Career Consensus: 2016 Employment Survey

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2016, Volume 40, Issue 12
Pages: 14–17

Europe-based bio/pharma employees are unified on satisfaction with employment conditions-and dissatisfaction with salaries.

This article was originally published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, December 2016.

While the pending exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union has generated uncertainty for industries and employees, including the bio/pharma markets across Europe, bio/pharma employees also expressed concerns about compensation, job security, and career development in the 2016 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe annual employment survey (1). Overall, the 2016 survey responses were similar to opinions about the employment market as the 2015 survey (2), but respondents also expressed stronger desires to seek better pay and career opportunities.

Nearly three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed that their job was secure despite changes at their companies (

). More than half of the respondents reported an organizational change in their companies; 26.7% via merger or acquisition and 24.8% by downsizing/restructuring. The company changes had a modest effect on respondents; 43.4% reported changes to job responsibilities and less than 2% said they left the company.

Respondent profile

More than 440 bio/pharma professionals from around the globe responded to the 2016 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe employment survey, which was fielded in September and October 2016. Compared to the global audience of respondents, a greater percentage of respondents from Europe worked for generic bio/pharmaceutical companies (28%) than innovator bio/pharmaceutical companies (19.5%); and a greater percentage 68.8%) were employed at privately held companies.

Europe-based respondents reported a range of job responsibilities; quality control/assurance, validation, R&D, and analytical studies were the top responses. More than one-quarter (28%) of respondents work for companies with more than 5000 employees; 41.5% work for companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents were over age 40, and 65.6% were male. One-half of the respondents held Master’s degrees and 29.3% held doctorate degrees.

The respondents had a range of experience in the bio/pharma industry; approximately one-quarter had fewer than 10 years of experience, one-third had 10-20 years, and one-third had 20-35 years of experience, and approximately 7% have worked in the industry for more than 35 years.

Workloads continue to rise

While reported workloads remained stable or decreased slightly compared to recent years, most respondents are working more hours than they are contractually obligated. Nearly one-third of the respondents (29.3%) said they worked more hours in 2016 than two years ago.

In 2016, 56.6% said their workload increased due to an increase in business without an increase in staff, increased regulatory pressure, exploring new technologies, and staff cuts.

European bio/pharma employees reported shorter work weeks than the global respondents; 60.3% of Europeans said they are contracted to work approximately 40 hours per week and 19% are contracted to work more than 40 hours per week. In contrast, 52.5% of employees in the global market said they are contracted to work approximately 40 hours per week and 36.2% are contracted to work more than 40 hours per week. One-third of Europe-based bio/pharma employees actually work 40 hours per week; 62.6% actually work more than 40 hours. In comparison, 23.7% of respondents from the around the globe work 40 hours and 70% work more than 40 hours.

More salary increases


Salary satisfaction levels for Europe-based workers were similar to those for the overall global market. In 2016, more than 46% of the respondents said they were paid at the low end of the salary range for their job function for their expertise and responsibility; nearly 16.2% said they were paid below market value (


More Europe-based respondents reported pay increases (48.7%) in 2016, compared to 33.9% in 2015. The percentage of respondents still lags the global audience; where 56.5% reported increases from 2015 to 2016.

Other factors besides compensation lead to employee satisfaction, and European respondents provided slightly more positive responses than employees in other regions. Most said their work is fully valued by their employer (23.8% strongly agreed; 57.1% agreed). Nearly 90% said they do not experience discrimination in their work, and 89.4% said gender was not a factor in determining or limiting professional advancement at their current company.
A majority (88.6%) felt their skills and training are used to the fullest level. The sentiments for career advancement and professional development, however, were less optimistic. While 60% said there was opportunity for career advancement in their present position, only 17.3% agreed strongly that there was potential for advancement at their present company.



Career development

While career development is a priority for bio/pharma employees, survey respondents reported mixed feelings about the type of training and opportunities in their present positions. More than 84% agreed or strongly agreed that their company provided adequate training for basic job skills. Nearly 38%, however, felt their companies did not provide advanced training (


In 2016, more than half (52.9%) of the survey respondents agreed somewhat or strongly that they would “like to leave their job, given the opportunity,” down slightly from 55.3% in the previous year. Most respondents (63.1%) plan to stay with their positions next year, compared with 60.1% in 2015. Nearly 12% believe they will leave their present position involuntarily in the next year.

The actual frequency of job changes reported was much lower; only 17.1% reported a voluntary job change in the past two years to pursue better career opportunities or more challenging work. More than 17% of the respondents, however, agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to change careers and leave the bio/pharma industry (


Confidence levels of those seeking new positions within the industry in 2016 were up comparable to 2015; 23.2% said it would be straightforward to find a comparable new job; 48.5% said it may take a while, but they would be able to find a comparable position. Of the less optimistic responses, 11.1% said it would be straightforward to find a job, but the new job probably would not be as good as the current position; and almost 17.2% anticipated a difficult search and they would have taken the position that was available (


Should I stay or should I go?

While three-quarters of the respondents have more than 10 years of experience in bio/pharma, approximately one-third stayed with the same employer, on average, for 3 to 5 years; 29% stayed for 6 to 10 years; and one-third have stayed with the same employer for more than 10 years (


Professional advancement was a recurring theme for survey respondents and was the most frequently cited factor (43.3%) that respondents “would change jobs for this alone.” Intellectual challenge (38.1%), work/life balance (36.5%), scientific opportunities (27.1%), and salary (26%) were other lead factors for changing jobs.
What motivated bio/pharma employees to continue in their job positions in 2016? Challenging projects (48.5%), intellectual stimulation (41.2%), and a good work/life balance (34.7%) were the top three reasons respondents gave for going to work.

But not everyone was satisfied. Low pay (cited by 18.8%), discrimination and limited growth opportunities (22.9%), and negative workplace attitudes (16.7%) were reasons respondents said they would “quit their job for this factor alone.”


1. 2016 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey.
2. 2015 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 28, No. 12
Pages: 14–17


When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Peters, "Career Consensus: 2016 Employment Survey?” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 28 (12) 2016.