Pay: How does yours compare?

FOR over 30 years, IChemE has been conducting a salary and member satisfaction survey as a way of monitoring chemical engineering salaries and trends. This year, nearly 4,000 members disclosed their earnings and employee benefits.

In this article we highlight the key survey findings collected from 11 countries – UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, India, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

pay gap

Observations indicate that the pay gap continues to be an issue, particularly for women aged 35+. In the UK, women aged between 35–39 earn 22% less (£64,000:£50,000) than their male counterparts, while in Malaysia it’s 30.5% (RM235,000:RM163,300). In Australia, the salary gap widens to 28.5% (A$186,260: A$133,000) for women aged between 40–44. Salary gaps are not exclusive to the engineering sector, but is indicative of the findings in a recent United Nations report, that found women on average earn 24% less than men. However, women are far more likely to take a career break, which can impact on career progression – an issue highlighted in the CaSE and McKinsey Reports.

When asked what forms of discrimination to focus on, survey participants identified age, race and gender as the top three problem areas. IChemE will be giving greater focus on diversity issues within the profession and has signed a formal affiliation in the UK with the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign. IChemE is also a signatory to the Royal Academy of Engineering Diversity Concordat, the Science Council declaration on diversity, equality and inclusion and has made a pledge to the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Your Life that supports and promotes women in engineering and technology careers.

Although these actions are mostly UK based, IChemE is planning to expand this following analysis of the survey information. These survey findings will also be used in industry panel discussions established to address workplace and industry challenges within the chemical engineering context.


Representing IChemE’s second-largest membership, the overall median salary for chemical engineers in Malaysia is RM89,900 (2014: RM78,000). Insufficient data was available to determine graduates salaries (2014:RM25,500), however young engineers between 25–30 earn an overall median salary of RM36,000.

There was a 65% gap between the median salaries for Chartered Members at RM202,500, compared to their non-chartered counterparts at RM70,965. Over 35% of survey participants work in the oil and gas exploration and production sectors earning a median salary of RM205,356, followed by 16% in education (RM85,000) and 12% in consultancy (RM70,000). Of this, 25% work in design, followed by education and training (16%) and process safety (15%).

Over 90% receive medical and dental insurance and nearly 60% reported that their employer pays for their IChemE membership fees and life insurance (30%). Other benefits include a company scheme and access to loans.


Graduate chemical engineers continue to maintain their status as one of the best-paid professions, earning a median starting salary of £30,000 (2014:£29,500). However, the median salary for chemical engineers is marginally down from last year at £55,600 (2014: £56,000).

The power of the letters becomes more evident by ages 30+. Chartered Members aged 35–39 earn £65,000 (2014: £66,200) compared to their non-chartered counterparts at £51,200 (2014: £52,000). Chartered Members working in a project management, site or principal engineer role, earn a median salary of £72,352, while their non-chartered counterparts working in the same role earn £61,122.

As chemical engineers move up the career ladder, the gap begins to close. For example a Chartered Member in a managing director or CEO role recorded a median salary of £172,500, compared to that of their non-chartered counterparts at £170,000.

Pension benefits are fairly equally divided, with 46% receiving a company final salary or defined benefit pension and 42% saying they receive the company money purchase pension. Other benefits include medical insurance (65%), life insurance (40%), company share scheme (35%). 87% say their employers pay their IChemE membership fees.

UK: Median salary by industry sector



Biochemical engineering


Chemical and allied products




Consumer products*






Finance, insurance and risk*


Food and drink


Health, safety and environment


Industrial gases*


Iron, steel and other metals*


Mining and minerals


Oil and gas exploration and production


Oil refining


Paper and packaging




Pharmaceuticals and personal care products




Power generation –  fossil fuels


Power generation –  nuclear decommissioning


Power generation –  nuclear generation


Power generation –  renewables


Process plant and equipment


Waste management




(*new category introduced in 2015)

UK: median salaries by region

North East

£ 57,000

South East

£ 62,000

East of England

£ 56,000

North West

£ 51,000

South West

£ 48,000

East Midlands

£ 48,000

West Midlands

£ 52,000


£ 58,000

Northern Ireland

£ 47,000


£ 59,000

Yorkshire and the Humber

£ 52,000

UK: median salary by age
















Like their UK counterparts, Australian chemical engineering graduates are ranked as the third highest earners with a median starting salary of A$76,000 (2014:A$69,000). However, due to a low sample, this figure needs to be viewed with caution.

The overall median salary for Chartered Members came in at A$190,000 (2014:A$185,000), highlighting a considerable earnings gap for non-Chartered Members at A$110,000 (2014:A$118,000).

The larger survey sample sizes begin in the 30–34 age bracket, with Chartered Members in this group earning a median salary A$155,000 (2014:A$141,000) and non-Chartered Members A$100,358 (2014:A$130,000).

Like UK and Malaysia, the highest concentration of members can be found working in the oil and gas exploration and production sector, with the median salaries for this industry being A$199,500.

Employee benefits for Australian members included access to a company share scheme (25%), life insurance (17%) and 64% said their employers pay their IChemE membership fees. Other benefits include medical and dental insurance, car or car allowances.

Australia: median salary by age




A $119,000


A $148,000


A $175,500


A $199,000


A $249,000


A $227,284

Australia: median salaries by region

Western Australia

A $185,000


A $152,500

New South Wales

A $130,000


A $122,000

South Australia

A $109,000

*Insufficient data for ACT, Northern Territory, and Tasmania

Around the globe: Median chemical engineering salaries by country


Median salary




INR 1,975,000


EURO 72,500



New Zealand




South Africa

ZAR 780,000

United Arab Emirates


United States of America


There was insufficient data from the remaining surveyed countries to provide a more complete analysis.

At the time of the survey, most participants (including UK, Malaysia and Australia) thought that prospects for the profession is either the same or better than 12 months ago. However this was not the case for Canadian and South African members, who mostly think prospects are worse off.

Other observations include that when looking for a new job, the top ranking response was equally divided between salary and location, with almost all respondents ranking the opportunity for career progression a close third. Benefits and training were ranked as the least important.

Design is the most common type of work being carried out by members, closely followed by manufacturing and production and safety. Outside of Ireland (pharmaceutical) and South Africa (petrochemicals) the highest concentration of chemical engineers can be found working in the oil and gas exploration and production sectors across all other countries surveyed.

Apart from members in Australia and New Zealand, medical insurance ranked as the top member benefit with approximately 50% having their IChemE membership fees paid. Other top member benefits were life insurance, access to a company share scheme and a car, or car allowance.

member feedback

Participants unanimously ranked tce as their most preferred means of keeping in touch with the profession, followed by networking opportunities and IChemE emails. However, this year we saw a shift in social media moving up the scale of popularity and coming close to nudging special interest groups out of fourth place.

Most members say that IChemE serves them well, with the exception of members in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.  However this improved when it came to serving industry in their respective countries and around 80% value their membership and can see the benefits of being Chartered.

Members think that the public has very little understanding of what chemical engineering is and suggest that IChemE needs to help improve this.

Suggestions on what IChemE ccan do better have been fed back to the management team for review. Some recurring themes include improving and providing more support for the Chartered Member application process, providing mentoring and career advice, holding webinars in local time-zones, running more local events, and providing cheaper training courses and online training.

Training course suggestions were broad and varied and the more common topics are process design, process safety, asset integrity, mining and minerals processing, communication, project management, process automation control and more technical presentations.

IChemE’s 2015 Salary survey is published in association with its global recruitment partner NES Global Talent. For the full data sets for the UK and Australia contact

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