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Photonics pros: We love our work

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The percentage of respondents reporting high job satisfaction surpasses last year’s 82 percent in a new salary survey of the global optics and photonics community conducted recently by SPIE.

This year’s results show 85 percent of respondents report high job satisfaction. The vast majority of respondents also reported that they find meaning in their work and respect the work of their peers. The survey, the largest such international study of the industry, also showed no correlation between job satisfaction and either salary or length of work week.

“Overall, these are jobs that not only pay well but also yield quality-of-life satisfactions and the ability to make a difference. In addition to enjoying their own work, optics and photonics professionals overwhelmingly – by 90 percent – say they respect the work of their peers,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “The stability in strong salary levels as compared to levels across all jobs reflects the continuing strength of the optics and photonics sector and the high value that these jobs contribute to the economy.”

The median salary of $76,000 was 4 percent higher than last year, with differences driven by country income level and employer type. Aerospace, with a median annual income of $113,500, continues to be the highest-paid sector. Systemic discrepancies occur between genders, with the median salary of men being 36 percent higher than that of women. The largest salary gap between genders occurs in mid-career.

“The forward-looking photonics sector needs to move beyond the historical injustice in this,” Arthurs said. “Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, has rightly characterized achieving gender equality as a legal, economic and moral imperative. Photonics R&D is necessary for solving the many challenges the world faces in energy supplies, effective health care, communications networks and other areas. We cannot afford to continue to discourage 55 percent of the next generation from working to help find these vital solutions.”

Swiss, Australian and Canadian respondents enjoyed a combination of top pay and moderate workload. These countries are three of the top four in median salary, with fewer than 10 percent of respondents working more than 55 hours per week.

Israelis and Portuguese were tied at the top of the job satisfaction scale, with 94 percent saying they enjoy their work, yet Israel’s median salary is twice that of Portugal, and Israel matches Romania in reporting the highest percentage of workers who say they spend 55 hours or more on the job each week. Close behind, 39 percent of workers in higher-income Asia said they work 50 or more hours per week.

Respondents in lower-income Asia were the most optimistic about pay hikes in the near term, with 91 percent saying they expect to receive raises in 2014.

For the full report, visit

Oct 2013

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