There is that photo going around that is a screenshot of two different salaries, job offers placed side by side for comparison: that of a call center representative and of a civil engineer.
Both offer full-time work, presumably even without experience, but the salary disparity is clear: if you work for a BPO company, the salary range is between P 26,000 and P 37,000; but if you get a job as a civil engineer, you’ll get around P 14,000 to P 16,000 per month.
So I had to check with The Department of Labor and Employment if this is fair at all. According to the 2011 data in the Bureau of Local Employment website, it recorded that locally, a Civil Engineer receives a monthly salary ranging from P17,000-P25,000 depending on the type of employer.
No lies there: this is the reality of the civil engineering profession.
Personally, when I was hired as a newly licensed civil engineer by a huge company for a mall project in Iloilo City way back in 2015, I was offered P 14,000 gross monthly salary. I grabbed it for the sake of acquiring work experience.
It appears that this has not changed so much despite the inflation, and you’ll see across job hiring platforms that construction companies are lowballing fresh graduates or newly-licensed civil engineers in terms of salary. Proof of this is the job posting mentioned above.
All of this is not to belittle or downgrade the work of call center representatives, but to make a comparison about how other opportunities are more attractive salary-wise for engineering graduates. In fact, we take pride that the Philippines is the global outsourcing powerhouse in the world, generating revenues of $26.7 billion in 2020 alone. We have highly-skilled agents.
While we cannot say the same for civil engineers, it is still worthy to raise the concern that Filipino civil engineers deserve higher salaries. We have to dignify the profession by getting better compensation given that passing the civil engineering licensure exam, on top of completing a five-year bachelor’s degree, is no easy task.
Now, what can we do about it?
Since the problem is in the companies offering civil engineering work, our call is for the professional organization of civil engineers, or the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) to institutionalize salary standards that is fair to those practicing the profession. This will require the help of lawmakers who support the civil engineering practice in the country.
Another is to demand higher salaries in companies we apply for, or look for those who offer better opportunities with good benefits. If no one will fill in those job vacancies, companies will be forced to adjust the pay to attract talent.
Others have given up on this quest and find the easy way out: go abroad to look for better-paying jobs. We can’t really blame them if this is the best option to take; but for the rest of us who believe that the civil engineering profession can still be improved here, well, we can only hope for the best.