Is Job Security Throwing You Off Balance?

December 2, 2008
Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 32, Issue 12

Results from Pharmaceutical Technology's Annual Employment Survey.

A strained economy and a flurry of job cuts have taken a toll on the pharmaceutical workforce. Salaries are down slightly this year, and employees feel they must do more with fewer resources, all while facing the looming possibility of additional corporate restructuring.

(MEDIOIMAGES/PHOTODISC, ARTHUR S. AUBRY, UPPERCUT IMAGES, ROZ WOODWARD, TRBFOTO/GETTY IMAGES ILLUSTRATION: MELISSA MCEVOY)

Nearly 1200 pharmaceutical-industry employees responded to Pharmaceutical Technology's annual employment survey, providing insights into what they deem to be the issues directly affecting them now. Fears about job insecurity, the number of employees now self-employed, and the importance of computer-based systems skills in new employees are evident. Table I lists some overall results, and details are provided in this article.

Table I: Results overview: profile of a typical industry employee.

Demographics

Gender and age. Of the total number of responses, 70% came from men (see Figure 1). The average respondent age was 44 years.

Figure 1: Percentage of male and female respondents.

Work location. Approximately 45% of the survey responses were received from industry workers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Of these, approximately 14% worked in New Jersey, 11% each in Pennsylvania and California, 7% in Massachusetts, 5% each in New York and North Carolina, and 4% in Illinois. All other states each accounted for 3% or less of the total US responses. For the first time, a majority of the total responses were received from those working outside the US. Nearly 10% came from those in the United Kingdom, and 28% of respondents are working in Western Europe (not including the UK). Workers in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (mostly India) represented 5% each of total respondents.

Education and professional work experience. Sixty-three percent of employees have a degree higher than a bachelor's degree (see Figure 2). The most common fields of study were pharmaceutics or pharmacy (22%) and analytical chemistry (14%). Nine percent of respondents earned degrees in engineering, and 9% said they had studied in a field unrelated to pharmaceutical science or industry.

Figure 2: Highest level of education.

Employment

Type of employer. As in previous Pharmaceutical Technology employment surveys, most respondents (83%) indicated that they worked in private industry. Although 23% worked in companies with more than 25,000 employees, this year's survey saw a strong representation from smaller firms: 43% of respondents' companies had 1000 employees or fewer. The percentage of respondents from academia or government was less than 6% each. Therefore, the information provided in this article, including salary and attitudes toward current employment, best represents those working in the private sector.

Job description. As in past surveys, the most common field of expertise was in quality assurance and quality control (18%). Expertise in pharmaceutical development (12%), pharmaceutical analytical development (8%), and production research and development (6%) again are included in the top job functions (see Table II). However, "Consultant" (7%) makes the list for the first time, indicating the growing number of pharmaceutical employees who are leaving (voluntarily and otherwise) the corporate arena for self employment.

Table II: Top five job functions.

On average, participants reported they were contracted to work 32 hours per week but actually worked 40 hours per week. About 83% said they did not receive financial reimbursement for extra hours worked. Most employees had worked for their current employer for 11 years; for employees working in the US, this average was eight years.

For the third year in a row, more than 50% of respondents reported that they had been through a company downsizing, restructuring, merger, or acquisition in the past two years. Of this amount, 47% of respondents indicated these activities changed their job responsibilities.

Salary and benefits

Overall results. The mean base annual salary was $85,087 for all respondents, which is down from an average of $90,059 in 2007 and from the 2006 average of $88,729. Employees working in the US earned an average of $98,203. Overall, employees reported an average of $10,892 in additional income from their principal employer, including bonuses, summer work, and grants, and an average of $1808 in additional income from other professional work.

Salary according to gender only. There continues to be a $20,000 gap between men's and women's average salaries. Overall, women reported an annual base salary of $70,031 (women working in the US earned an average of $84,374). Male employees earned $91,306 in compensation overall, and men in the US earned $105,878 on average (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Annual salaries of men and women.

Salary according to job function. Jobs in drug metabolism, production management, technology transfer, engineering, pharmaceutical development, and computer information systems were the top-earning fields this year, with the first three each reporting an average of more than $100,000 (see Figure 4). Employees working in education, preformulation, and drug delivery reported the lowest average annual salaries.

Figure 4: Salary according to job function.

Salary according to location. On average, employees in Northeastern and Southwestern states earned the highest salaries (see Figure 5). These regions also had the greatest number of respondents. Respondents from the Northwest reported the lowest average salaries, but also were the smallest group.

Figure 5: Salary according to region.

Benefits. Table III lists the most common benefits granted. A majority of employees indicated receiving health and life insurance as well as pension benefits and reimbursement for training. These numbers are significantly lower than those from last year, perhaps because of the increased number of respondents who worked outside the US.

Table III: Percentage of respondents receiving the following employer-provided benefits.

On average, employees are granted 13 paid public holidays and 20 paid vacation days, although most took only 17 of these days for vacation and admitted to doing some work (e.g., checking email, returning calls) for at least 5 of these days (one more day than last year).

Figure 6: Mean annual base salaries since 1998.

Attitudes toward current employment

Survey participants indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:

  • I believe my work is fully valued by my employer.

  • I believe my present job is secure.

  • In my present job, I use my skills and training to the fullest extent.

  • Given the opportunity, I would leave my present job.

Table IV: Opinions toward current employment.

Results are shown in Table IV. Of note is that the percentage of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed that their job was secure is the lowest (55%) since 2000, (see sidebar, "Retrospective" and Table IV).

Retrospective

Income, intellectual challenge, the work–personal life balance, and the opportunity for professional advancement were the four most important factors that would be taken into consideration for making a change in employment. Scientific opportunities were the least important factor for making a job change, followed by vacation time, pension or retirement benefits, and geographic location.

Survey participants were asked to anonymously describe what they enjoy most and least in their jobs. Some of these comments are listed in the "Viewpoint" column on page 74. In general, although employees enjoyed the scientific challenge and, in some cases, the flexible work hours of their jobs, complaints regarding the worry over job security, "overwhelming numbers of initiatives," and "unrealistic" timelines were prominent.

Preferred employer. Pharmaceutical industry employees were less certain that they would stay in their current position next year. About 52% (compared with 67% and 64% in 2007 and 2006, respectively) said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they would change employment within the next year. If they were to make job changes, however, 68% of respondents would prefer to work in private industry.

Essential skills and knowledge. Participants provided their opinion of the importance of knowledge and skills in various areas (see Table V). Not surprisingly, knowledge of good manufacturing practice related issues and process validation continue to be most important. What is surprising, however, is the 77% of respondents, a significant increase over last year, who indicated that skills in computer-based systems, including database management was important.

Table V: Importance of various skills in performing daily tasks.

Skills in automation and statistical process control are also desired, which can be attributed to a need for employees knowledgeable about the US Food and Drug Administration's initiatives (see Table VI).

Table VI: Influence of regulatory guidelines.