While post-recession paychecks for engineering and construction professionals rose about 10% since 2008 in a survey by management consultant FMI released earlier this year, its new report shows that top executives saw their total compensation drop 8% in the same period, mostly fueled by profit impacts and related falloffs in bonuses and stock values that hurt long-term pay.

"The sharp reduction in CEO, COO and CFO bonuses in 2013 cannot be overlooked," says survey author Mike Rose, although he says executives with cost-control responsibility appeared to fare better.

The survey, based on about 75,000 position incumbents, says that since 2009, total compensation rose nearly 59% for top contracting executives, who have key roles in managing costs and project performance; and 50% for those in equipment operations.

FMI ties a 56.7% hike for marketing professionals to firms' bigger emphasis on business development.

But financial and business unit executives have seen the steepest declines, "reflecting the consolidation of executive power into the corporate suite" and "punishment meted out" to financial positions responsible for corporate profit performance, the survey notes.

FMI says that, since 2009, total compensation for business-unit execs dropped 41.7%, and for CFOs, nearly 25%. CEOs' total packages fell 17.2%.

"With the exception of 2010, the trend appeared to be one of decreasing long-term compensation," says Rose. "However, these trends appear to be stabilizing and indicate [compensation] may be on its way back to prerecession levels."