Pharmaceutical Technology's Annual Employment Survey

December 2, 2007
Pharmaceutical Technology

Volume 31, Issue 12

Nearly 1300 pharmaceutical employees provide insights into the issues most relevant to their jobs and the state of the industry workforce today.

Their hours, ranks, and pay scales may vary, but pharmaceutical employees agree on many of the best and worst aspects of their jobs. Thanks to the nearly 1300 industry employees who participated in this year's survey, Pharmaceutical Technology highlights the issues directly affecting workers in the industry, including demographic information, education and work experience, salary and benefits, and attitudes toward current employment. Some overall results are summarized in Table I. When reviewing salary and benefits information, readers should take into account the range of experience, job functions, and educational certifications represented. No one statistic should be used for comparison without taking these factors into account.

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

Demographics

Gender and age. Of the total number of responses, 67% overall came from men (see Figure 1). The average respondent age is 44 years. These values have remained relatively constant throughout the history of the survey.

Figure 1. Percentage of male and female respondents.

Work location. Approximately 85% of the survey responses were received from industry workers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Of these, approximately 14% work in New Jersey, 10% in Pennsylvania, and 9% in California; 6.5% each in New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts; and 5.8% in Illinois. All other states each accounted for 3% or less of the total US responses. Other world regions represented less than 1% each of the total number of responses. Readers should take into account the number of responses received from each region when noting the results of this survey, especially salary results according to US region.

Education and work experience. Fifty-four percent of employees have a degree beyond a bachelor's degree (see Figure 2). The most common fields of study were analytical chemistry (16%), biology or biology-related fields (12%), and pharmaceutics or pharmacy (12%). Nine percent of respondents earned degrees in engineering or engineering management. And 11% said they had studied in a field unrelated to pharmaceutical science or industry.

Figure 2. Highest level of education

More than 72% of respondents said their experience prepared them very well for their current job functions, but only 34% said the same for their educations. Pharmaceutical employees reported an average of 19 years of professional work experience, including postdoctoral study.

Employment

Type of employer. As in previous Pharmaceutical Technology employment surveys, a preponderance of respondents (88%) indicated that they work in private industry, with 36% working at companies employing more than 10,000 people total. The percentage of respondents from academia or government was approximately 3% 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. The most common field of expertise was in quality assurance and quality control (20%), followed by pharmaceutical analytical development (11%), pharmaceutical development (10%), validation (8%), and production research and development (7%) (see Table II). On average, participants reported they are contracted to work 38 hours per week and actually work 39 hours per week. For the first time, this average is less than 40 hours per week, which may be attributed to the increased number of part-time work, flexible hours, or company-enforced work schedules. About 88% reported that they do not receive financial reimbursement for extra hours worked. Most employees have worked for their current employer for 8 years.

Table II: Top five job functions.

In 2006 and 2007 the industry underwent several major restructures, closures, and downsizings. A majority of respondents (57%) say they have been through a company downsizing, restructuring, or merger or acquisition in the past two years. Although 37% of respondents indicated these activities changed their job responsibilities, more than 48% reported no significant change in their jobs as a result.

Salary and benefits

Overall results. The mean base annual salary was $90,059 for all respondents, which represents a small increase from last year's average of $88,729. Overall, employees reported an average of $12,162 in additional income from their principal employer, including bonuses, summer work, and grants, and an average of $1531 in additional income from other professional work. Taking into account the average salaries since 1998, it appears the reported annual base salaries have remained at the low $90,000 level since 2004.

Salary by gender only. The biggest change in salary was the increase in women's full-time earnings (see Figure 3). Although the gap between men and women's salaries still exists, it is much smaller than it was last year (a 10% gap versus 20%, respectively). On average, women reported an annual base salary of $83,981, which is nearly $10,000 more than the average reported last year, while their male colleagues earned $92,888 in compensation.

Figure 3. Annual salaries of men and women worldwide (overall) and in the United States (US).

Salary by job function. Jobs in consultancy, pharmaceutical development, and computer information systems were the top-earning fields this year, each reporting an average of more than $100,000 (see Figure 4). Jobs in engineering and finished dosage form manufacturing also are among the highest paid. Employees working in education and preformulation reported the lowest average 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 Puerto Rico reported the lowest average salary of $78,720.

Figure 5. Salary according to region. Southwest (CA, HI, AZ, NM, NV, CO, UT, OK, TX); Southeast (LA, MS, AL, GA, FL, TN, KY, NC, SC, AR, DE, VA, WV, MD, DC); Midwest (OH, IN, IL, IA, MO, MI, MN, WI, KS, ND, SD, NB); Northeast (MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, VT, NH, RI, ME); and Northwest (OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, AK).

Benefits. The most common benefits include health insurance; dental, vision, or supplemental health insurance; life insurance; and employer-provided 401k match contributions (see Table III). Approximately 70% of employees also receive reimbursement for supplemental training or conference attendance.

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

On average, employees are granted 10 paid public holidays and 18 paid vacation days, though most took only 15 of these days for vacation and admitted to doing some work (e.g., checking e-mail, returning calls) for at least 4 of these days (one more day than last year).

Attitudes toward current employment

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.

Most respondents feel secure in their jobs, agree that their employer values their work, and believe that they use their skills to the fullest extent in their present jobs (see Table IV). Nonetheless, 38% either agreed or strongly agreed that they would leave their present job if given the opportunity, this is a sharp contrast to the 53% who responded the same last year. Employees seem less willing to leave their job in a less secure job market. Last year, 68% felt their job was secure, while this year, this value is only 60%.

Table IV: Opinions toward current employment.

Income, geographic location, the opportunity for professional advancement, and the balance between work and personal life were the most important factors that would be taken into consideration changing employment. Scientific opportunities was the least important, followed by commute time, vacation time, health and safety, and geographic location. Survey participants anonymously described what they enjoyed best and least in their jobs. Although the intellectual challenge was ranked as one of the least important factors in considering a new job, it was by far the most enjoyable part of working in the industry. Survey participants listed their work with colleagues, new technologies, and the satisfaction from completed projects. Judging from readers' responses, it was clear that the industry's workforce is passionate about the industry's long-term scientific goals. One quality assurance employee responded, "As QA, I enjoy the challenge of solving problems every day. QA work with different departments, issues that we face daily are quite different...there is no moment for getting bored!"

Figure 6. Mean annual base salaries since 1998.

Following this question, we asked participants to describe what they least enjoyed about their jobs. Workers complained of increasing responsibilities, including extensive and repetitive paperwork, with shortened timelines. There were also several who were unsure about the economic health of their company and the security of their job, and several others who complained about the commute and not having enough time with family. Others are frustrated over management and corporate politics. When asked to describe the least enjoyable aspects of the job was the lease enjoyable, one respondent replied, "Too many layers of management and risk-adverse attitudes. Somewhere what made people successful in the first place, good decision making, has turned into paralysis."

Preferred employer. Pharmaceutical industry employees appear to be determined to stay in their current position. About 67% said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they will change employment within the next year. If they were to make job changes, however, nearly 70% of respondents would prefer to work in private industry over any other sector, including nonprofit agencies, academic institutions, or government.

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

Essential skills and knowledge. Participants weighed in on the importance of knowledge and skills in various areas (see Table V). At the list was knowledge of GMP issues and process validation. Respondents also indicated their awareness of FDA's "Quality by Design" (QbD) approach, process analytical technology (PAT) initiative, and 21 CFR Part 11 rule (see Table VI). Although most respondents indicated they were very aware of the QbD and Part 11 initiatives, only 35% said the same about FDA's PAT guideline. Perhaps not surprisingly, the direct impact these initiatives have had on the job performance has not changed over last year.

Table VI: Influence of regulatory guidelines.