2010 US Ethanol Industry Salary Survey

Back by popular demand, EPM presents the results of its recently conducted salary survey of U.S. ethanol plant personnel.
By Erin Voegele | December 09, 2009
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It's been a few years, but EPM has once again conducted a salary survey of ethanol plant personnel in the U.S. To complete the survey, EPM editorial staff formulated a series of 26 questions designed to gather basic demographic data about the employee, as well as information related to the facility where the respondent is employed.

The survey was conducted exclusively online during the last two weeks of October and was distributed to more than 1,200 potential respondents. Nearly one-quarter of those who received an invitation participated in the survey. Respondents self-reported the data and, because EPM did not gather the data using random sampling techniques, results may not be representative of the ethanol industry as a whole. Rather, this salary survey was conducted to provide an interesting snapshot of the respondents' employment specifics at a single point in time.

Basic Demographic Data
Almost half (47 percent) of survey respondents reported being employed by ethanol facilities with annual production capacities of 40 MMgy to 59 MMgy, while 28 percent were employed by facilities that produce more than 100 MMgy.Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) have earned a four-year college degree, with an additional 23 percent reporting that they graduated from a two-year technical college.. This is fairly consistent with EPM's 2006 Salary Survey, in which 72 percent of respondents claimed to be college graduates.

The majority of survey respondents (76 percent) were men. However, the number of women working in the ethanol industry appears to have increased dramatically over the past three years. In 2006, only 15 percent of EPM's survey respondents were women. This year, 24 percent of the participants were female.

Approximately 60 percent of survey respondents reported that they held some sort of management position within their current company, and only 2 percent reported they currently work part-time.

Work Experience
The majority of survey participants told EPM they are relatively new employees at their current company, with 74 percent stating they have been with their current employer for only one to five years. Only 8 percent of respondents reported being employed by their current company for more than 10 years.

Only two respondents (less than 1 percent) reported having been laid off from their current position during the past 12 months. These figures may not be representative of the ethanol industry as whole, however, because survey invitations were primarily sent to work email addresses, rather than home addresses. Therefore, it is unlikely that workers who were laid off at the time of the survey participated. This is also true of those who may have lost their job due to a bankruptcy. Given the current state of the economy, it may be surprising that only 5 percent of respondents indicated they had been forced to take a pay cut during the past 12 months.

When responding to a question on work history, participants reported prior employment in a wide range of industries. The three most common answers were agricultural, industrial manufacturing and food and beverage industries. However, 79 percent of respondents claim to have gained the majority of their employment experience in the ethanol industry. This is a substantial increase over EPM's 2006 Salary Survey results, in which only 35 percent of respondents indicated they had obtained the majority of their work experience in the ethanol industry.

Salary, Benefits and Bonuses
Reported salaries ranged from less than $40,000 per year to more than $150,000 per year, with only 4 percent reporting an annual salary of more than $150,000 and 17 percent indicating that they earn less than $40,000 per year. The most often reported salary level was in the $60,000 to $75,000 per year range, which represented 22 percent of respondents. Other salary categories—$40,000 to $49,000; $50,000 to $59,000; $75,000 to $99,000 and $100,000 to $149,000 per year—were nearly evenly split, with 14 percent to 15 percent of respondents reporting each.

Given the financial hardships experienced by the ethanol industry recently, it was surprising that slightly more than half of the respondents reported receiving a monetary bonus during the past 12 months. Of the 55 percent of respondents who claimed they had received a bonus, 78 percent reported bonuses of less than $10,000. However, 3 percent reported receiving a bonus of more than $50,000. By comparison, EPM's 2006 Salary Survey showed that 63 percent of respondents claimed to receive a bonus in the prior year, with an average bonus of $17,300.

Of the 51 percent of respondents who received a raise in the past 12 months, only 18 percent reported that the raise was given due to a promotion and/or change in responsibility. Approximately 63 percent of those who received raises reported an income increase of less than 5 percent. Just under one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents said they are very satisfied with their total compensation package, and only 5 percent of respondents claimed to be very unsatisfied with their current compensation packages.

When comparing their salaries in the ethanol industry to what they believe others in the industrial sector earn, only 11 percent of EPM's salary respondents said they believe they are compensated better than average. Nearly half (47 percent) reported comparable salary levels. This is fairly consistent with EPM's 2006 Salary Survey, in which 59 percent of respondents said they felt they were compensated "about right" for what they do.

When asked about opportunities for advancement within their current facility, only 22 percent reported that these opportunities existed. This fell to 19 percent when asked if opportunities for advancement were found outside their current facility, but within their current company.

Although the past 12 months have proven to be a difficult time for the ethanol industry, results of EPM's Salary Survey seem to reveal some positive indications. Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed reported annual salaries of more than $50,000, which indicates that ethanol plants provide their local communities with well- paying jobs. In addition, ethanol companies seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to providing employee benefits. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only 71 percent of private industry workers had access to employer-provided health insurance in 2008, 99 percent of EPM's survey respondents indicated that they receive health insurance benefits. EP

Erin Voegele is an Ethanol Producer Magazine associate editor. Reach her at [email protected] or (701) 373-8040.