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Survey Says: O&P Community Mostly Content

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BELLINGHAM, Wash., Aug. 29, 2012 — More than 80 percent of optics and photonics professionals who responded to a new survey said they enjoy their work and find it meaningful. The survey, the largest such international study of the industry, was conducted last spring by SPIE.

"Results showed that 82 percent of respondents say they enjoy their work, 87 percent find their work meaningful, and 89% respect the work of their peers," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Majorities are also satisfied with their pay, their supervisors, and the positive recognition they receive, with 67% agreeing with the statement 'I love my work and I feel fortunate to get paid for doing it.'"

job satisfaction

The study is the second annual one conducted by the international society for optics and photonics, and yielded more than 7500 valid responses. A section on job satisfaction was new this year, as were additional questions aimed at exploring differences between men's and women's perspectives. Not surprisingly, the study found that wage inequity between men and women is a significant issue.

The gap varies greatly depending on the type of employer, with women working in military and defense and government positions earning wages nearly equal to men. For the majority of respondents, however, the wage gap between the sexes varies from 34 percent in the company/corporation category to 26 percent at universities and colleges. Median salaries for women trail those of men in every geographical region, with the greatest gap in higher-income Asia, and the lowest in the Middle East.

The survey notes that the wide gaps are consistent with other surveys of workers in scientific fields, including Nature magazine's 2010 global study, which found that men's salaries were 18 to 40 percent higher than women's, depending on the country sampled.

median salary by gender and region

Arthurs noted that the data point up the need for the industry to look more closely at pay equity. "It is disappointing that such a forward-looking and innovative sector mimics the historical injustice in this," he said. "We hope to see more women quickly realize the leadership positions in the field that their work and capabilities deserve."

The survey found that median salaries — at $73,000 worldwide — were about the same as last year, although varying widely from region to region.

As in last year's survey, the highest median salaries are in North America and Oceania, and the lowest in Asia and Africa. Aerospace and semiconductor disciplines enjoy the highest median earnings, exceeding $100,000, and civil/environmental disciplines peg the lower end of the scale with a median of $35,896.

Salaries also differ widely by employer type. Within non-academic organizations, the range of median salaries is $62,861-$111,004. For academic organizations, the range is $21,537-$75,000.

"The stability evidenced by similarities in year-over-year results and the strong salary levels as compared to levels across all jobs reflect the strength of the optics and photonics sector and the high value that these jobs contribute to the economy," Arthurs said.

Specific job opportunities vary between regions, but the trends are positive.

"We hear from our academic members in many industrialized regions that their graduates often have several job offers awaiting them on graduation, and we hear from industry that some regions have trouble finding qualified new employees," he said. "So there clearly is opportunity in many areas for jobs that not only pay well but also yield quality-of-life satisfactions and the ability to make a difference."

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Aug 2012
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
aerospaceAmericasAsia-PacificBiophotonicsBusinessdefenseEugene ArthursEuropefiber opticsimagingindustrialindustry surveyinternational society for optics and photonicsjob opportunitiesjob satisfactionjob surveylasersmedian salaryMiddle Eastopticsoptics and photonicsphotonicssalary surveySPIETest & Measurementwage gap

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