Early Career Professional salaries in optics and photonics: How much do these young engineers and scientists earn?
Early Career Professional salaries in optics and photonics
Excitement and curiosity inspire research and innovation from Early Career Professionals (ECPs) in optical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, and other light-focused fields. The average salary for ECPs was $74,702 worldwide in 2021, while the median was $55,523. This table, and all other data on this page, come from the 2022 Optics and Photonics Salary Report.
|25th Percentile||Median||75th Percentile|
|2021 salaries, N=643|
What sectors do ECPs work in, and how much are they paid?
Almost half of ECPs work at for-profit companies, where their median salaries are highest compared to other types of organizations. Government/military ECPs earn more than their academic counterparts, but represent the smallest segment or workers.
|Type of Organization||Percentage of Workers||Median Salary|
What types of roles are ECPs filling and how much are they paid?
Applied research and engineering/design are the most popular roles for ECPs, with the engineering/design group receiving the highest median salary at $75,000. Basic researchers/scientists account for 17% of Early Career Professionals and are paid a median salary of $53,000. ECPs entering the university or education sectors are paid the least, with a median salary of $45,600.
|Job Role||Percentage of Workers||Median Salary|
|Engineering or design||26%||$75,000|
|Basic research or science||17%||$53,000|
|Application or product development||8%||$54,206|
|College professor, teacher, or other educator||7%||$45,600|
|Technical or lab||6%||$47,430|
|Production, manufacturing, or quality assurance||5%||$50,253|
|Project or program management||3%||$70,016|
How did ECPs find their current jobs?
ECPs found their current positions primarily through personal networking or online job advertisements.
|How the job was found||Percentage of Workers|
|Networking or referral through personal contact||35%|
|Online job advertisement||30%|
|They were recruited||16%|
|They contacted the employer directly (no job was advertised)||11%|
|University career office||5%|
Are there gender differences in representation and pay?
Women represent a minority of ECPs, but their median earnings are two percent higher than their male counterparts. ECPs who prefer to self-describe their gender make up only one percent of respondents, but earn the highest median salary.
|Gender||Percentage of Workers||Median Salary|
|Prefer to self-describe||1%||$120,000|
Which countries have the highest ECP salaries in optics and photonics?
Early Career Professionals in the United States, Germany, and Canada earn the highest median salaries.
|Peoples Republic of China||$37,710|
What are the most popular engineering degrees for ECPs?
More than two-thirds of ECPs are engineers (68%). These engineers are trained in a variety of specialties, including:
|Engineering Degree||Median Salary||Percentage of Workers|
What inspired ECPs to pursue careers in optics and photonics?
Early career professionals cite a variety of inspirations for their careers studying and applying light, including mentors, the opportunities of a growing field, and scientific curiosity about light.
|Inspiration||Percentage of Workers|
|Professors, teachers, or mentors||25%|
|The opportunities, excitement, and challenges presented by a growing field||24%|
|Scientific curiosity about light||20%|
|A course at university||16%|
|Interest in solving particular problems with light||13%|
|A course at secondary school||2%|
For more information on optics and photonics salaries, plus details on methods and sampling, visit the 2022 SPIE Optics and Photonics Salary Report.
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