What Do Those in the Commercial Heat Treat Industry Get Paid?
From Mr. Josh Hale of International Search Partners we have this fascinating summary about what commercial heat treaters in the USA get paid “Salary Guide for Commercial Heat Treating”. This is part of a three part series with the next one covering typical salaries for heat treatment industry suppliers. Josh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, International Search Partners | (ispards.com)
Salary Guide for Commercial Heat-Treating
Although job descriptions can vary quite a bit between companies and salaries are subject to regional cost of living adjustments, what follows is a snapshot representation of the current market-value for most job functions in a commercial heat treat.
An important note: the below information focuses primarily on salary data and does not account for non-cash incentives such as vacation, flexible work schedules, incentive bonuses, profit sharing, etc. Overall compensation has increased rapidly across the board since the last iteration of this guide and many companies have gotten creative in looking outside base wages to entice and retain employees.
General Manager: GM, Plant Manager, Director of Operations… there are some nebulous titles at the top of the typical heat treat hierarchy, but for these purposes, consider at GM as the plant “owner.” He acts as the face of the company and rather than getting overly concerned with day-to-day tactical operations, he focused on dealing with key customers, high-level strategy/planning and ultimately has full P&L responsibility to turn a profit.
Salaries for an experienced GM are in the $125-175k range but can sometimes exceed $200k+ per year for larger, multi-site operations. Almost all GMs are incentivized with performance bonuses, and some are offered a path to ownership or equity.
Plant Manager: PMs usually report to a GM, and like their superior, they can go by many names such as Operations Manager, Production Manager, etc. Here a Plant Manager is considered the person responsible for day-to-day operations of a plant and overseeing all hourly employees and production.
PM salaries are hard to pinpoint because they can vary widely based on size of company, organizational structure and how much hands-on work is necessary for the role. Confounding things further, some companies will also have a plant “supervisor” level just a step below the manager. Those caveats aside, a base salary in the $90-120k range is a fair estimate, with supervisors at about a 10-20% discount from there and both most often with a bonus or additional incentive program.
Plant Metallurgist: Metallurgists will sometimes also act as the Quality Manager and/or Lab Manager, but here assume that the Plant Metallurgist’s main responsibility is over the various processes within the plant. As with most of the positions discussed here, there is a wide variance based on the employee’s qualifications, skills, and experience. A recently degreed process engineer acting as a plant metallurgist will obviously earn less than a seasoned metallurgist who oversees his company’s lab and testing.
Overall, good metallurgy skills are in high demand and wages have increased significantly over the past 2-3 years. An experienced, non-manager, plant metallurgist will earn a salary in the realm of $80-110k.
Quality: As mentioned, sometimes a Metallurgist will fill this role, but often it is a non-degreed person with hands-on experience who has risen through the ranks. It is common for there to be manager of the quality department who will supervise a staff of quality technicians or engineers. Together, they will ensure quality over all heat treat processes, oversee audits, and usually have responsibility over the lab and testing.
Salaries for experienced Quality Managers are between $75–$100k but can easily creep into the low-mid $100ks for someone with niche expertise such as NADCAP or ISO. Quality technicians or quality engineers will have a wide range based on experience and education and can be anywhere from $25ish/hr up to $60-75k per year or more.
Maintenance: Maintenance is one of the most important functions for any heat treat facility. Without a good preventative maintenance plan and good repair capability when furnaces do go down, a commercial heat treater is out of business. Most of the time, Maintenance Supervisors are non-degreed professionals who have worked their way up from an hourly position on the floor. Maintenance Mechanics might be former field service engineers or operators who have transitioned. Over the past few years, there has been a huge uptick in demand for qualified maintenance professionals and salaries have risen as a result – so much so that they are sometimes the highest comped employees in a company earning even more than their bosses.
Hands-on maintenance mechanics are earning high $20s to mid-high $30s/hr plus overtime and can earn more with strong electrical or controls experience. Supervisors and managers are at a $100k minimum and can be up to the mid-$100ks with bonuses.
Sales Engineer: Two types of compensation plans are prevalent for sales. One type of plan is salary only, commensurate with experience. The other is salary plus commission or bonus. Most heat treats implement the latter as it aligns incentives for the company and employee and allows for the motivated sales professional to earn his worth and be rewarded for results.
Commission structures come in all shapes and sizes and be set-up in an infinite number of ways but suffice to say that base salaries for heat treat sales start in the $80-100k range.
Furnace Operators: Hourly Furnace Operators are always in demand, and while they sometimes don’t require much experience and are trained in-house, there are situations where these workers are not only running equipment, but also providing quality control checks and resolving minor maintenance issues.
Wages for furnace operators have increased quite a bit in the past few years and are now around $17-20/hour + OT to start and can get up above $25/hr for someone with extensive experience and additional skills around maintenance, quality or shipping/receiving.
This salary information has been culled together based on data International Search Partners has collected from over 20 years of providing recruiting solutions exclusively to the heat treat industry. There are many variables to consider, and it is becoming quite common for companies to have hybrid roles that are not specifically addressed here. That said, this guide provides a solid, accurate baseline of information and is meant to be used a reference for employers and employees alike. For specific salary questions, or to inquire about more about recruiting and placement solutions, please contact Josh Hale at or call 619-828-1040.