According to ASSEMBLY's 2009 State of the Profession survey, the average salary for assembly professionals is $75,317. But, the average CEO makes that much in less than a week!

I recently finished analyzing data for our 2009 State of the Profession study (the results will be published in the July issue of ASSEMBLY). As always, there’s both good news and bad news – it all depends on how you slice the numbers.

But, for most people, the most important statistic is salary. Our study revealed that the average salary for assembly professionals is $75,317. Of course, there are exceptions on both the high and low ends of the scale, based on factors such as age, education, experience and geography.

I’m always astonished by the obscene salaries and bonuses that top executives earn (or, in some cases, steal). To put things in perspective, the average CEO of a large company receives more than 100 times as much money as most of the people reading this blog. During a typical work week, those CEOs earn more than what most assemblers make in an entire year.

According to Equilar Inc. (Redwood Shores, CA), a company that tracks executive compensation, the typical CEO at an S&P 500 company received a median total pay package of $8,446,935 in 2008 vs. $9,061,057 in 2007.

This year, those numbers will probably drop even further because of the economy. But, I don’t suspect many CEOs will receive any sympathy, especially when there have been numerous layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts in all industries.

Traditionally, CEO salaries are inflated by generous bonus packages that are tied into things such as earnings per share and total shareholder return. However, I believe those bonuses should be not be handed out every year, because there’s too much pressure for short-term gain on Wall Street. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spread out allocations over three to five year periods rather than every 12 months?

Some companies are already considering a gentler, more balanced approach to executive compensation rather than just measuring the achievement of some financial target. For instance, I recently heard about a company in Pennsylvania that’s thinking about limiting executive pay to seven times the company’s median salary.

If that rule of thumb was applied to our State of the Profession survey, then the average CEO would earn $527,219.