Improving Job Market Creates Opportunity for Change

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2014, Volume 38, Issue 12

Bio/pharma employees say they are more secure in their jobs, but may seek better opportunities with other employers.


Greater job satisfaction, an improving employment market, and continued restructuring and M&A activity are trends reported by respondents in the 2014 installment of the Pharmaceutical Technology/BioPharm International annual employment survey (1).  

One underlying theme of this year’s salary survey is that innovation and movement in the bio/pharmaceutical market has not spilled over into the job market yet. While the respondents expressed more confidence in the business progress of their companies and the industry, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with workload and compensation may have many experienced professionals looking for more rewarding job opportunities elsewhere.

A breakdown of respondents
The respondents to this year’s survey represent a range of roles, including research, development, and formulation; analytical studies; quality control and assurance; process development; manufacturing; and regulatory affairs. The respondents work for bio/pharmaceutical manufacturers, academic institutions, contract service providers, or other companies supporting the industry. More than 42% of the respondents work for companies that produce both small- and large-molecule drugs; 21% work for companies that develop or produce small-molecule drugs only; 17.7% develop or manufacture biologic drugs, cell therapies, or regenerative medicines.

The respondent audience is geographically diverse; 56% are from the United States and 26.5% are from Europe. The respondents are employed by both large and small companies; 29% of the respondents work for companies with more than 10,000 employees; 36.6% work for companies with less than 500 employees.

Among all business sizes, respondents rated knowledge of good manufacturing practices (62.3%), ICH guidelines (59.7%), analytical techniques (54.9%), chemistry (48.8%), and general principles of management (43.9%) as very important.  

Workloads grow, but at a slower pace  
More than one-third of the respondents said they worked more hours in 2014 compared with two years ago, a similar response to the 2013 survey. While a majority of respondents have reported an increase in workload over the past few years, the number reporting an increase is declining. In 2014, 62.5% of the respondents said their workload increased; down from 63.4% in 2013 (2). By comparison, in 2011, 72.7% reported an increased workload. While 54% of the respondents said they are contracted to work a 40-hour workweek, 55% said they work 40 to 50 hours per week. In addition, more than 30% of the respondents report they will use only half of their paid time off.

Of those who reported an increase in workload, 68.4% attributed the increase to the expansion of business without corresponding staff increases.  

Industry optimism  
Survey participants were slightly more optimistic about industry prospects for expansion and growth compared with recent years. Pharma company mergers and acquisitions exceeded the volume and value of deals in 2013 and respondents noted this pattern. Nearly 53% of participants reported that their company had been through a merger, acquisition, or restructuring in the past two years, similar to the number (51.3%) reported in 2013.

Mirroring the gradual economic recovery, 43.9% of respondents saw business at their company increase in the past year, compared with 40% in 2013.  

The overall outlook for bio/pharma industry progress was positive; 54.2% of respondents predicted the industry as a whole will improve; a percentage similar to last year (54.3%). Even more participants (60.5%) predict that business at their company will continue to expand and improve, a number that is slightly more optimistic than last year’s projection, in which 58.8% said business would improve.

Opportunity for professional advancement is one of the leading factors that weigh in respondents’ decisions to change jobs; one-third said they would change jobs for professional advancement opportunities alone. The respondents reported slight increases in the number of workshops and conferences attended in 2014, versus 2013, perhaps an indication of more flexible travel and training budgets.  


Salary dissatisfaction  
The economy continues a slow recovery, which may not be fast enough for more than half of the survey respondents; 57.2% say that they are either paid below market value or in the low end of their salary range, while a slightly smaller percentage (54.6%) of respondents said the same in 2013. Salary still matters: 34.6% said they would leave their current jobs for salary alone, which is approximately the same as in 2013 (34.7%). A few respondents (1.5%) reported they were paid excessively for their expertise, less than in 2013. The number of people receiving salary increases was down slightly; 61.4% of respondents reported a raise this year compared with 63.3% in 2013.  Half of the respondents received a cash bonus in 2014; one-quarter reported that the bonus was larger than previous years; 27.4% said the bonus was less than last year.

Survey respondents had a more positive view of the job market than previous years, although some uncertainty remained. Almost 22% said they felt more secure in their jobs than in the previous year; up from 16.9% in 2013. The number of respondents who felt less secure in their jobs dropped from 37.4% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2014.

An improving job market may be an influencing factor on the desire to change jobs. Nearly half of the respondents (49.2%) agreed somewhat or strongly with the statement: “I would like to leave my job, given the opportunity.” Nearly two-thirds (64.9%), however, said that they will not leave their jobs within the year. Last year, more than half (55.9%) of survey participants said they were confident they could find a job comparable to the one they currently hold; in 2014, 63.7% said they could find a similar job now if they were to look.

Gender considerations  
When broken down by gender, 32.4% of survey respondents were women, with the largest percentage (67.3%) hailing from the US. Nearly 60% of all respondents said that gender is not a factor in determining or limiting professional advancement; surprisingly, a higher percentage of women (69.8%) said that they do not feel gender plays a significant role in professional advancement. Women reported a higher percentage of raises than the number for the entire sample (69.3% compared with 61.4%, respectively). However, 61.4% of women felt they were paid in the low range or below market value, a higher percentage than for the whole survey population (57.2%). This salary discrepancy may be explained by a smaller proportion of women in managerial roles; when broken down by gender, only 39% of women managed other people, while the other 61% of women were considered individual contributors. Of all men, half were managers, and the other half were staff members.  

While salary was cited as the top reason for changing jobs for all participants, the top answer for women for leaving a job was obtaining work/life balance, with 35.2% of women choosing this answer compared to the entire audience (29.8%). The second most popular answer was salary, with 34.1% of women saying they would change jobs for this alone.  

Regional differences  
The regional differences between the answers in the US and those of Europe are not surprising. In Europe, 66.7% of respondents had 46 weeks of vacation, compared with 37.4% of those in the US getting that much time. Additionally, Europeans rated health insurance as the lowest priority, with 30.3% of respondents in Europe saying health insurance would have no impact on a decision to change jobs. This is likely due to the fact that most European countries have universal health coverage.  

In candid responses, survey participants commented negatively about the impact that downsizing internal operations and the use of contract manufacturing organizations had on employment conditions at bio/pharmaceutical companies.

1. 2014 Pharmaceutical Technology/BioPharm International Employment Survey.
2. 2013 Pharmaceutical Technology/BioPharm International Employment Survey.

*Due to rounding, some percentages may not add up to 100%. Some questions allowed multiple answers.
Results based on 2014 Pharmaceutical Technology Employment Survey.

*All infographics created by Dan Ward

Article Details Pharmaceutical Technology
Vol. 38, Issue 12
Pages: 20–23
Citation: When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Hernandez, "Improving Job Market Creates Opportunity for Change," Pharmaceutical Technology 38 (12) 2014.