Job market unshaken by volatility

Salaries Show Slight Increases

Mike Ayling
Mike Ayling

While the last year saw peaks and valleys for energy prices, salaries for petroleum geologists were relatively steady with some increase, according to the 2008-09 annual AAPG Salary Survey.

An overall weighted average pay increase of 2.04 percent was charted in 2008-09. The three previous annual salary surveys totaled a whopping 35 percent pay increase.

It took a drop in oil price from $145 to $50 last year to slow the pay train.

“The volatility and uncertainty of petroleum prices had a dampening effect on salaries,” said Mike Ayling, of MLA Resources in Tulsa, who has conducted theannual salary survey for AAPG since 1981.

2008-09 Geological Salary Survey
YEARS EXPER HIGH AVERAGE LOW
0-2 $95,000 $83,600 $58,000
3-5 147,000 108,000 75,000
6-9 153,000 118,400 90,000
10-14 155,000 121,900 100,000
15-19 185,000 139,400 118,000
20-24 260,000 176,800 138,000
25+ 250,000 171,700 105,000

Despite the quick fall, Ayling said the job market has not destabilized.

“Limited layoffs have occurred – largely in cutting consulting help,” he said. “There was less job movement, fewer raises and lower bonus expectations as the year progressed.”

The 0-2 and 3-5 year experience levels showed little change, but those categories contain relatively few individuals, Ayling said. He also noted that in 2008-09, over 46 percent of the salaries that were reported represent geoscientists with over 20 years experience.

Mid-experience salaries had a more normal progression than last year, while 20-plus year salaries showed a modest 5.4 percent increase, Ayling said.

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.

2008-09 Average Salary By Degree
YEARS EXPER B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
0-2 $73,000 $88,800 $95,000
3-5 88,300 112,000 147,000
6-9 90,000 141,400 105,000
10-14 102,500 122,900 155,000
15-19 124,300 166,500 134,900
20-24 147,500 172,300 215,000
25+ 162,300 179,000 150,000

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

The purpose of the survey is to provide a yardstick for those interested in assessing their compensation, and Ayling strongly feels that compensation is often a secondary consideration when evaluating overall job satisfaction.

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 job market, Ayling said, “Most everyone remains very conservative in their staffing decisions. I think that’s what we can expect until there is some price recovery – especially gas.”

Historical Average Salary
YRS EXP 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
0-2 $59,700 $64,000 $65,000 $65,600 $67,800 $74,400 $82,200 $82,800 $83,600
3-5 66,000 67,500 71,200 67,700 75,600 81,300 89,600 107,800 108,000
6-9 74,200 74,500 78,300 75,700 78,800 95,400 98,500 121,100 118,400
10-14 89,400 95,000 96,600 91,900 107,500 114,400 111,500 119,800 121,900
15-19 100,600 99,400 102,500 102,500 116,000 119,600 141,000 151,600 139,400
20-24 111,700 111,600 113,900 118,100 112,800 139,000 155,000 167,400 176,800
25+ 117,300 124,000 126,900 125,100 128,300 134,100 149,900 162,800 171,700

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