North America's shale gas boom has been a major windfall for qualified engineers, as head hunters vie against each other to snap up a scarce talent supply with lucrative salaries.

Recruitment firms say they are waging nothing short of war in their efforts to recruit qualified engineering professionals to fill positions in the shale gas industry.

“It’s an all out war for talent,” said Gladney Darroh, president of Piper-Morgan Associates Personnel Consultants, to Forbes magazine.

The shale gas boom has led to a surge in demand for experienced engineers in North America, yet a scarcity of qualified candidates capable of filling the sudden increase in positions.

According to Ms. Darroh companies in the shale gas sector most keenly covet engineers with a career history of around a decade.

“Right now the hardest individuals to recruit are people who have anywhere from five to 15 years of experience,” Ms. Darroh says.

Recruitment firms report a surge in salary levels for engineering professionals. According to one recruitment professional, salaries for engineers in senior positions – still below the executive or managerial level – now hover between $200,000 and $350,000.

The current scarcity of engineering talent is believed to be a result of the tech boom around the turn of the century, as well as the astronomical salaries offered by the financial services sector, which compelled many promising youths to eschew careers as engineers.

Those who decided to enter the engineering sector at the start of the decade are now reaping their rewards, however, with companies using huge salaries and incentive plans to poach engineering professionals from their competitors, who are in turn compelled to make even juicier counter-offers to retain their much coveted talent.

The financial rewards on offer have become so lucrative that even retired engineers are being lured back to the working world.

Engineers just embarking on their careers are also benefiting from the shale gas boom, with a report recently issued by the US National Association of Colleges and Employers indicating that most of the highest paying majors are in the field of engineering. At the top of the list is petroleum engineering, which promises an annual income of around $93,000.

North America is not alone in suffering from a scarcity of qualified engineers. CNN reports that giant developing countries such as Brazil, China and India are still not producing sufficient numbers of engineering graduates to fuel their growth, while other developed nations such as the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand also report a shortfall in engineering professionals.