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Compensation Data for Fire Protection Engineers in 2011
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From the Technical Director:
Compensation Data for Fire Protection Engineers in 2011

By Morgan J. Hurley, P.E., FSFPE | Fire Protection Engineering

In late 2011, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers conducted its biennial compensation survey of the fire protection engineering profession. A total of 745 people from 41 countries responded to the survey, with the majority (86%) living in the U.S. (Canada had the second largest number of respondents, accounting for 3% of the responses to the survey.) Overall, the survey found that the median salary of fire protection engineers increased 2.9% over the median salary in 2009. Even during the current difficult economy, fire protection engineers saw an increase in their salaries.

The number of fire protection engineers who are unemployed (6.2% at the time the survey was conducted) is a decrease from the 7.2% who indicated that they were unemployed at the time the 2010 survey was conducted. In the U.S., 5.5% indicated that they were unemployed at the time the survey was conducted in 2012, which was well below the national unemployment rate.

The median total compensation earned by fire protection engineers with zero to two years experience was about $60,000, which increased markedly to over $75,000 for those with three to five years of experience. The median total compensation showed a steady increase during the first 20-25 years of experience, at which it reached a plateau (at approximately $125,000 per year). However, salaries at the 75th and 90th percentiles continued to increase beyond the 25th year of experience, ultimately reaching a 90th percentile value of $217,200 for fire protection engineers with 31 to 35 years of experience. Incentive-based pay accounted for a significant amount (a median of 8.3%) of compensation earned by fire protection engineers.

As one would expect, salaries steadily increased with increasing job responsibility. Fire protection engineers with the lowest level of job responsibility received a median total compensation of $62,000 per year, while those with the highest level of responsibility received a median total compensation of $150,000 per year.

Compensation varied somewhat with the employment sector in which fire protection engineers worked. Overall, 43% of respondents worked in consulting, 21% worked for local, state or federal government (excluding the fire service), 14% worked for insurance companies, and 5% worked for the fire service. In general, fire protection engineers who worked in the insurance industry received the highest compensation (about 8% higher than those who worked in consulting). Fire protection engineers who worked for government agencies received about the same amount of compensation as those who worked in consulting, while those who worked for a fire service received about 20% less compensation than those who worked in consulting.

The level of education influenced the median compensation earned by fire protection engineers. Fire protection engineers with a master’s degree had a median total compensation that was from 3% to 14% greater than that earned by fire protection engineers who only had a bachelor’s degree, with the greatest differences occurring for fire protection engineers with 10 or less years experience and for those with 26 or more years of experience.

As with prior surveys, earning a professional engineers license had a significant influence on the total compensation earned by fire protection engineers. Fire protection engineers who had a P.E. license earned about 20% more than those who did not have a P.E. license.

The country in which an engineer worked also had an impact on the compensation earned by fire protection engineers; however, due to the low number of responses from countries other than the U.S., these results should be viewed skeptically. Fire protection engineers from the U.S. and Canada earned comparable total compensation ($113,500 and $111,000, respectively). However, fire protection engineers in New Zealand earned less ($93,000) while those in Australia earned more ($219,000). (All values adjusted to U.S. dollar equivalents.)

The full report is available free-of-charge to SFPE members in the SFPE Knowledge Network.

Fire Protection Engineering welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to engineering@sfpe.org or by mail to Fire Protection Engineering, 7315 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 620E, Bethesda, MD 20814.


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