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SPIE publishes 2019 Optics & Photonics Global Salary Report

01 Mar 2019

Findings cover range of data points including job satisfaction, entry-level pay, and highest-paid areas.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics (and publisher of optics.org), has this week published its 2019 Optics and Photonics Global Salary Report. The society's ninth annual salary report is the largest such study in the optics and photonics community, building on data from more than 6,000 individuals working in 104 countries.

"The goal of our annual salary survey is to provide the community with up-to-date information on pay, job satisfaction, and other workplace issues," said SPIE Marketing Analyst and author of the report Adam Resnick. "We believe that the survey has become a highly-trusted source for job seekers and hiring managers across academia, industry, and government.”

On the industry side, Tolis Deslis, Jenoptik’s Senior Member of Technical Staff and R&D Manager, commented, "In order to thrive in your industry, you must offer salaries that are competitive with similar businesses in your industry and in your location. In order to do that, you need to know what those salaries are.

“While this information is often shrouded in secrecy – after all, no business wants to give its competition an advantage – there are organizations such as SPIE that are devoted to gathering this valuable information, accurately and transparently, from within the optics and photonics community. As a hiring manager, I appreciate the work that SPIE does with their salary survey, and for sharing this information for the benefit of all its members."

Key findings for 2018

  • The median salary for full-time employees is $74,000, up over three percent from $71,748 last year.
  • Entry-level pay is highest in the United States, where employees with less than one year of experience earn a median salary of $69,500. Germany, Canada, and South Korea follow, with entry-level salaries of $62,710, $39,600, and $31,173, respectively.
  • The highest-paid discipline is aerospace, with a median income of $120,000. Aerospace has held the top spot for all nine years that this survey has been conducted.
  • Median salaries are 29% higher overall for men than for women, though gaps in median pay are smaller during early career stages.
  • Survey respondents are “highly satisfied” with their jobs overall: 95% find their work meaningful and enjoy it, while 92% feel that their work is respected by their peers.
  • Most full-time workers - 65% - identify as engineers. Within this group, 62% have engineering degrees and are working as engineers, 22% have engineering degrees but are not working as engineers, and 13% work as engineers without having engineering degrees.
  • The largest proportion of engineers are focused on optical engineering (37%), followed by electrical engineering (14%) and mechanical engineering (9%).
  • Startups account for just over 13% of workers at for-profit organizations. These workers earn median salaries of $88,725, versus $101,000 for those at traditional companies.

SPIE delivers its Global Salary Report each year, free of charge, as part of its mission to partner with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies for the betterment of the human condition.

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