Issue 41: Salaries Earned by Fire Protection Engineers
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 fifteenth 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
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% in 2009.
Another factor that could impact the increase in salaries is that a
higher number of people with professional engineer's licenses responded
to the 2010 survey than responded to the 2007 survey. People with
professional engineer's 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 engineer's license (P.E. or
P.Eng.) corresponds to a 10% higher median salary when compared to
people who do not have a professional engineer's 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
Salaries showed an appreciable gain as a function of experience for
fire protection engineers who are 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
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 the 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
Education had an impact on the total salary received by fire
protection engineers. Fire protection engineers who had ten 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 responsibility.
While most of the respondents were from the United States, there were
some interesting findings regarding fire protection engineers who
worked outside of the U.S. 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 Unites States should be
made with caution.
The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is a professional society for fire protection engineering established in 1950 and incorporated as an independent organization in 1971. It is the professional society representing those practicing the field of fire protection engineering. The Society has over 5,000 members and 100+ chapters, including many student chapters worldwide.