Digging deeper into salary survey results

June 17, 2022
The first annual salary survey provides an interesting look at the demographics and pay ranges within the photonics community.

Earlier this year, Laser Focus World fielded its first annual salary survey. While most of the results are in alignment with national statistics across all industries, the results also unearth some interesting nuggets. Nuggets those within photonics should consider leveraging when looking to attract and retain talent.

Simple facts

It is important to first understand the methodology we used. We surveyed a random cross-section of our magazine audience, sending the email survey to roughly 35,000 of our readers. The survey was open for 15 days, with the goal of garnering 125 qualified responses. Ultimately, the results include responses from 183 qualified responses.

Respondents came from a good cross mix of key positions within the photonics community, with R&D/product development management, design engineers, and executive management surfacing as the most common titles. This not only gives a clear picture of the industry as a whole, but it also accurately represents the Laser Focus World audience.

Key takeaways

People who choose careers within photonics have a tendency to stick around. When asked about their seniority, 46% of respondents have remained at the same company at least six years. And, 49% have worked within the industry for 26 years or longer.

Because people remain put, it’s clear photonics companies have a large aging base (30% at 60 years or older vs. just 20% under 40) of highly educated personnel. In terms of education, roughly 68% have a masters or doctorate, with an additional 7% completing some graduate work.

The employee shortage is real. Specifically, 73% of respondents say their company is struggling to fill open positions. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Photonics as a whole is quite technical, often meaning engaging with qualified candidates can be challenging. And, with the great resignation occurring globally, there’s significant competition for workers, especially skilled workers.

Pleasant surprises

In addition to direct salary questions, we asked respondents a handful of questions about how their companies have performed in the past yearand, perhaps more telling, since the pandemic. Overall, the pandemic had little negative impact on company performance, the likelihood of layoffs, or detriments to employee pay.  

Approximately 40% report their companies performed better or much better when compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In terms of employee impact, 14% were furloughed or laid off during the pandemic, 12% report taking a pay cut, whereas 45% say they received some sort of raise.

The reason why people enjoy their current job—they enjoy the challenges presented within photonics. When asked why people stay in their current position, challenging work is by far the top reason.

Fortunately, companies within photonics seem to be quite successful in providing workers with the challenges they desire, with 71% of respondents saying they are either satisfied or very satisfied in their current roles. In addition, 76% say they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to pursue a career in photonics. In both cases, the satisfaction numbers are higher than industry averagesa great selling point as companies look to attract new, young talent into the photonics community.

If you are interested in seeing the full survey results, they are available for download and you can also listen to a webinar we conducted including analysis from Gary Bertoline, a workforce development expert from Purdue University.

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Market Leader/Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military

Peter Fretty began his role as the Market Leader, Laser & Military in June 2023; the group encompasses the Laser Focus World, Military & Aerospace Electronics, and Vision Systems Design brands. He also serves as Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military (effective spring 2023) and served as Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World since October 2021. Prior to that, he was Technology Editor for IndustryWeek for two years.

As a highly experienced journalist, he has regularly covered advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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