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The US Photonics Job Market

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Salaries Slowly Rising, but Job Satisfaction Growing

Research on people’s views of their job brings out some interesting perceptions, and this year’s US photonics job salary study is no different. After several years of small gains in salary for most positions, you would expect individuals to be looking for large raises to increase their job satisfaction. This was not the case this year.

Although the gain in salaries was a modest 2 percent from 2004, job satisfaction rose from 72 percent to 82 percent in 2005. What makes an intriguing counterpoint is that 64 percent of the respondents stated that the No. 1 criterion for a better job is more money. So one can infer that people like their jobs and that, tied to the fact that 76 percent of them are not looking for another position, the photonics industry is a place where overall job satisfaction remains high.

Further evidence of this is brought out by some of the open-ended questions we asked our readers. Only 14 percent of them provided reasons they were not satisfied by their jobs, while 63 percent were willing to talk about the toughest problem they encounter working in the photonics industry. Maybe one of the toughest problems is the reason people stay: Keeping up with new technology was listed time and again, but being challenged by this technology is what is keeping their interest.

There are some areas of concern for the future of photonics. As many of our readers know, there have been many discussions about the need for our industry to attract new talent. The average age of the respondents went from 49 last year to 52 this year. When the industry is growing, you would expect the age to be dropping rather than increasing.

This lack of new people is further reflected by the increase in the number of years spent working in the photonics industry and with the current employer.

The industry does not show a lot of movement, based on the fact that the median number of times that someone was contacted by a recruiter was 0 (with the average being 1.8). This was true for both the eastern and western regions of the US. Those respondents with less experience in photonics — six to 10 years — showed the highest number of contacts by a recruiter, with a median of two times in the past year.

What makes all this interesting is that companies have open positions that remain unfilled. When asked why, they say that they cannot find people with the necessary skills.

As we have stated before, if the industry doesn’t have the people it needs to help it continue and grow, the problem becomes one that we all need to help solve.


Photonics Spectra
Jul 2005
Featuresphotonics industry

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