The accompanying text is oh-so-reassuring as well:
By converting salaries to constant 1984 dollars, the average salaries for chemists (or anyone else) have hardly moved in terms of what you can buy for your money as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 1985 the median salary for a chemist with a bachelor’s degree was $30,075. In constant 1984 dollars, the median salary for chemists with a B.S degree 27 years later in 2012 had grown to $32,194 -- an increase in real terms of $78 per year, on average. The median salary for a chemist with a master’s degree went from $33,835 in 1985 to $37,054 in 2012, or an increase in real value of $119 per year, on average. For PhD’s the increase went from $41,353 in 1985 to $43,861 in 2012, or $93 in real buying power per year on average.
Keep in mind that the median represents the salary in the middle of the range. Most chemists reading this who were working in 1985 were probably just starting out and were most likely making a salary in the bottom quartile. Today, those same chemists are likely to be making salaries in the top quartile and they have accumulated a substantial gain in buying power even in 1984 constant dollar terms.Gosh, I hope they're right. (Who's the culprit here? Is it inflation, the decline (in relative terms) of American chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturing, the change in business culture (i.e. worker salaries flat, management salaries up?) I wonder how this looks for other fields.)
UPDATE: Respected reader Polychem points out that the 2012 Salary Survey report also includes a section on consulting wages (page 12), all of which are a good bit higher than $25/hr.