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Mobikade

Structural Engineer (EIT) Salary

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Hello all,

I am currently a new graduate from University of California, San Diego with a degree in BS Structural Engineering. I have been interning at a mid-size structural design firm for about 2 months now in the Bay Area. Palo Alto to be exact. My starting hourly wage was only 15 dollars an hr. And now that I have interned for two months, the principal is offering me a full time position with a wage of 18 an hr.

Now...I know am inexperienced with the exception of my intern experience here. However, from my ask around from my friends and colleagues, I know i should be aiming for around 55k-60k. This offer is no where near that. 15 an hr was fine for interning cause I just want experience. 

Is my salary expectation skewed? Should I take this offer (it is at will)? Maybe I should take the offer, get some experience and then leave in like a couple of months? With the exception of the salary, I love this job. I get to work on a variety of projects, i like my coworkers and the hours are reasonable. Please advise...I am so green haha. Thanks everybody :) 

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That does seem pretty low, although I'm not too familiar with San Diego.  Isn't that a high cost of living area?

When I started out my career back in 2004 in NYC, I was making a little over $50K a year, so I would think that number would be higher 11 years later.  I started as an HVAC designer though, so I don't know how that compares to structural.  

Do you have any other job prospects?  If you do, you can see what others are paying.  You could also try negotiating with your current company to see if you can push that number higher.  Be ready to show him back-up from a salary website or similar though.

Good luck!

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We pay kids right out of school with zilch experience around $50k (transpo-water-structural-etc)

In 98 when i graduated i got $30k and was told by my new boss that that "was an outrageous salary" lol... Sad but true..

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30k was decent back then

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55k is about right for the bay area for a green engineer.

I say take it.

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$18/hr is low for a design-oriented structural engineer in the bay area. (That said, if you're going to be functioning primarily as a drafter or in a less technical role while you get your feet wet right out of school, it's not as unreasonable).

Whether you should take it depends on a few things. Is there growth potential at this company? (You probably don't want to be at $40k forever). Do you enjoy the work? (Sounds like you do -- don't underestimate the value of this). Is it sustainable with your personal finances? (How much is your rent going to eat up -- and can you get roommates? How much student debt will you have knocking on your door in a few months?). Do you have other offers, or the potential of other offers? (As you say, a year or so working in a low paying role and gathering experience is better than a year with low pay bussing tables).

Since you like the work and coworkers, if there is growth potential, and if you can sustain it financially, I'd take this offer. Ride it out for a year and see where it goes. If nothing else, you'll be amazed at the growth curve in your first year out of school -- and other employers will recognize that if you do decide to move on.

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Depending on the OPs options, there is the potential to try and negotiate for more money. Might as well start learning this aspect of the business now. If they're not going to be willing to give you more then it may be time to move on.

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It should also be noted that the OP is a recent undergrad structural engineer.  More and more structural firms are requiring a MS even for entry-level SE positions.  Further the SE in CA has greater requirements than a lot of the states.  Based on that, a starting salary of $50-55k may be optimistic, but <$40k is low.  Something in the $45k range is probably reasonable.

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I am living in the Bay Area as well, and I know most small structural firmS doing residential design pay new graduated 18 per  hour. I KNOW A LOT.  Some small firm will to pay 50k per year for no experience engineer, but IT IS HARD TO FIND.  If you are living in the Bay Area, you should know IT IS HARD to find a Civil Engineering job,

 

Edited by JunZ

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On 11/11/2015, 9:31:54, Mobikade said:

Hello all,

I am currently a new graduate from University of California, San Diego with a degree in BS Structural Engineering. I have been interning at a mid-size structural design firm for about 2 months now in the Bay Area. Palo Alto to be exact. My starting hourly wage was only 15 dollars an hr. And now that I have interned for two months, the principal is offering me a full time position with a wage of 18 an hr.

Now...I know am inexperienced with the exception of my intern experience here. However, from my ask around from my friends and colleagues, I know i should be aiming for around 55k-60k. This offer is no where near that. 15 an hr was fine for interning cause I just want experience. 

Is my salary expectation skewed? Should I take this offer (it is at will)? Maybe I should take the offer, get some experience and then leave in like a couple of months? With the exception of the salary, I love this job. I get to work on a variety of projects, i like my coworkers and the hours are reasonable. Please advise...I am so green haha. Thanks everybody :) 

Sorry I am late to this party but do you have any update on this? Just curious.

By the way, imho, $18/hr seems way too low even for entry level. Is the firm doing bridges or buildings?

This is not exact science but even salary.com (http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Structural-Engineer-I-Salary-Details-Palo-Alto-CA.aspx) says that's below the 10 percentile.

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On 1/19/2016 at 7:30 AM, Andy Lin said:

Sorry I am late to this party but do you have any update on this? Just curious.

By the way, imho, $18/hr seems way too low even for entry level. Is the firm doing bridges or buildings?

This is not exact science but even salary.com (http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Structural-Engineer-I-Salary-Details-Palo-Alto-CA.aspx) says that's below the 10 percentile.

Hey! Original poster here. The firm is doing buildings, but we do pick up a few unique non-building projects every now and then. I have helped out on some 5-6 stories residential buildings in the Bay Area along with some small suburban residential houses.

I am still making 18/hr right now by the way haha. I do not have a big enough network to really know what my pay should be. All I can tell from all these salary websites that yes I am very underpaid. Can't help it though. Despite the low pay, I feel like I am learning alot here. IT would just be nice to learn the same amount and get paid fairly. Maybe I am asking for too much?

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6 hours ago, Mobikade said:

Hey! Original poster here. The firm is doing buildings, but we do pick up a few unique non-building projects every now and then. I have helped out on some 5-6 stories residential buildings in the Bay Area along with some small suburban residential houses.

I am still making 18/hr right now by the way haha. I do not have a big enough network to really know what my pay should be. All I can tell from all these salary websites that yes I am very underpaid. Can't help it though. Despite the low pay, I feel like I am learning alot here. IT would just be nice to learn the same amount and get paid fairly. Maybe I am asking for too much?

18/per is very low. You should be getting at least $20-25/hour, especially high living cost area like Bay area. If you don't have any other offer/choice, (if i were you), I would keep on working while looking for better pay jobs. Trust me, once you got 6 months plus experience, you will be a high demand entry level engineer and easily make 55k+ /year.

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I assume you've taken and passed the FE? Title says that but you didn't mention in your OP.

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On 2/12/2016 at 4:30 PM, ayanhein said:

18/per is very low. You should be getting at least $20-25/hour, especially high living cost area like Bay area. If you don't have any other offer/choice, (if i were you), I would keep on working while looking for better pay jobs. Trust me, once you got 6 months plus experience, you will be a high demand entry level engineer and easily make 55k+ /year.

Thanks for the advice there! I am about 6 months into my job. I am probably going to wait till the end of June before making any job changes due to the annual performance review. But I agree with you, I have learned so much here that I am pretty confident I can get at least 55k and find a job pretty easily compared to most candidates in my position, especially in the Bay Area. 

On 2/12/2016 at 8:55 PM, W9TWJ said:

I assume you've taken and passed the FE? Title says that but you didn't mention in your OP.

Yes I passed the FE back when I was a senior in undergrad.

If anybody else have any more advice or comments, please feel free to shout it out. I know some of my peers are asking the same thing as well and it will help all those greenies out there if they google this haha. Thanks!

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The first legitimate job offer I got out of school (with a MSCE Structural) was for about $55k in the Seattle area. That was in 2011 after having worked at a couple mom and pop places making $20/hr. I would expect at least $55k in the Bay Area because cost-of-living is so insanely high, and your firm should account for that. Sticking with a place for a few months to gain experience is always a good idea (shows loyalty and persistence), but you're also free to look around to other firms to see what they might offer. If your company likes having you, they ought to prove it monetarily.

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On 3/3/2016 at 8:55 AM, thekzieg PE said:

The first legitimate job offer I got out of school (with a MSCE Structural) was for about $55k in the Seattle area. That was in 2011 after having worked at a couple mom and pop places making $20/hr. I would expect at least $55k in the Bay Area because cost-of-living is so insanely high, and your firm should account for that. Sticking with a place for a few months to gain experience is always a good idea (shows loyalty and persistence), but you're also free to look around to other firms to see what they might offer. If your company likes having you, they ought to prove it monetarily.

You make a very good point and I agree completely. My plan as of now is to stick around till performance reviews in a couple of months and maybe, till I reach a full year before looking to go elsewhere. I just need to learn how to negotiate a bit better, a skill that all new graduates should probably learn as well haha.

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I'd say very low. I walked out of school in 2011 with an MSCE and had an offer in the $55k-$60k range in Alabama, which I'd guess has much lower cost of living than California. This was for an industrial firm though, which I believe has higher rates than commercial.

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the smaller the firm the less they are going to pay you.  If you have not been able to find a better (paying) job, experience always counts so do a year and then start looking around would be my advice.

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Have you checked Glassdoor and the likes for salaries that other people have reported and their experience level? You might even find that company. 

I personally have a problem with companies that give low ball offers so I usually don't bother. But they might have to. That's mostly the case for government/state agencies though. In any event, if you like the job and had a positive interview experience, do some research and counter their offer with what market expectations are. If they say no, then at least you got the experience of going through that process and can get to the 1-year mark. You can also keep applying.

With a B.S. in Civil without work experience I was getting a bit less than $19/hr back in 2005 in MA and I know I was low balled even back then but I needed the experience. 

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The consensus says you're underpaid, and may be so...but don't undervalue the fact that you love your job, your co-workers, cool projects, etc...may be worth it to let things pan out a year or 2. Especially if you are able to work directly under/with a respected senior engineer...that kind of experience is priceless.

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Definitely underpaid.  I started out doing structural design with no experience right out of school at $50k in the Atlanta area.  That hourly rate is $37,500 per year in an area with a stupid high cost of living.  Take it if you have no other options, but this guy has got to know that you have one foot out the door already.  If he doesn't, he's a terrible businessman. 

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