State of the Profession: A Decade of Change

A look back at the 1998 State of the Profession survey reveals some sobering statistics.

Depending on your point of view, a decade can be a big splash in time or just a mere blip. I definitely think it’s a long time. My life certainly is much different today than it was 10 years ago. In 1998, I was working for another magazine, I had less gray hair, and I was still able to run regularly without worrying about pesky knee problems.

I recently decided to turn back the pages in the ASSEMBLY archives and examine how today’s assembly professionals compare to the late 1990s. The average salary in our 1998 State of the Profession survey was $59,548. Today, the typical assembler earns $72,500. That’s an 18 percent increase.

The methodology that we use to gather data was much different 10 years ago. In 1998, questionnaires were sent out and returned via “snail mail.” Today, however, the entire process is handled via e-mail.

Technology was much simpler back in the late 1990s, which may help explain why assemblers were a little bit happier then. Indeed, 96 percent claimed to be satisfied with their jobs vs. 93 percent in 2008.
These days, manufacturers are under more pressure to appease shareholders and stock analysts. Not surprisingly, overall company performance is a bigger factor in compensation today: 8 percent higher than in 1998.

As I was flipping through the pages of the July 1998 issue of ASSEMBLY, a sobering sign jumped out at me. I noticed quite a few ads from machine builders that are no longer around. Some of them have gone out of business, while others have been gobbled up by competitors.

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