Early career 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 in optical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, and other light-focused fields. The average salary for early career professionals was $62,244 worldwide in 2022, while the median was $54,198. This table, and all other data on this page, come from the 2023 Optics and Photonics Salary Report.
|25th Percentile||Median||75th Percentile|
|2022 salaries, N=1020|
What sectors do early career professionals work in, and how much are they paid?
Almost half of early career professionals work at for-profit companies, where their median salaries are highest compared to other types of organizations. Government/military early career professionals 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 early career professionals filling and how much are they paid?
Applied research and engineering/design are the most popular roles for early career professionals, with the engineering/design group receiving the highest median salary at $74,255. Basic researchers/scientists account for 15% or early career professionals and are paid a median salary of $51,518. ECPs entering the university or education sectors are paid the least, with a median salary of $38,621.
|Job Role||Percentage of Workers||Median Salary|
|Engineering or design||27%||$74,255|
|Basic research or science||15%||$51,518|
|Application or product development||7%||$74,563|
|College professor, teacher, or other educator||6%||$38,621|
|Technical or lab||5%||$45,588|
|Production, manufacturing, or quality assurance||4%||$61,781|
|Project or program management||2%||$63,220|
How did early career professionals 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|
|Online job advertisement||31%|
|Networking or referral through personal contact||30%|
|They were recruited||14%|
|They contacted the employer directly (no job was advertised)||9%|
|University career office||5%|
|In-person job fair||2%|
Are there gender differences in representation and pay?
Men represent a majority of early career professionals, with median earnings five percent higher than their female colleagues. Early career professional who prefer to self-describe their gender make up only one percent of respondents and earn three percent more than their male counterparts.
|Gender||Percentage of Workers||Median Salary|
|Prefer to self-describe||1%||$58,585|
Which countries have the highest early career professional salaries in optics and photonics?
Early career professionals in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands earn the highest median salaries.
|Peoples Republic of China||$29,216|
What are the most popular engineering degrees for ECPs?
More than two-thirds of early career professionals are engineers (68%). These engineers are trained in a variety of specialties, including:
|Engineering Degree||Median Salary||Percentage of Workers|
|Aerospace or Aeronautical||$43,825||3%|
What inspired early career professionals 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||26%|
|The opportunities, excitement, and challenges presented by a growing field||26%|
|Scientific curiosity about light||19%|
|A course at university||18%|
|Interest in solving particular problems with light||10%|
|A course at secondary school||2%|
For more information on optics and photonics salaries, plus details on methods and sampling, visit the 2023 SPIE Optics and Photonics Salary Report.
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