SEG’s 2008 Membership Compensation Survey

Dean Clark, Editor, The Leading Edge

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay
increase

Large independent O&G156 41695 646249 5948.1
Small independent O&G160 94694 428247 3227.2
Major oil & gas150 02050 291199 3278.2
Minerals/mining163 33329 167192 50012.5
Other138 58854 750186 8974.9
Consulting firm128 27864 457184 2226.7
Service company117 06553 172168 6376.6
Software/hardware111 45842 045150 0006.2
National oil company113 96329 145140 9767.1
Government96 25019 655114 0632.6
University or college87 27019 052105 3853.5
Engineering72 94427 778100 7222.3
Research organization76 30623 90697 5569.2
Environmental81 250750088 7501.5
Total124 71148 299169 9706.325

Table 1. Compensation by current employer

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SEG members in 12 employment categories received an annual total compensation exceeding US$100,000, according to the Membership Compensation Survey conducted by the University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory from 12 May 2008 to 15 August 2008 (Table 1).

This article summarizes some results and reprints nine tables from the complete report, which was submitted on 5 September 2008. The complete report is available exclusively to SEG Corporate Members.

This is the sixth salary survey, and the first conducted by the University of Oklahoma, that SEG has authorized since 1998. Articles summarizing the earlier surveys, conducted by Anderson Marketing Services and the Bureau for Social Research at Oklahoma State University, appeared in The Leading Edge (TLE) in September 1998, November 1999, October 2002, December 2004, and May 2007. Data in the most recent survey, to some degree, were collected prior the current worldwide economic downturn and the precipitous decline in the price of oil so these figures may not be representative of the present situation.

Survey design and response
The geographical diversity of SEG’s membership has changed dramatically since the early 1990s and, consequently, the parameters of the 2006 survey were altered to better reflect the new situation. Previous surveys were limited to members living in the United States and Canada.

The 2008 survey was essentially unchanged from the 2006 salary assessment. Demographic questions related to current employers, job location, age, gender, level of education and major area of study, work experience, area(s) of primary focus, and job functions. Questions directly concerning compensation focused on four areas: annual base salary, annual incentives or variable pay, expatriate pay, and percent increase in base salary over the previous 12 months.

Geco Eagle - back deck

At the time the 2008 survey was designed and implemented, SEG had approximately 29 178 members, about 18 292 were living outside the United States. The study used in the 2008 survey included 3500 members from throughout the United States and 4750 non-US members. This resulted in an original total sample of 8250, 42% within and 58% without the United States, which is representative of the diversity of the SEG membership at that time.

The actual final sample was 7072 due to a variety of factors: e-mail returned as undeliverable, “out of office” replies to each e-mail solicitation, potential respondents declining to participate, and participants deemed “ineligible” because they had been retired for an extended period. Ultimately, 1857 surveys were completed, resulting in an aggregate response rate of 26.3%.

Despite the effort to make the survey reflect the geographical diversity of the SEG membership, over half of the respondents (910) currently work in the United States. Approximately 12% currently work in Europe (213) and Asia (212). The next three geographic areas with the highest response were Africa (150), Latin America (99), and Canada (96). The Middle East was represented by 64 respondents and Australia by 51. One response was received from both Antarctica and New Zealand.

Nearly 21% (376) of the respondents are employed by a major oil and gas company. Almost 19% (335) of the respondents are employed by service companies. Large (170) and small (146) independent oil companies combined for another 17.6% of the respondents.

Approximately 58% of the respondents are between 40 and 64 years old. This was significantly higher than in the 2006 survey when this age group represented 50% of the total. About 23.5% are between 18 and 29, a figure essentially unchanged from 2006. Nearly 85% (1517) of the respondents are male.

I-O image, man with rsr box

Approximately 92% of the respondents had at least one college degree and another 7% indicated “some college, no degree.”

Respondents had an average of 20 years of work experience with an average of 17.3 years of it being geophysics-related. When students are excluded, the numbers increase to 21.3 and 18.6, respectively.

About 22% of the respondents have had only one employer in the field, and roughly 47% have worked for three or more companies. Interestingly, 9% of the respondents indicated they had never had a job “in geophysics.”

Nearly 87% of respondents listed oil and gas as their primary focus area within geophysics. Minerals/mining represented 3.2%, environmental 2.4%, engineering 1.4%, and “other” 6.1%. Interpretation (exploration) was the largest primary focus area within oil and gas with nearly 31% (366) of the respondents. Other oil and gas focus areas were processing 19% (226), interpretation (development and production) 12% (143), acquisition 7.3% (87), nonseismic 3.7% (44), and “other” 27.6% (330). The percentage for interpretation (oil and gas) was about 8% lower than in 2006, and the response for “other” was an intriguing 21% higher.

Compensation summary
All compensation measures are given in U.S. dollars. Responses that cited other currencies were omitted from the overall group calculations. However, this resulted in very few exclusions as data from 96% of respondents were deemed acceptable. The compensation figures were computed by using the midpoints of the intervals in the survey questionnaire. For example, a base salary of US$72 500 was used if the respondent indicated his or her salary was in the range US$70 000–US$74 999.

Related link: Professional development courses

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Tables 2–9 break down the compensation results by job location, age, gender, highest degree, work experience, geophysics-related experience, focus area in geophysics, and focus area in oil and gas.

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

USA142 88067 115206 3786.9
Middle East136 22655 366190 2746.4
Canada123 41768 707189 8336.6
Australia135 17643 750176 3538.7
Europe125 95443 671170 0396.8
Asia95 97337 612131 5857.4
Latin America97 41730 833126 5377.8
Africa92 78032 313124 3056.5
Antarctica
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 2. Compensation by current job location

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

50–54158 41971 654226 5846.7
55–59162 90965 491223 9095.7
60–64154 61369 961217 6766.1
45–49145 07773 511214 3106.9
65+128 56067 391190 5605.7
40–44132 47956 942187 4447.4
35–39106 17143 611148 6927.7
30–3495 02735 888128 9537.9
18–2451 50047 70895 5388.3
25–2966 72224 47190 4488.0
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 3. Compensation by age group

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

Male136 02961 671194 6806.9
Female111 80737 485146 7365.9
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 4. Compensation by gender

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

Bachelor's degree136 32172 132204 8366.7
Some college, no degree129 87876 447200 7328.9
Master's degree134 40058 779190 4427.2
Doctorate degree125 80639 571163 1166.5
Other125 33315 625139 2229.3
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 5. Compensation by highest degree

7: Years work experience by:

Correlation

Count

P-Value

95% Lower CI

95% Upper CI

15: Base salary.3691188< .0001.319.417
19: Variable/incentive pay.1711128< .0001.113.227
15+19: Total compensation.2991188< .0001.246.350
22: 12-month increase-.1171191< .0001-.173-.061

Table 6. Correlation between years of general work experience and various compensation measures

8: Years geophysics-related
work experience by:

Correlation


Count


P-Value


95% Lower CI


95% Upper CI


15: Base salary.3871187< .0001.338.434
19: Variable/incentive pay.1841127< .0001.127.240
15+19: Total compensation.3211187< .0001.269.371
22: 12-month increase-.0871190.0026-.143-.030

Table 7. Correlation between years of geophysics-related work experience and various compensation measures

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

Oil & gas138 31663 238198 4687.3
Mineral/mining109 70336 379142 6726.3
Engineering103 70031 447133 5755.0
Other81 65018 03898 4004.2
Environmental87 65010 17997 1503.1
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 8. Compensation by focus area in applied geophysics

 Average base salary
(in US dollars)
Average incentive/variable pay
(in US dollars)
Average total compensation
(in US dollars)
Average % pay increase

Interpretation—exploration153 80283 318232 9667.1
Seismic acquisition133 34181 524211 9888.3
Interpretation—development & production144 22846 357187 5627.5
Other125 61255 658178 4887.3
Seismic processing121 43839 341159 0936.6
Nonseismic methods116 41337 151151 1416.4
Total132 58658 292187 8646.9

Table 9. Compensation by focus area in applied geophysics