06 October 2011

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- A global salary survey of the optics and photonics community conducted this spring by SPIE is providing valuable new information for industry employers and job seekers -- and also raising some provocative questions for future iterations of the survey.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, devised the survey after hearing questions from constituents about salary levels and ranges, particularly in working with employers and job seekers through the SPIE Career Center. While a few surveys focused on segments of the industry have been published in recent years, there was no comprehensive data.

The Society found that that next generation of the workforce is already interested in how much photonics jobs pay as well. Students from elementary-school age through university who are served by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational outreach programs of SPIE, SPIE Student Chapters, and other volunteers ask about salaries in the field.

Survey results identified a median salary of US$75,000 overall.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that location has a major effect on salary levels, with the highest in North America and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).

Non-university jobs pay in the highest ranges, and among disciplines, aerospace engineering and research jobs are at top, with a median salary globally of US$105,152.

"SPIE intends to run the salary survey on a regular basis, to maintain current information for the community and to be able to watch trends," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "This year's version has produced valuable data, and it also has demonstrated how the diversity of the photonics industry increases the challenges inherent in gathering such data."

Future surveys will seek a closer look at the photonics manufacturing workforce, Arthurs said. "This first survey captured some of the sales, marketing, and R&D administration segments. We are committed to being the essential source for good data in all segments of the photonics industry and research community, and future surveys will reflect that."

Among other questions to be addressed in future surveys:

  • How do salaries or outsourcing in a particular segment in one part of the world affect salaries in another region with a different economy?
  • Do skill shortages exist in certain fields or regions?
  • Initial research indicates that men make more than women. What factors ? location, employer type, etc., relate to the disparity?

More than 7,000 valid responses from 93 countries were tabulated in the SPIE survey, from across the Society's international database of optics and photonics researchers and developers.

See more detail on the survey results at www.spie.org/x51975.xml.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. SPIE provided over $2.3 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2010.


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