Salary breakdown by demographics
The ACS salary survey returned in 2019 after a 2-year hiatus. Survey responses from 2019 are from 5,121 ACS members in April and reflect the median salary for full-time US employees. Survey data from prior years reflect the median salary for full-time US employees who said their work specialty is chemistry.
West North Central
West South Central
East North Central
East South Central
In 2016, the American Chemical Society decided to revamp its popular salary survey.
Response rates had fallen from around 40% in the 1980s to 18%, consistent with national trends toward lower survey responses. Additionally, the society was concerned that the data collected—which are published in C&EN and power the ACS Salary Calculator—did not properly reflect the ACS community. Older members were more likely to respond than younger, more diverse members. (ACS publishes C&EN.)
“It was a little rigid and out of date,” says Frank Romano, chair of ACS’s Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs (CEPA), which oversees the survey.
So the society planned to switch from a once-a-year survey to a more continual and modular survey method. Every quarter it would send out a survey to a small, representative sample of ACS members. This change would allow ACS to ask questions about current topics of interest, such as elections or the economy, in addition to traditional salary-survey questions.
After several months of planning, ACS tried the modular method starting in 2017. Unfortunately, that survey had an even lower response rate—so low that analysts could not confidently use the data, says Steven Meyers, the director of membership for ACS.
No one is sure why the response rate was so low. It could be that the survey requests came from a vendor rather than directly from ACS, Romano says. Or it could be that members were not prepared for a survey at a different time of year.
After trying for a year, ACS decided to return to its traditional once-a-year survey technique. When relaunched in April 2019, around 7% of members responded to the survey, enough to ensure the data are reliable.
In addition, the society hired a survey statistician to determine whether the results reflect the larger ACS community, and this time, they did, Meyers says. Going forward, the society will continue to check that its data are statistically sound.
The confidence in the current data set allowed for the return of the salary data to C&EN and the return of the Salary Calculator, which should be available in November.
CEPA has heard from many members who are eager to get the most up-to-date information on salaries, CEPA member Eric Bruton says. The data “give us a better understanding of where our industry lies as a whole, and that is very valuable to people as we manage our careers,” he says.
In 2019 the society returned to basically the same questions it sent in 2016, but in the future it hopes to be able to gather more information while keeping the survey at a reasonable length. “That would show that ACS is just being current and really helping its members with information that they are looking for,” Romano says.