Facing Crucial Career Choices

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2015, Volume 39, Issue 12

Intellectual challenge, job security, and opportunity for advancement contribute to employee happiness, but the ultimate prize may be a satisfactory salary for bio/pharma employees in Europe.

Bio/pharma employees based in Europe worked more hours in 2015, received fewer salary increases, and expressed a greater desire to change jobs than in previous years. While they were optimistic about the prospects of finding a new position, the majority of those surveyed said they would most likely stay in their current position.

Workers surveyed in the 2015 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe annual employment survey (1) reported similar opinions about the employment market as the 2014 survey (2), and also expressed more desire to seek better pay and career opportunities. Confidence in job security slipped in 2015; 13.4% said they felt more secure now than they did last year. In 2014, 16.4% felt more secure than in 2013. Approximately the same percentage felt less secure (29.4%); the percentage of those reporting no change (57.1%) rose slightly. The number of respondents reporting that their company experienced a merger, acquisition, or restructuring was 54.8%, up from 45.1% in 2014. More than half said the change had no significant effect on their work.

Intellectual stimulation, challenging projects, a good work/life balance, and relationships with colleagues were the most frequently cited as “the main reason I come to work.” Intellectual challenge, professional advancement, a good work/life balance, and salary were the most frequently cited reason for “I would change jobs for this alone.” Low pay, however, was the single greatest factor identified for quitting a job.

Respondent profile
Bio/pharma professionals from around the globe responded to the 2015 survey, which was fielded in September and October 2015. Nearly one-third (29.2%) of the respondents were from innovator bio/ pharmaceutical companies; 25.6% were from genericdrug manufacturing companies. Representatives of contract research and manufacturing organizations (15.3%), academic institutions (11%), and other industry segments also were represented. A greater percentage of respondents from Europe work for companies that develop or manufacture small-molecule drugs only (41.9%), compared to the global audience (33.6%); however, a smaller percentage of respondents work for companies that manufacture biologics (7%) compared to the global audience (11.5%). In addition, a greater percentage of respondents (57.1%) are employed at privately held companies compared to the global audience of respondents.

Research/development/formulation (21.9%) and quality control/assurance and validation (16.1%) job functions were the top selections, followed by corporate management (10.2%) and production/manufacturing/ operations (5.8%). Other top functions included consulting, professor/ instructor, regulatory affairs, and technical services/analytical development, process development, engineering, and tech transfer. More than two-thirds of the respondents were over age 40, and 68.7% were male. More than one-third held doctorate degrees; 40.3% held Master’s degrees. The respondents were split between managers of people (54.5%) and individual contributors (45.5%). The respondents had a range of experience in the bio/pharma industry; 25.8% have less than 10 years of experience, 32.3% have 10–20 years, 31.6% have 20–35 years of experience, and 11.3% have worked in the industry for more than 35 years. More than half of the respondents worked in other industries for less five years.



More hours at work
While reported workloads remain stable or decreased slightly compared to 2014, most respondents are working more hours than they are contractually obligated. In 2015, 55.5% of the respondents reported an increased workload, down from the reported 61.8% in 2014 and 65.5% in 2013. More people are working more hours; 30.8% of the respondents say they worked more hours in 2015 than two years ago. In 2014, 26.4% said they worked more hours than the previous two years. While nearly two-thirds (64.9%) of the respondents reported they are contracted to work approximately 40 hours per week, only 32.3% report working 40 hours. While 16.5% said they are contracted to work more than 40 hours per week, a far greater percentage, 61.7% of the respondents, say they work 40 or more hours per week.

Salary lags other regions
Europe-based bio/pharma workers were slightly more satisfied with their compensation this year, although 57.5% do not feel they are paid fairly. In 2015, 44.9% said they were paid at the lower end of market value, given their expertise and responsibility; in 2014, 31.3% graded their compensation at this level. In 2014, however, 28.8% said they were paid below market value; in 2015, only 12.6% reported pay below market value.



I am paid excessively for my level of expertise and responsibility.



I am paid fairly for my level of expertise and responsibility.



I am paid within market value for my job function, but at the low end of the range, considering my level of expertise and responsibility.



I am paid below market value, considering my level of expertise and responsibility.





Respondents reported fewer pay increases; in 2015, 33.9% reported a salary increase; a drop from the 41.3% of respondents reporting increases in 2014. The percentage is significantly lower than the 53.5% of global respondents who reported a salary increase for 2015.

Despite the mixed opinions about compensation, a strong majority of respondents said their work is fully valued by their employer (30.3% strongly agree; 52.5% agree). Nearly 70% agreed or strongly agreed that their job was secure.

Career advancement
More than two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed that their company provided adequate training for basic job skills. Nearly 41%, however, felt their companies did not provide advanced training for employee professional growth; a similar number (44.4%) do not feel there is room for career advancement in their companies. More than one-third (35.8%) do not feel there are opportunities for professional development. Still, 83.6% agreed or strongly agreed that they were using their skills and training to the fullest extent.

The survey respondents were not impressed with the expertise and training of industry newcomers. Three-quarters said the new hires were adequately trained, but not exceptional; 15.6% said the new hires were poorly trained. Only 6.3% said new hires were extremely well trained to do their jobs. Compared to 2014, more respondents in 2015 (55.3%) agreed somewhat or strongly that they would like to leave their job, given the opportunity,” up from 43.5% in the previous year. Despite the desire, however, a majority of respondents (60.1%) plan to stay with their positions next year, similar to opinions in 2014.

More than 21% of the global audience respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to change careers and leave the bio/pharma industry. Workers in the European market were slightly more content; only 16.3% would consider a move to a new industry.

Confidence levels of those seeking new positions within the industry in 2015 were more positive than the 2014 European-market responses and the 2015 global audience responses. Of the European audience, 25.6% said it would be straightforward to find a comparable new job, compared to 18.5% of the global audience responses; 42.7% said it may take a while, but they would be able to find a comparable position.



It would be straightforward to find a job comparable to the one I have now.



It would take a while, but I would be able to find a job comparable to the one I have now.



It would be straightforward to find a job, but it probably wouldn't be as good as the one I have now.



I would have to search hard and be prepared to take what I could get.



Of the less optimistic responses, 12.8% of the European audience said it would be straightforward to find a job, but it probably would not be as good as the current position; and almost 19% anticipated a difficult search and they would have to take the position that was available.

1. 2015 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey.
2. 2014 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey. 

This article was originally published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Article DetailsPharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 27, No. 12
Pages: 18–21

Citation: When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Peters, “Facing Crucial Career Choices,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 27 (12) 18–21 (2015).