The median income for tech professionals hit US $154,443 in 2020, up from $148,500 in 2019. Adjusted to constant 2020 dollars, that's about a 2.8 percent increase. These numbers exclude overtime, profit sharing, and side hustles. That's particularly good news for engineers this year, considering that inflation-adjusted salaries were basically flat in 2019 compared with 2018.
This data—and some 60 more pages of detailed salary and job satisfaction statistics—comes from IEEE-USA's 2021 Salary & Benefits survey. It focuses on professionals working in their area of technical competence (5466 of the respondents), and excludes overtime pay, profit sharing, and other supplemental earnings; when those are considered, the median income was $160,000.
A Good Time for Broadcast Engineers
The gains weren't spread equally, of course. In this latest survey, engineers working with consumer electronics and broadcast technology came out on top, with median salaries of $209,373 and $209,000 respectively. Though there's no way of telling from the data collected, it wouldn't be a huge leap to suggest that our dependence on home entertainment during the pandemic gave these categories a boost. Tech professionals working in energy and power engineering continue to hover near the bottom of the ranks, with a median salary of $140,000, and robotics and automation is down there as well. Both seem surprising, given the growing need for new energy technologies as well as increasing automation across the board. Bringing up a distant rear is education, with a median income of $120,000. (Consulting income is not included in that number; for some educators, that's a big missing piece.)
Job Satisfaction and the Pandemic
Job satisfaction data in the 2020 survey are the first to reflect the pandemic effect. This analysis looks at several factors, ranking them on a scale of -2 to +2. Comparing numbers to 2019, overall satisfaction rose during the pandemic. However, survey respondents found that their satisfaction with technical challenge, employer support for technical viability, and work/life balance declined since the 2019 survey.
The West's Dominance Continues
Companies forsaking California for Texas have made headlines over the past few years. And Texas salaries indeed saw gains, with 2020 salaries $7307 above the national norm, compared with $1500 in 2019. But these did not come at the expense of the Pacific region: West Coast tech professionals still draw top dollar.
Gender and Race Gaps Increase
Salary disparities related to gender and race continued to grow, according to the most recent IEEE-USA survey, with the median gap between men and women's salary jumping $5500 to $28,000 from 2019, after a similar increase in 2019 from 2018. This is certainly a trend in the wrong direction.
And the gap between Caucasians and African Americans also continued to grow, up $2250 to $24,250 in 2019, after a $1500 increase in 2019 from 2018.
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Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.