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## Situation Overview
Three years ago, I applied for an engineering support role while I was still studying. I must have done well because they promoted me to join the engineering team as an engineer. Since then, I have progressed from a junior engineer to a site engineer and now a project engineer. However, I have faced challenges in obtaining fair pay raises that align with my increased responsibilities. My employer insists that I complete my degree to receive a full pay raise, despite already being assigned tasks at the level of a project engineer when dealing with clients. Balancing work, family, and pursuing my degree has become a significant challenge, especially after welcoming two children during this time.

## Current Dilemma and Seeking Advice
Given my current circumstances as a 33-year-old male in Australia, with a wife and two young children, alongside owning a home with a mortgage and both my wife and I working, I am seeking guidance on how to navigate this complex situation. Despite reaching a salary of $105k through persistent efforts and countless extra meetings to advocate for fair compensation, I find myself at a crossroads in advancing my career while managing personal commitments.

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46 Comments

  • Majestic-Donut9916

    Finish your degree and find a better employer

  • FlintMontana

    Oh wow, he’s actually going to be a graduate with 5 years experience!

    But yes finish the degree and move employer

  • Fuck_Mrs_Robinson

    Seems very clear, you should finish your engineering degree to progress in your engineering career. Otherwise, you could try applying for similar jobs with your existing qualifications and experience and see how the market values them?

  • angryRDDTshareholder

    What state are you in? Queensland has very strict legislation around this. Outside of that fair work professional employees award outlines this as well.

    Untill you finish your degree you are not an engineer, but a student, and you need to be working entirely supervised under an engineer. In Queensland and a couple of more states, this engineer needs to be CPEng or RPEQ. you can not do any engineering work unsupervised. Once you graduate, this changes depending on your location

    Source – CPEng, working 15 years, head of engineering for a sme with locations across Australia

  • TinyCucumber3080

    Job titles on different projects don’t mean much. It’s more to appease the client that such a role exists. You won’t get paid like an engineer until you are a qualified engineer. That’s the norm.

  • Alone_Cash_8113

    Finish your degree, get a new Job

  • jerpear

    The lack of a degree puts a ceiling on your potential in the engineering field. My recommendation would be to focus on finishing the degree, and possibly do a PM diploma and that way, you can interview for your next role as a 5 year exp project engineer/pm.

    A lot of firms in consulting require a degree for the engineer title, and I’d strongly recommend finishing it to progress further.

    Site PM with a few years exp and qualifications will pretty much put you automatically on $130-150k, it’s a lot easier to do that than try to make your way back up as a grad in consulting starting back at $70k.

  • ize30

    Ahh the old “apprentice trying to get paid like a tradie”.

    Sit down lad and wait your turn

  • Curlyburlywhirly

    You won’t be paid as an engineer until you are qualified. ABSOLUTELY PRIORITISE finishing your degree- it will be painful for you and the family, but please walk through the pain and get it done.

  • Ideasfreetogoodhome

    Project Engineer here, finish the degree – then switch jobs.
    You need to be really careful with doing engineering work without the degree – yeah, project engineering isn’t full on engineering (speaking from experience, I do about an hour of real engineering a week) but as has been said, you should be supervised by a engineer at all times and can’t hold yourself out as an engineer, you must be working strictly to the prescriptive standards.

    You don’t need CPEng or RPEQ / NER, but you need a degree. Otherwise you are not an “engineer”

    Get the degree then switch jobs.
    Don’t sign anything as an engineer, make sure everyone knows you are not giving engineering advice.

  • Wow_youre_tall

    An engineering degree makes you an engineer

    Titles are meaningless.

    Get your degree

  • __Mr-Plenty

    Wtf do you expect us to say? The only answer is to finish your degree and then go find a better employer who will pay you more.

  • RepeatInPatient

    I might be overlooking something, but it’s not your employer’s problem that you have 2 kids and 2 incomes and the pressure of a mortgage. That’s not a valid reason for a payrise.

  • lewger

    Why should your employer believe you’re ever going to finish your degree? Three years dude.

  • Doctor1985Au

    What engineering discipline are you in?

  • cardiacman

    What type of engineering? Could any projects you’ve worked on be considered for recognition of prior learning by your Uni? Is switching unis to one with a more flexible delivery method (i.e online with night based timetable) an option?

  • Pickledleprechaun

    If you aren’t qualified yet who’s signing off on the jobs? Tell your boss you shouldn’t be a site engineer take a massive step back which should give you time to complete your cert. Two can play his game.

  • Automatic-Fall5525

    Sounds like fair compensation for your qualifications in that field honestly. Most graduate engineers make far less even working on site.

    The company is just doing a dodgy charging you out as a full engineer and that’s where the difference is.

    A fair bit of risk for you and the company doing such senior roles without the degree.

    If I were you I’d finish the degree, ask the company to verify your years of experience in your pay. And if that’s not good enough after a year try looking elsewhere but I’m not sure many companies would honour your undergrad experience

  • blackestofswans

    New job.

    Move on

  • PlateBackground3160

    Either finish your degree or find another job.

    Some companies care about that certificate, others don’t. You’ll never find out which if you don’t try applying.

  • wonderland1995

    Technically you’re not an engineer as per Engineers Australia. Your company shouldn’t be charging you out as a fully fledged engineer as well.

  • Separate-Ad-9916

    When I was doing my degree, there were mature-age students with kids and jobs. One of them used to get really angry at us. He said he goes home every night and locks himself in a room to study instead of spending time with his kids. Same thing on the weekend. Meanwhile, us ‘kids’ fresh out of high school were just goofing off, skipping lectures, hanging out in the uni bar all day.

    Of course, I never appreciated what he was saying until I had my own kids and did my MBA while working full-time. That was hard enough, there was no way I could have done an engineering degree like that.

    Having said that, yeah, finish your degree….then move on to get the pay you will then deserve,

  • Sydneypoopmanager

    I think if you searched project engineer on Seek – the first requirement would be – Engineering degree/science degree on every single listing. You wouldnt get your current role if you reapplied.

  • Useful-Palpitation10

    The curve for pay is slow when you’re a grad/under-grad. First company I was at (government), grad’s started at 70k and after 3 yrs in the grad program they would get a guaranteed 100k position.

    I don’t think anyone can answer your question to precisely, but I think there is a balancing act between getting what you’re worth vs. being patient, this depends on the market (in your area) and what other things you might be getting from your role. For example I once took a pay-cut and a demotion after a probation period in a role because it was still a really good learning opportunity and the culture at the company was good. The company then re-invested that money I lost into training me up, was worth it in the long run.

    In the early years take on as much learning as you can because thats when you’re building your foundation of knowledge, so don’t skimp and just pick the easiest/best paying job.

  • Crackercapital

    Mate, employers are a pay check, you sell them your time. Nothing more.

    Complete the degree – jump to another company

  • ozzydreamer

    My advice go get a job as a supervisor or if you know your stuff a superintendent.. if your working as A PE and know your shit, the degree is just a piece of paper.

    Reference im a PM with a bachelor of engineering technology degree ( ie not a fully qualified civil engineer)

    I get and have always been paid to industry standard for my role.

  • somethingsimple89535

    Unfortunately, That’s the industry. You don’t see graduate/ intern engineers with that in their title because they are billed as qualified engineers even though they cost half as much and take twice as long to do a task.

    You’ll need to finish your degree to work at larger companies because they typically need to provide the designers competencies to the clients (t1 and government contracts).

  • Banj86

    When I was studying I was working full time as an engineer. The gm said I was as useful to him as a qualified engineer and paid me as such.

    Smash that degree out and find a new job.

  • strayashrimp

    I know someone who was a carpenter working as a project engineer for John holland. Change employers

  • gonadnan

    It’s a hard slog for upward mobility if you stay at the same company and you’re not a suckhole.

    People will always remember your mistakes whereas you have to remind them of your accomplishments.

    It would be easier to get higher pay when you apply for higher level roles at different companies. Plus you can always fudge your CV to command a higher pay.

    Companies are in the business of making money. If they can pay you the same and get you doing more It’s all gravy for them.

  • sammyman341

    To jump on this thread a little bit, I’ve got Bach Mechanical Engineering, 2.5 years into the role at a design and construct business in Victoria.
    I’ve had to ask for a payrise each year because otherwise i had no indication it would be forthcoming.
    I’m currently on 73k p.a before tax (before super, HECS, etc). What should I be on?

  • Street_Buy4238

    But you’re not working as an “engineer”. You may call yourself that due to it not being a protected term, but you don’t have a degree, so you’re just not one.

    You can try to job hop, but effectively, until you have that piece of paper, you’re just unskilled labour.

  • breakdowner1

    The whole point of being an engineer is so you can sign off the designs. Just because you can do the work doesn’t mean much. The money in engineering comes from you being responsible for the designs.
    I’d recommend trying to get a job in Digital Engineering. No degree requirements and if you know how to use revit, navisworks and revizto you’ll be pushing 150 as a starting point

  • vidiclol

    We have 500,000 engineers coming here yearly from India.

    Just like housing as politicians say, it’s a supply issue.

    Don’t worry about any root causes of it.

  • BrokenHopelessFight

    Change jobs

  • mad_cheese_hattwe

    33 year old Principle Engineer here. Finish your degree and change employers. For 4 out 5 of my peers at uni, the biggest % pay bump they ever got was changing companies.

    Either

    A. Changing once they got enough experience they could really start adding value, a year or 2 in. (For me 67k to 95k)

    Or

    B. Once they had enough experience being truly self managing and self organising moving into senior or leadership positions maybe 4 to 6 years after A. ( For me 120k to 160k)

  • Zealousideal_Pace102

    Former PE in construction; are you in civil or construction?
    I assume your role is more coordination of design/programming to feed subcontractors and cw’s?
    If so, changing employers shouldn’t require completion of the degree but they may request that you prioritise it.
    In qld at least good PE’s are in serious high demand, so employers are more lenient/willing to compromise so long as reputation / experience/ references all add up.

  • SoloAquiParaHablar

    You jump ship sadly. I got in at a big bank in tech and thought this was it I’d made it, same scenario, over the year and half I was there responsibilities increased but given the old “oh uh, hhmm, let’s circle back” when asking for a relative salary increase. So I applied externally, got a $40k salary pump and a senior title, seeya. Thats when your manager will go “why didn’t you say anything!?”

  • SedateSteak

    Can you do your degree remote? Can you change uni and do it remote? It fits work/kids way better – watching recordings and doing uni work on your own schedule.

    I’m similar situation as you (demanding job, 2 kids under 5), doing a masters. Doing it remote is ‘easy’ in terms of difficulty but it is obviously still a timesink. However remote I can do the subject in an hour or two a week (including assignments etc) compared to what uni may demand if you’re attending in person.

    My wife is also working full time and started a PhD. It’s hard but workable and will all be over soon…

    Then move employer if they don’t immediately come to the table, but you need to show the commitment first. Talk about how you are doing it/about to finish once you are back there to lay the groundwork for them to be ready. Ensure they are aware of your expectations once you are finished. Lay the groundwork in conversations 6 months out from completion (and complete it, not doing this looks flaky, even if it seems unfair from your perspective)

  • moderatelymiddling

    Finish your degree, find a new job.

    You’ll have the advantage of role experience.

    Your current employer is using you.

  • onlythehighlight

    Stop putting your company above your needs; if you know your focus is on education and finishing off your degree to get that pay rise than that’s your primary focus before adding more work.

  • theveil143

    Yeah honestly finish your degree and move company. Or even just move now. I have 2.5x my pay from graduate levels over a 5 year period because I jumped around. Also best part about that is you can work on the projects you want to work on. At this stage of your career you don’t want any down time from projecrs otherwise your skills will stagnate. That way you get amazing experience and also pay rises.

  • Glittering_Good_9345

    Move jobs. Employers won’t give you a good raise unless you move up pay levels or try to retain you after another company has offered you 20-30% more.

  • Glittering_Good_9345

    You can still work in engineering roles but need work to be signed off by a professional engineer. Also, there other roles where a BEng is good to have but not working in technical engineering roles.

  • TTMSHU

    Civil Construction/Building companies won’t care about the degree, but their clients might require it for roles at a certain level.

    A lot of project engineers quit and work client side after 5-10 years. Is there any point finishing your degree at this point? Maybe you can exit to a property developer and just do a masters degree with your work experience.

  • Jet90

    They can’t help with existing problems but the union might be able to offer advice https://www.professionalsaustralia.org.au/