SEG’s 2008 Membership Compensation Survey
Dean Clark, Editor, The Leading Edge
Table 1. Compensation by current employer
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 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.
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.
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.
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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.
Table 2. Compensation by current job location
Table 3. Compensation by age group
Table 4. Compensation by gender
Table 5. Compensation by highest degree
Table 6. Correlation between years of general work experience and various compensation measures
Table 7. Correlation between years of geophysics-related work experience and various compensation measures
Table 8. Compensation by focus area in applied geophysics
Table 9. Compensation by focus area in applied geophysics