Uncertainty chills decision making

Salaries Show 5 Percent Increase

In the face of laggardly oil and gas prices over the past year, salaries for petroleum geologists rose 5 percent overall in 2009-10 – about double from the previous year’s increase, according to the annual AAPG Salary Survey.

Mike Ayling
Mike Ayling

If there were a contest to describe the 2009 upstream oil industry in one word, “uncertainty” would certainly be in the top 10 – and this created hesitancy in the human resource departments, according to Mike Ayling, of MLA Resources of Tulsa.

The uncertainty had a dampening effect on pay raises and hiring plans, said Ayling, who has conducted the annual salary survey for AAPG since 1981.

“There was less job movement, fewer raises and lower bonus expectations as the year progressed,” Ayling said. “Most everyone remains very conservative in their staffing decisions.”

2009 Geological Salary Survey
YEARS EXPER HIGH AVERAGE LOW
0-2 $ 99,800 $ 87,600 $ 70,000
3-5 153,900 105,600 68,000
6-9 147,000 121,700 91,000
10-14 160,700 123,500 102,500
15-19 211,500 150,000 96,000
20-24 270,400 180,000 96,500
25+ 600,000 186,800 100,000

The survey revealed that 0-2 and 3-5 year experience levels showed little change in salary ranges, but also that those groupings contain relatively few individuals, Ayling said. He also noted geologists with over 25 years experience reported an 8.8 percent salary increase, indicating a desire of the companies to hang on to proven explorationists.

There also have been limited manpower reductions with most trimming coming from the companies’ use of consultants, he said.

Ayling also detected the uncertainty is having a chilling effect on the mobility in the work force, with explorationists choosing to stay where they are.

“The seasoned workers are getting some good pay and are hesitant to leave,” Ayling said. “Meanwhile the younger workers are in the same boat – plus they are seeing the boss getting older and sensing their upward mobility chances are good without having to change companies to advance.”

All the while, companies are content not to make many more hires.

“There is a lot of pressure to get the job done with fewer people as hiring budgets are put on hold,” Ayling said.

2009 Average Salary By Degree
YEARS EXPER B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
0-2 $ 76,100 $ 93,200 $ 99,800
3-5 99,800 99,500 153,900
6-9 95,300 141,800 132,400
10-14 110,300 127,400 112,500
15-19 118,000 159,800 149,300
20-24 150,000 168,300 270,000
25+ 189,900 187,500 169,600

The annual salary survey is based on employed, salaried geoscientists and is based on salaries alone. It does not include bonuses, employee benefits, autos or other perquisites.

It does not attempt to include anyone whose compensation is in the form of consulting fees, retainers or overrides.

The survey also is based on U.S. salaries only, considered the “gold standard” for the industry. The measurement for international salaries for explorationists is virtually on a country-by-country, case-by-case basis, Ayling said, which makes statistical averaging non-productive beyond the boundaries of any specific country.

Ayling added that many ex-pats are paid U.S.-based salaries, while the national oil companies opt to pay compatriots on a different, lower scale.

As for the near-term, Ayling said, “We have yet to see the impact of several mergers or property sales that will close later this spring.

“I suspect that there will be only a modest fallout,” he added, “as companies redeploy workers, and a few senior staff will simply retire with their severance pay.”

YRS EXP 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
0-2 $ 64,000 $ 65,000 $ 65,600 $ 67,800 $ 74,400 $ 82,200 $ 82,800 $ 83,600 $ 87,600
3-5 67,500 71,200 67,700 75,600 81,300 89,600 107,800 108,000 105,600
6-9 74,500 78,300 75,700 78,800 95,400 98,500 121,100 118,400 121,700
10-14 95,000 96,600 91,900 107,500 114,400 111,500 119,800 121,900 123,500
15-19 99,400 102,500 102,500 116,000 119,600 141,000 151,600 139,400 150,800
20-24 111,600 113,900 118,100 112,800 139,000 155,000 167,400 176,800 180,300
25+ 124,000 126,900 125,100 128,300 134,100 149,900 162,800 171,700 186,800

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