds of respondents said they were either highly satisfied or satisfied with their current positions; 60% of respondents said their job met their career expectations; and a full three-fourths felt that their work was valued by their employer. Over 80% of those that completed the survey felt their job was secure. Yet one in four expressed feelings of being bullied or intimidated at work with one in ten admitting to having been publicly humiliated by a boss. Nearly half of respondents stated there was an increase in work stress during this past year. Salary and bonus structure, work and life balance, and “the team I work with,” were clearly the most important career factors for job satisfaction.

Other Benefits and the Job Market

Two thirds of respondents are allowed to attend up to one conference per year; just one third have their professional dues paid, and just under half participate in invention or patent work. Only one in four was formally recognized for their work performance by their organizations last year. Just one in eight feel it would be straightforward to find another equivalent position; and one in four said a search for a new position would be difficult and they would take whatever job they could find.

To Be or Not to Be (in Management)?

Over half of our respondents have a formal management role in their current job function, with nearly two thirds of those having 1–5 direct reports and 5% of managers having more than 30 direct reports; we note that one in five of all respondents have formal academic credentials in business or management. Over the past four years there has been an average base salary advantage of 27.5% for management versus nonmanagement positions, irrespective of gender or location.

Click here to read the full report about the 2019 Salary Survey.


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John Burgener | Photo Credit: © Will Wetzel