Cutting Tool Engineering
August 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 8

2012 Salary Survey

By Alan Richter, Editor

CTE’s 2012 Salary Survey reveals how much various metalworking professionals are making.

U.S. manufacturing has been on a roller coaster ride over the past 4 years—going way down during the Great Recession, rising and then recently dipping again. Some sectors have rebounded nicely while others have struggled. Salaries in the metalworking industry reflect that scenario.

Some metalworkers have seen salaries rise, others have seen them drop. But nearly everyone has seen benefits decline, perhaps reflecting companies’ desire to control costs in an uncertain business environment, according to Cutting Tool Engineering’s Seventh Biennial Salary Survey.

The top moneymakers, as usual, are corporate managers. They averaged $102,563, which is down $12,877, or 11.2 percent, from 2010. Other positions that registered a decline are plant management and engineering supervisor—the second and third highest paid positions, respectively. Plant management’s pay dropped $3,685, or 4.7 percent, to $74,281 on average, and earnings for engineering supervisors dipped $676, or 0.9 percent, to $72,880.

Design engineers were the biggest gainers, increasing $6,287, or 11.2 percent, from 2010 to make $62,568 on average in 2012. Manual machinists received the smallest increase. Their pay went up $697, or 1.8 percent, to $38,294.

The benefits’ picture is a different story. Basically, all positions saw an across-the-board reduction in benefits: health insurance, dental insurance, profit sharing/401(k), paid training/continuing education and use of a company car.

As the cost of health insurance continues to spiral upward into the stratosphere, only the majority for two positions receives that benefit: CNC machinist at 56.1 percent (down from 71.6 percent in 2010) and corporate management at 63.0 percent (down from 79.3 percent). In 2010, most positions topped 50 percent for health insurance.

For dental insurance, the majority for only one position—corporate management at 58.2 percent—receives it when the majority for most positions received that insurance as a benefit in 2010. However, 26.7 percent more corporate managers had their teeth covered in 2010.

Even as metalcutting equipment and software continues to advance technologically, less than 50 percent in all positions receive paid training/continuing education. CNC machinists have the highest percentage for this benefit in 2012 at 42.3 percent—down from 71.3 percent in 2010. Most programmers, shop supervisors, plant managers and corporate managers also used to receive paid training, according to the previous survey.

Similar to the 2010 survey, CTE used e-mail to collect survey data from owners and managers of parts manufacturing companies who subscribe to the magazine. The e-mail directed them to a Web-based survey that requested average annual salaries and benefits for themselves and their employees.

CTE sent 9,963 e-mails, which didn’t ask participants to identify themselves in the survey unless they wanted to enter a drawing for an incentive prize. We received 189 completed responses.

The average salary was calculated according to the arithmetic mean. For example, if four recipients indicated their programmers earn average annual salaries, even when receiving an hourly wage, of $46,000, $59,000, $51,000 and $53,000, the mean would equal $52,250.

The benefit percentages were calculated by dividing the total number of positive replies for a specific benefit by the total number of respondents. CTE

Special thanks to Dennis Spaeth, electronic media editor, for survey coordination.

Key: MM=Manual Machinist, CNC=CNC Machinist, P=Programmer, TD=Tool & Die Maker, TME=Tool/Manufacturing Engineer, DE=Design Engineer, PE=Project Engineer, SS=Shop Supervisor, ES=Engineering Supervisor, PM=Plant Management and CM=Corporate Management.


Maintaining the title they gained in 2010, corporate managers in the South make the most compared to other regions, earning $131,497 on average in 2012. That’s an increase of $1,695, or 1.3 percent. A corporate manager in the Midwest earns the least vs. that position in other regions, at $94,483.


Corporate managers saw the biggest percentage decrease in salary based on the national average. With an average salary of $102,563, they earn 11.2 percent, or $12,877, less than 2 years ago. That position at companies with more than 100 employees registered a decrease in pay of $16,870, or 10.0 percent.


Being a manual machinist at a company with more than 100 employees continues to be a more lucrative position, paying $47,083 on average, than one at a smaller company. A manual machinist at a company with 20 to 99 employees earns $39,077, and one at a company with one to 19 employees receives $37,253.


Corporate managers at "other " manufacturing facilities that don’t qualify as a job shop, supplier of metalworking products, tool, mold and die shop or general manufacturer make the most when evaluating company type, averaging $125,562. However, manual machinists at those companies earn the least.


Most corporate managers (59.3 percent) continue to receive a company vehicle as a benefit. The second highest percentage is 15.9 percent for plant managers. All other percentages are in the single digits, with only 0.5 percent of tool and die makers receiving the perk of a company vehicle.

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