SPIE conducted a global salary survey of the optics and photonics community, providing valuable information for industry employers and job seekers. The survey, generated from the Society's international database of optics and photonics researchers and developers, tabulated more than 6,800 valid responses from 93 countries worldwide.
"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 Executive Director 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."
Results from the optics and photonics salary survey identified the median salary for photonics careers around the world as $80,000 overall, but the statistics had a widely distributed range. Higher pay relates back to location, and type. Non-university careers offer the highest ranges. Military/defense and companies, on average, pay more than civilian government or self-employed/consulting work.
The results proved location and field have a direct relation to annual salary. The highest salary levels reside in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. North America has the highest median salary at $105,000. Africa has the lowest median salary at $13,265.
Survey Responses by Region
Salaries are dependent on the economic state in Asian and European countries. Pay is found to be much higher in Japan and Germany than in low-income countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. In Asia, higher income countries have salaries with an $89,104 median whereas lower income nations have a median salary of $15,470.
Aerospace engineering and research jobs are on-average the highest paying jobs with a median salary of $110,000. The lowest-paid photonics careers are among civil/environmental engineering and research, according to the optics and photonics salary survey. Civil/environmental careers had a median of $33,450. Biomedical is close to double that income with $65,250.
Future surveys will seek a closer look at the photonics manufacturing workforce. "This first survey captured some of the sales, marketing, and R&D administration segments," Arthurs said. "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."
The survey revealed that overall, men earn 33% higher salaries than women. Wage gaps were greatest in the corporate sector, at 38%, and lowest at civilian government and military employers, where women earn nearly equal salaries to men.
Later surveys will analyze whether there are skill shortages in different regions and ask how salaries in one part of the world affect a different economy.
SPIE members are receiving a printed copy of the report with the January 2012 issue of SPIE Professional. For more on the SPIE optics and photonics salary survey and its results, visit spie.org/salary.
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