From the Technical Director
Salaries Earned by Fire Protection Engineers
By Morgan J. Hurley, P.E. FSFPE | Fire Protection Engineering
During early 2010, the Society of Fire
Protection Engineers conducted a survey of fire protection engineers to
develop a snapshot of employment compensation as a function of work
experience and other factors. This is the 15th time that SFPE has
conducted this survey since 1976. The last survey, conducted in 2007,
evaluated compensation received in 2006. The 2010 survey asked for
information regarding compensation in 2009. Overall, the median salary
for fire protection engineers was $US 110,500, which was 12.5% higher
than was found in the 2007 survey.
A total of 658 people participated in the
survey, which was administered using a web-based tool in early 2010.
The survey contained questions about experience, job responsibilities,
age, base compensation, incentive pay and other benefits.
The vast majority (87%) of respondents
were from the United States, so the results are primarily illustrative
for fire protection engineers who work in that country. Most respondents
(90%) were members of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.
The survey found annual average growth of
4.2% in total compensation (base pay plus incentive pay) over each of
the last three years, which is down from the annual increase of
approximately 6% found in 2007. This can be contrasted with the U.S.
national average salary increase of 3.9% in 2008 and 2.2% in 2009.
While this shows that fire protection
engineering has weathered the economic downturn well, not all of the
findings have been positive. There has been a large increase in the
number of unemployed fire protection engineers; 7.2% of respondents
indicated that they were unemployed at some point during 2009, which is
an increase from the 0.2% who were unemployed during 2007. However, this
unemployment rate is below the U.S.-national rate of approximately 10%
Another factor that could have impacted the increase in salaries was
that a higher number of people with professional engineers licenses
responded to the 2010 survey than responded to the 2007 survey. People
with professional engineers licenses constituted 44% of the respondents
to the 2007 survey and 65% of the respondents to the 2010 survey. The
survey found that having a professional engineers license (P.E. or
P.Eng.) corresponds to a 10% higher median salary when compared to
people who do not have a professional engineers license.
Median base salaries increased steadily
from $70,000 for fire protection engineers with less than six years
experience to $120,000 for fire protection engineers with 26 to 30 years
of experience. However, median salaries did not continue to increase
with experience beyond 30 years.
Salaries showed an appreciable gain as a
function of experience for fire protection engineers who were new to the
profession. Those with two years of experience had a median base salary
of $63,000, which increased to $70,000 for those with three years of
experience, $74,500 for those with four years of experience, and $75,000
with five years of experience. Collectively, this is an increase of
almost 20% over three years.
For the first time, the 2010 salary survey
explored the correlation between professional responsibility and salary.
As would be expected, there was a direct correlation between
responsibility and base salary. Engineers who have the least amount of
responsibility and work under the close supervision of senior engineers
had a median salary of $55,000, and engineers with the most
responsibility earned a median base salary of $138,000.
In addition to base salary, 70% of
respondents reported that they also received incentive-based pay, with a
median value of almost $10,000. Incentive-based pay included bonuses,
overtime pay, commissions, etc. Twenty percent of entry-level engineers
reported that they received incentive-based pay, and the fraction of
engineers who received incentive-based pay increased to approximately
70% for more experienced engineers. For all but the most experienced
engineers, the incentive-based pay was 8-9% of base salary; the most
experienced engineers received incentive-based pay that totaled 16-18%
of their base salaries.
Education had an impact on the total salary received
by fire protection engineers. Fire protection engineers who had 10 or
fewer years of experience received 15%-22% more in total compensation if
they had a masters degree compared to those with similar experience who
only had a bachelors degree. This difference diminished for fire
protection engineers with 11 or more years of experience.
Supervisory responsibility affected the
total compensation received. Fire protection engineers with 11 or more
years of experience received on average 12% more in total compensation
if they had supervisory responsibility than that received by fire
protection engineers who did not. However, there was almost no
difference in the total compensation received by fire protection
engineers with 10 or fewer years of experience who had supervisory
responsibility when compared to those without supervisory
While most of the respondents were from the United States,
there were some interesting findings regarding fire protection engineers
who worked outside the United States. The median salary for fire
protection engineers who worked in Canada was
$C 96,500, and the median salary in Sweden was 45,000. The
median salary increase in 2009 was 3% in the United States and Canada,
compared with 0% in New Zealand and Australia. The median salary
increase was much higher in the Middle East, at 7% in Saudi Arabia and
9% in the United Arab Emirates. However, as the sample sizes were very
small, conclusions for countries other than the United States should be
made with caution.