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Annual IEEE-USA Consultants Survey Shows Number of Members Dependent on Consulting Down, Rates and Billing Hours Flat

By Paul Lief Rosengren

IEEE-USA Consultants Fee Survey Report – 2023 Edition

IEEE-USA Consultants Fee Survey Report – 2023 Edition

IEEE Members: $29.95
Non-Members: $49.95

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Have you thought about striking out on your own as an engineering consultant? Are you a manager who might have to hire a consultant in the coming year? Or are you a longtime consultant; and you want to see how your rates compare to those in your area, or with your experience? Then you should consider purchasing the IEEE-USA 2023 Survey of Consultants Compensation Report.

Interestingly, while the number of U.S. IEEE members grew last year, the number reporting that 50 percent or more of their income came from consulting decreased almost 19 percent over last year’s survey. The report concluded, “This decrease can be seen as a sign of a robust economy offering more permanent jobs to engineers — and reducing the need for, or appeal of, consulting.” The report also noted a decrease in the number of IEEE-USA members reporting unemployment.

The report shows that the median hourly rate consultants charge ($180) is unchanged from 2022, after rising a total of $40 in 2020 and 2021.  Fee-based consultants holding a Ph.D., or an MBA, continue to be able to charge more for their services, reporting a $25 advantage in average hourly rates. Two in ten consultants hold a Ph.D. or equivalent, as their highest degree. Almost four in 10 hold Masters.

The median number of weekly hours billed was also flat (holding at 20 hours) from 2022 (five hours lower than in 2021).

The report is chock full of information, showing rates charged by quartile based on engineering experience, consulting experience, educational level, client sector, professional experience (by sector and by lines of business), and by U.S. Census regions. Consistent with the previous two years, fee-based consultants (with clients exclusively in Utilities), report the highest median hourly rate ($200). Consultants with offices in the Pacific and Middle Atlantic regions charge higher rates; while consultants in the West South-Central region charge below the countrywide average.

The most common areas respondents offer consulting services in are (respondents could pick multiple areas): Systems Engineering (34%), Project Management (27%), Management (25%) and Electrical Power Systems (24%).

Some other selected results of the survey include:

  • More than half of the consultants in the 2023 survey worked for three or fewer clients in 2022
  • More than four out of five (82%) consultants used their home office for their work, consistent with last year, but up six percentage points from 2021
  • Four in ten respondents (41%) worked solely as independent consultants, consistent with 2022
  • Twenty percent of respondents have been consulting for 25 years or more, significantly less than the 29% in 2022
  • On average, consultants have 23 years of professional experience before consulting; and 16 years of consulting experience once they began consulting

In the spring, roughly 10,000 IEEE members, identified as consultants in the IEEE membership database, were emailed the 2023 Consultants Fee Survey. Approximately 7.8% responded, up slightly over the past year. For most questions, the report only included responses from those indicating that more than 50 percent (or more) of their income came from consulting. As with the IEEE membership in general, the vast majority of consultants identify as male (91%).


Paul Lief Rosengren

Paul is the coauthor of In the Time of Covid: One Hospital's Struggles and Triumphs. He worked for more than three decades in corporate communications at NBC, PSE&G, BD and in state government. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard; and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dickinson College.

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