Technical Managers: Well-paid and Worried


Laboratory, R&D and technical managers who work for U.S. lubricant manufacturing companies say they earn as much as $175,000 a year — and as little as $30,000. The average compensation for these key industry employees is $91,000, according to the 2004 Lubricants Industry Salary Survey conducted by Lubes’n’Greases magazine.

This is only 5.8 percent higher than the reported average of $86,000 in 2002, the last time the magazine conducted its biennial survey. Comparing the results of the 2004 survey of technical managers’ salaries with the first survey in 2000 shows even wider change; average salaries that year were reported at $76,000.

In the intervening years, the average technical manager’s profile also shifted. As in prior years, all the technical managers responding to the survey work for companies that manufacture lubricants. But today’s respondent is older (an average age of 48 in 2004 vs. 45 in 2000); has more experience (22 years vs. 17); has been with the same employer longer (13 years vs. 11); and supervises twice as many people (7 vs. 3.5).

Comparing salaries by company size underscored an interesting pattern: As one would expect compensation is lowest, averaging just $67,250, in the smallest companies, with 10 or fewer employees. But modest-size lube companies with just 51 to 100 employees pay $92,083 per year — better than companies up to five times that size. Only at companies with more than 500 employees do technical managers earn more (an average of $113,386) than their peers at lube companies in the 51-to-100-employee category.

Other findings of the 2004 Survey, to be reported in the December issue of Lubes’n’Greases:

Predictably, the more people supervised, the higher the managers’ salaries. For technical managers supervising five or fewer, salaries average $81,238. Supervisors of six to 12 average $104,075, and supervisors of more than 12 average $122,384.

Geographically, the Southwest reported the fattest paychecks this year. Technical managers there averaged $126,250, followed by the Northeast at $101,452. In other U.S. regions, salaries averaged $80,000 to $86,000.

Only 68 percent of the respondents to the current survey said they received a raise in the last 12 months, compared with 88 percent four years ago. And just 21 percent expect profit sharing this year, down from 27 percent in 2000.

Lubes’n’Greases also spoke to senior technical managers in the U.S. lubricants industry, asking them to describe today’s job market in their field. Many answers were quite bleak. One R&D executive, who declined to be identified, said the industry’s prospects are so poor he would strongly discourage his own son from entering it today. Others pointed to trends such as fewer jobs, senior people being laid off, and declining investment in research and development.

More optimistic words were also heard. “The total number of jobs has shrunk because of mergers and acquisitions,” pointed out Michael McHenry of Anderol in East Hanover, N.J., “but it’s looking a little better now. There is some growing demand for more experienced people, but companies are also using more contract employees for temporary and short-term projects.”

“The job market is very competitive, and for the near term it’s limited,” said Jon Rummel, with Citgo in Tulsa; that’s a plus for any company that might be hiring, he added.

Technical managers in the lubricants industry are not alone in experiencing job market erosion. According to the American Chemical Society’s 2004 annual survey of over 10,000 of its U.S. members’ salaries and employment status, 3.6 percent were unemployed as of March 1 of this year (a record high) and an all-time low of 90.9 percent had full-time jobs. (The others were employed part-time or on fellowships.)

The median base salary for all ACS-member chemists working in industry was $88,000 — identical to the median for technical managers in the lube industry.

“In the 1990s, if you were a chemist and possessed a skill set such as metalworking fluids formulation, it was common to find a new job opportunity in a matter of several weeks or months,” said Ken Pelczarski of Pelichem Associates, Downers Grove, Ill., a professional recruiter who specializes in the lubricants and metalworking fluid industries. “Since 2001, that same skill set remains highly valued, but you may still be looking for that new job opportunity six months, a year or even further down the road.

“In fact,” he added, “the average length of unemployment in 2003 was over 20 weeks, which is the longest period in 20 years. The outlook is becoming much brighter today.”

This is the fourth time Lubes’n’Greases has directly surveyed key lubricant industry personnel about their compensation. Other executives surveyed includeplant managers and sales and marketing managers at both lubricant manufacturers and lubricant distributors. The complete 2004 Lubricants Industry Salary Report is available for U.S. $75 per copy. For more information or to order, visit

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