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Alberta's engineers remain some of the best paid professionals in Canada

Alberta's engineers remain some of the best paid professionals in Canada

Yes, it's that time of the year again. Depending on how well you or your company did last year, most people will see a small pay increase on their January pay stubs. And every year at this time, Canadian professional organizations and regulating bodies release their latest salary surveys, just to make sure their members are keeping pace with their colleagues.

In Alberta, engineers and geoscientists are regulated by APEGA - The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. APEGA represents 74,000 individual professional members and 4500 permit holders (or companies).

In 2014, engineers in Alberta earned anywhere from $80,000 for a new graduate to $380,000 for those in the senior executive ranks. An mid-level engineer with 10 years of experience earned on average $150,000, while an entry-level manager was closer to $200,000, including bonuses. Not surprisingly, bonuses made up a greater percentage of total compensation at the more senior levels of management. Most surprisingly, engineering co-op students (or interns) earned a whopping $55,000 annualized salary in 2014, or just over $1000 a week.

Results were even better for those working in the geosciences (predominantly geologists but also geophysicists). A new graduate can expect to earn $86,000, while senior managers were in the $315,000 range, including bonuses. Geoscientists with over 10 years experience earned about 30% more than engineers with equivalent experience. Geology/geophysics students earned an average of $1150 per week for their internships.

2014 TOTAL COMPENSATION FOR ALBERTA-REGISTERED ENGINEERS

2014 TOTAL COMPENSATION FOR ALBERTA-REGISTERED ENGINEERS

2014 TOTAL COMPENSATION FOR ALBERTA-REGISTERED GEOSCIENTISTS

2014 TOTAL COMPENSATION FOR ALBERTA-REGISTERED GEOSCIENTISTS

Note: The average pay for geoscientists in senior executives ranks was reported at $787,000 but was not plotted since results were skewed by a small number of multi-million dollar payouts.



DID YOU KNOW?

Geoscientists are comprised of both Geophysicists and Geologists, which study the earth's properties. Geoscientists are critical to petroleum exploration, since they determine the location, nature and structure of the petroleum or oil sands deposit.



WHAT ARE THE MOST LUCRATIVE PROFESSIONS?

For senior engineers (with more than 10 years of experience), results were pretty even across the engineering disciplines. Not surprisingly, Petroleum Engineers made up more of the executive ranks, with Mining Engineers a close second. 

WHICH INDUSTRY PAYS THE BEST?

Not surprisingly, those working directly for oil and gas producers faired the best. At the senior executive level, engineers employed in infrastructure and utility companies had the largest pay packages, most likely due to better stock performances in 2014. The lowest paying sectors were smaller consulting firms and government agencies, but not by much.

 
SALARIES BY EMPLOYMENT SECTOR FOR SENIOR ENGINEERS, INCLUDING BONUSES

SALARIES BY EMPLOYMENT SECTOR FOR SENIOR ENGINEERS, INCLUDING BONUSES

 

WHICH CITY HAS THE HIGHEST PAID ENGINEERS?

On average, Calgary reported better salaries than Edmonton, most likely due to more manufacturing in Edmonton versus more EPCs and oil companies located in Calgary. A senior engineer (with more than 10 years experience) reported an average total pay of $156,000 in Calgary versus $131,000 for an equivalent position in Edmonton. The average total pay in Fort McMurray was slightly better at $166,000.

WHAT KIND OF SALARY CAN NEW GRADUATES EXPECT?

Base salaries are relatively close across the province regardless of city, averaging about $74,000 for new graduates, or Engineers-in-Training (EITs). However, EITs working in Fort McMurray reported a much better total pay due to more opportunities for paid overtime (beyond the normal 40 hour work week). Total compensation for new graduates in Fort McMurray was just over $100,000 in 2014. 

 
STARTING SALARY FOR ENGINEERS BY CITY, BASE AND TOTAL COMPENSATION

STARTING SALARY FOR ENGINEERS BY CITY, BASE AND TOTAL COMPENSATION

 

For geologists and geophysicists, new graduates can expect to make $86,000, including bonuses. Most geoscientists are located in Calgary, so there was no data reported for Edmonton and Fort McMurray. However one would expect new graduates in the geosciences would see the highest pay in Fort McMurray. 

WHAT KIND OF SALARIES DO CONTRACTORS MAKE?

Experienced contractor engineers reported an average hourly rate between $100 and $153 per hour; contractors were expected to log about 1500 to 1700 hours in 2014. That works out to an annualized salary of $150,000 to $260,000. However, contractors normally have little opportunities for bonuses and benefits, with the exception of travel and living allowances.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF ENGINEERS HAVE ADVANCED DEGREES?

About 8% of APEGA members have advanced degrees, mostly Masters degrees. Only 1% reported having a PhD. The remainder have a 4 to 6 year Bachelor's degree.

WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN?

Overall, women make up about 15% of registered APEGA members. For young engineers and recent graduates, that number is closer to 25%, but drops to 8% at the more senior ranks. Surprisingly, only 15% of interns are female and that number isn't expected to improve over the next few years.

For geologists and geophysicists, women account for 25% of registered members. For members with less than 10 years experience, that number increases to 40%. However, at the more senior management levels, the percentage of women drops to 9%, not much better than engineers at the equivalent job rank.

HOW DO WOMEN'S SALARIES COMPARE TO MEN'S?

There was no statistical difference between male and female engineers for the same experience level. In fact, at the senior management and executive level, women actually reported a slightly higher total compensation than their male counterparts.

HOW DOES ALBERTA COMPARE TO OTHER CANADIAN PROVINCES?

Alberta has by far the highest engineering salaries in Canada, not only for new graduates but for all experience levels across the board. 

Alberta engineers make up more of the executive ranks than anywhere else in Canada, particularly in the oil and gas industry, including at the CEO level. This partially explains why salaries for engineers are so much higher in Alberta than anywhere else in the country. In fact, University of Alberta engineers out-earn University of Waterloo engineers by a whopping 40% (!) just because they're more likely to work in the province of Alberta.

 
STARTING SALARY FOR ENGINEERS-IN-TRAINING ACROSS CANADA

STARTING SALARY FOR ENGINEERS-IN-TRAINING ACROSS CANADA

 


SOME OTHER KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2014 SALARY SURVEY:

→ 75% of companies expect to be hiring more staff in 2015.
→ 94% of companies expect to increase salaries in 2015, on average by 3.5%.
→ Students working in the oil patch average about $1000-1150/week for their internships. Not too shabby!
→ Only 35% of Alberta engineers and geoscientists have a corporate sponsored registed pension plan.



The report clearly highlights the tightness of the Alberta labour market and scarcity of skilled employees, particularly geologists which are critical to mining and oil exploration. Of course, this salary survey was taken in the summer of 2014, before oil prices started falling. It will be very interesting to see what the actual pay increases will be for 2015, if any.

Full details of APEGA's 2014 Compensation Survey can be found on their website [link]
ALL FIGURES AND DATA COURTESY APEGA: VALUE OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES 2014
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Canadian Oil Sands stock remains in free-fall

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Looking back on the energy markets: 2014 in review