Pharmaceutical Technology's Ninth Annual Employment Survey

December 2, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2006, Volume 30, Issue 12

As salaries stagnate and FDA's initiatives play a bigger role in the job environment, the pharmaceutical workforce keeps its eyes on the future.

Market reports, databases, and government documents aside, perhaps the best picture of the state of the pharmaceutical job environment is provided by those who work in it every day. Thanks to the nearly 1100 pharmaceutical industry employees who participated in this year's survey, Pharmaceutical Technology highlights the issues directly affecting workers in the pharmaceutical industry, including demographic information, education and work experience, salary and benefits, and attitudes toward current employment. Some overall results are summarized in Table I, with details provided in this article. When reviewing salary and benefits information, readers should take into account a region's cost of living and economy as well as the wide range of experience, job functions, and educational certification represented. No single statistic should be used for comparison without taking these factors into account.

IMAGES COURTESY OF PHOTOS.COM LAB TECHNICIANS: ARCHIMICA

Demographics

Sex and age. Of the total number of responses, 71% overall came from men (see Figure 1). The average respondent age is 44 years old. These values have remained constant throughout the history of this survey.

Table I: Profile of a typical industry employee.

Work location. More than 89% of the survey responses were received from industry workers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Of these, approximately 19% work in New Jersey and 17% in California; 9.3% in Pennsylvania; 7.5% each in New York and North Carolina; 6% each in Illinois and Massachusetts; and 4% in Puerto Rico. All other states each accounted 3% or less of the total US responses. Workers also responded from Canada (4%). Other 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.

Figure 1

Education and professional work experience. Fifty-six percent of employees have a degree beyond a bachelor's degree (see Figure 2). The most common fields of study were analytical chemistry, at 17%, and biology (or biology-related fields), at 12%. Ten percent said they had earned degrees in pharmaceutics or pharmacy, and 9% earned degrees in engineering or engineering management. And, 11% said they had studied in a field unrelated to pharmaceutical science or industry.

Figure 2

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said their experience prepared them very well for their current job functions, but only 28% said the same for their educations. A majority of pharmaceutical employees reported at least 16 years of professional work experience, including postdoctoral study.

Employment

Type of employer. As in previous Pharm Tech employment surveys, a preponderance of respondents indicated that they work in private industry (89%), with 31% working at companies employing more than 10,000 people total. Equal percentages of respondents (2.5% each) indicated they work in academia or were self employed. The remaining participants were employed in local or national government. Thus, the information provided in this article, including salary and attitudes toward current employment, clearly best represents those working in the private sector.

Job description. As in last year's survey, one in five respondents works in quality assurance and quality control (20%), followed by pharmaceutical analytical development (11%), pharmaceutical development (9%), and engineering or engineering management (9%) (see Table II). Pharmaceutical employees continue to work beyond their contracted time. On average, employees are contracted to work 39 hours per week, but admit to actually working more than 47 hours per week, the same number of hours as last year. About 89% reported that they do not receive financial reimbursement for extra hours worked. Most employees have worked for their current employer for 3–5 years.

Table II: Top job functions.

The pharmaceutical industry continues to undergo restructuring, with closures, changing markets, and consolidations. A majority of respondents (54%) say they have been through company downsizing, restructuring, or a merger or acquisition in the past two years. Although 39% of respondents indicated these activities changed their job responsibilities, more than 45% reported no significant change in their jobs as a result.

Salary and benefits

Overall results. The mean base annual salary was $88,729 for all respondents, which represents a slight decrease from last year's average of $92,412. For the first time in this survey's history, the industry failed to report an increase in the base annual salary. Overall, employees reported an average of $10,661 in additional income from their principal employer, including bonuses, summer work, and grants, and an average of $2728 in additional income from other professional work, bringing the reported total compensation this year to $102,118. This value is also less than the total compensation reported in 2005 ($105,297), but higher than the total in 2004 ($98,971) and previous years.

Salary according to gender. On average, women working full time continue to earn 80% of the average salary reported by men working full time (see Figure 3). The gap between men and women's salaries is slightly higher than it was last year, when responding women averaged 82% of their male colleagues' compensation. Both figures are in line with the 81% value reported by the US Department of Labor for women's earnings in general (1). A major contributor to this difference is difference in the number of years of professional experience reported by men and women. Almost half of the male respondents (46%) indicated having at least 20 years of experience (compared with 22% of female respondents), but almost half of the female respondents (48%) said they have 10 years or less of professional work experience (compared with only 23% of male respondents).

Figure 3

Salary according to job function. Jobs in pharmaceutical development, consultancy, and biopharmaceutics were the top-earning fields this past year (see Figure 4). Most functions showed no change or a slight decrease from last year's mean base annual salaries.

Figure 4

Salary according to location. On average, employees in Northeastern and Western states earned the highest salaries (see Figure 5). These regions also had the greatest number of respondents. Respondents from Southwestern states reported the lowest average salaries, earning 74% of the highest salaries.

Figure 5

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). Other benefits that were reported but not listed in the questionnaire include stock awards, car and gas allowance, and health-club memberships.

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

On average, employees are granted 10 paid public holidays and 17 paid vacation days, though most took only 14 of these days for vacation and admitted to doing some work (e.g., checking e-mail, returning calls) for at least 5 of these days (one more day than last year).

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.

Most respondents continue to 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, 53% of workers either agreed or strongly agreed that they would leave their present job if given the opportunity. These responses all agree very closely with last year's.

Table IV: Opinions toward current employment.

As in previous years, income, geographic location, and the opportunity for professional advancement were the three most important factors that would be taken into consideration for making this change (with 71%, 48%, and 41%, respectively). Geographic location was also one of the least important factors for making a job change behind scientific opportunities and vacation entitlement.

Survey participants were asked to anonymously describe what they enjoy best and least in their jobs. Hands down, the most enjoyable parts of every job are the intellectual challenge, variety, and opportunities. As one respondent indicated, "I enjoy the challenge of solving issues, thinking outside the box, and constantly being on the edge of failure or great success." Another answers, "The variety! There is never a dull moment!" Clearly, the industry remains a passionate, dedicated work environment.

Figure 6

Like in any industry, however, workers complain of being bogged down by politics, red tape, and poor communication with upper management. Respondents indicate they are sometimes "punished" for risk-taking and that company bureaucracy and wasteful management hinder progress and flexibility. When asked to describe the least enjoyable aspects of the job, one respondent replied, "Interference in execution of my daily job functions by superiors who do not know/understand the approach I am using. Also, setting of project goals and directions by incompetent nonscientific personnel who do not possess a real understanding of customer needs and markets in the areas of work I am involved in." Also weighing in were issues such as long work hours and coworker personality conflicts.

Preferred employer. Pharmaceutical industry employees appear to be determined to stay in their current position. Nearly 64% said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they will change employment within the next year, an increase from the 57% reported in last year's survey. If they were to make job changes, however, nearly 71% of respondents would prefer to work in private industry over any other sector, including nonprofit agencies, academic institutions, or government.

Essential skills and knowledge. Participants weighed in on the importance of knowledge and skills in various areas (see Table V). At the top of the list was knowledge of GMP- and GLP-related issues, with nearly 80% and 56%, respectively, rating these were very important. For the first time, the survey asked respondents to indicate the importance to their work of the US Food and Drug Administration's "Quality by Design" approach and process analytical technology (PAT) initiative. Seventy percent indicated that knowledge of PAT was important or very important in their jobs and 80% said the same about FDA's Quality by Design strategy.

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

FDA's continuing emphasis on its risk-based initiatives approach also is clearly influencing the pharmaceutical job environment. The questionnaire asked employees to indicate their awareness of various regulatory initiatives and weigh the effects of these initiatives on the manner in which they perform their jobs. For all three initiatives, there was an increase in the percentage of respondents who indicated they were very aware of the initiatives, with a majority (57%) now indicating they are very aware of FDA's CGMPs for the 21st Century guidance (see Table VI).

The most noticeable increase has been in the percentage of those stating that these initiatives have had a direct impact in the way they perform their jobs. Although 21 CFR Part 11, Electronic Records and Signatures Rule does not appear to be having an increased affect, there is a significant impact factor coming from FDA's (PAT) initiative and CGMPs guidance. Twenty-seven percent say PAT has changed the manner in which they perform their jobs, compared to only 19% who said the same last year. And, 49% now say the same for the CGMP guidance, compared to only 36% last year.

Table VI: Influence of regulatory guidelines (last year´s value in parentheses).

Reference

1. US Department of Labor and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics "Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2005," report 995, Sept. 2006, http://stats.bls.gov., accessed Nov. 1, 2006.

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