Staying the Course: The Sixth Annual International Employment Survey

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Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe-01-01-2004, Volume 16, Issue 1

Despite global economic problems during the last 2 years and continued industry-wide lay-offs in the manufacturing sector, the pharmaceutical industry workforce continues at a slow and steady pace. Employees, however, seem ever more wary of their job security.

The sixth international employment survey reports on the issues directly related to those working in the pharmaceutical industry, including demographic information, education and work experience, salary and benefits, and attitudes toward current employment. In addition, survey participants were asked to indicate the importance of particular educational backgrounds and skills when evaluating new employment candidates. Results are provided for employees working in the US, including Puerto Rico, and those working in Europe. Industry workers located in other countries also participated in the survey; however, only responses from those working in Canada were of sufficient number (27) to calculate an average base annual salary.

When comparing salary and benefits information, readers should take into account factors such as a region's cost of living, economy and exchange rate to US currency (respondents were asked to indicate all salary information in US$). In addition, readers are encouraged to take into account geographic location, years of experience, job function and highest level of educational certification. No single statistic should be used for comparison without taking these factors into account.

Methodology and statistics

The questionnaire was posted on the Internet ( from 1 August to 30 September 2003. Results were exported and separated according to the respondents' geographic region of employment (US, including Puerto Rico, or Europe). A total of 1619 responses were received. Of these, 1251 were from pharmaceutical employees working in the US, 262 were from those working in Europe and 106 were from other regions. Table I lists some of the overall findings reported by US and European employees. This article describes these and other results in detail.

Table I: Profile of the typical pharmaceutical industry employee working in the US and in Europe.

Results are presented as mean average values or as percentages of the total number of respondents to a particular question (denoted as n). This article is also available online at The editors encourage readers to submit comments about this year's survey as well as suggestions for next year's questionnaire.


Gender. Of 1501 total responses to this question, 69% were from men and 31% were from women. Figure 1 shows that the pharmaceutical workforce consists mostly of men by a 2:1 ratio in the US and at least a 4:1 ratio in Europe.

Age. The average age of an industry employee working in the US or in Europe is 42 years. This result remains unchanged from previous surveys.

Figure 1: Gender demographics for the US and Europe and Figure 2: Pharmaceutical employees' formal education.

Work location. Of 249 respondents working in Europe, 71 (28%) work in the UK. The number of responses received from those working in other European nations was as follows:

  • Austria: 2

  • Belgium: 13

  • Denmark: 8

  • Eastern European countries: 7

  • France: 13

  • Finland: 6

  • Germany: 21

  • Greece: 3

  • Ireland: 17

  • Italy: 18

  • The Netherlands: 13

  • Norway: 2

  • Portugal: 4

  • Spain: 16

  • Sweden: 18

  • Switzerland: 17.

In addition, 27 respondents indicated that they work in Canada. As previously stated, 1251 responses were received from those working in the US. Again, readers should be aware of the number of responses received (sample size) from each region when noting the results of this survey, including reported salary results.

Education and professional work experience

Figure 2 shows that a higher percentage of European pharmaceutical employees earned a formal education beyond a bachelor's degree than did their US colleagues. Forty nine per cent (n51244) of all respondents working in the US reported completing their formal education at a bachelor's degree level, compared with 26% (n5251) of European respondents. Nearly one third (31%) of European respondents completed a doctorate degree, compared with 22% of US respondents.

Top five job functions

The most common field of study for US respondents was analytical chemistry. Fourteen per cent of US respondents reported it as their major field of study. For European respondents, pharmaceutics or pharmacy was the most studied academic topic. Twenty one percent of those working in Europe earned their highest qualification in this field. A significant number of respondents (23% US and 9% European) reported that their highest qualification was in a field other than those listed in the questionnaire. Of these, most were in biotechnology-, biology- or chemistry-related areas, and several respondents indicated they had earned doubled majors. Industry employees in the US and Europe reported an average of 16.4 and 18.0 years of professional work experience, respectively, including postdoctoral study.


Type of employer. A preponderance of US and European respondents are employed in private industry (89% for each group). Those employed in academia represented 4% of European respondents and only 3% of US respondents. The remaining participants were employed in either 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.

Figure 3: Annual salaries according to geographic region and Figure 4: Salary according to gender.

Employees in academia. Of the 78 American and 22 European responses from those working in academic institutions, 17 in the US and nine in Europe hold the position of either full, associate or assistant professor. Most of those employed in academia hold no administrative title and are neither a department head nor dean.

Employees in government or private industry. Out of 1124 private industry employees working in the US, 82% work in pharmaceuticals as opposed to working in contract services, diagnostics, equipment, non-manufacturing areas or excipients/chemicals. Similarly, 84% of private industry employees in Europe indicated that they work in pharmaceuticals (n5230). Although the survey received only 36 responses from those working in US government, 21 indicated that they work in pharmaceuticals. Similarly, the two responses received from those working in European government indicated they also work in the pharmaceutical sector.

"Given the opportunity, I would leave my current job" and "I believe my present job is secure."

Job description. The sidebar "Top five job functions" lists the most common job descriptions. As in the past 5 years, quality control/quality assurance (QA/QC) was the most common field of expertise (18 and 20%, US and Europe, respectively), and pharmaceutical development was the second most common field of work (13 and 12%, respectively). Ten per cent of US respondents work in pharmaceutical analytical development, 8% work in engineering or engineering management and 6% work in validation. For European respondents, engineering/engineering management (7%), biopharmaceuticals (5%) and consultant services (5%) rounded out the top five.

US and European pharmaceutical employees continue to share similar employment environments. Ninety seven per cent of US respondents and 96% of European respondents are employed full-time. On average, US and European employees are contracted to work 40 and 38 h per week, respectively, but actually work more than 46 and 45 h per week, respectively. Ninety one per cent of US and 85% of European employees indicated that they do not receive financial reimbursement for the extra hours worked.

Figure 5: Annual salaries according to job function.

On average, US employees have worked for their current employer for 6.8 years. European respondents reported an average number of 10.6 years with their current employer. However, for the first time, results revealed that the majority of respondents in the US (53%) have changed their job title during the past 2 years. A majority (64%) of these changes was not the result of mergers, acquisitions or downsizing. Most (58%) employees in Europe have not changed their title or company affiliation during the past 2 years. Of those who did indicate a change, 75% said the change did not result from a merger, acquisition or company downsizing.

Salary and benefits

Overall results. The mean base annual salary of those employed in the US was $84477 (n51197), which is approximately a 2.8% increase compared with last year's average of $82163. Although this increase is notably lower than the 4.5–5.9% annual increases between 1999–2002, it is well in tune with the 2.5% average increase recently reported by the US Department of Labor for 2003. This base annual salary does not include bonuses, overtime, salary from a secondary job or other supplemental income. Employees in the US reported an average additional income from their principal employer of $8689, including bonuses, summer work and grants, and an average additional income from other professional work of $1448.

"In my present job, I use my skills and training to the fullest extent" and "Top reasons why I would change jobs"

The mean base annual salary for those employed in Europe was $70131 (n5234), which is an increase of more than 17% compared with last year's reported value of $59918. This increase is the largest reported since 2000 and does not include bonuses, overtime, salary from a secondary job or other supplemental income. Employees in Europe reported an average additional income from their principal employer of $10189 (also an increase from last year's value of $6263), including bonuses, summer work and grants, and an average additional income from other professional work of $158.

Salary according to location. Figure 3 shows annual salaries according to the geographic region of employment. For the first time, the average salary of respondents working in Canada is included (n527). For respondents working in Europe, the range varies from an average of $104812 for those working in Switzerland to $23671 for those working in Eastern European countries. The reported average salaries from respondents working in nearly every European country, except those in Eastern Europe, were higher this year than those reported last year. However, it should also be taken into account that there were significantly fewer responses from employees in Europe than there were last year, so the mean values are less likely to be truly representative.

Figure 6: Common benefits received by employees.

Salary according to gender. Figure 4 shows that, on average, US women working full time earn 81% of the average salary reported by US men working full time. The gap between men's and women's salaries is slightly more than it was in last year's survey. This is also true for men and women working in Europe. On average, European women working full time earn 82% of the average salary reported by their male colleagues working full time. Interestingly, these values are approximately equal to the 79.8% value reported in the third quarter of 2003 by the US Department of Labor for other job markets.

Salary according to job function. Figure 5 shows the mean base annual salaries according to job function. The five highest paying jobs in the US were in consulting, production management, bulk pharmaceutical chemicals, drug delivery and technology transfer. Most fields in the US had an increase in their mean base annual salaries compared with last year. The highest paying job in Europe was in computer IS/IT, with an average salary of $86250, which is more than 45% higher than the reported average last year. Several job functions of those working in Europe provided annual base salaries in the mid $60–70000 range.

Figure 7: The average increase in annual salaries.

Benefits. The most common benefits received both by US and European respondents are employer contribution toward their pensions and health insurance for themselves (Figure 6). Moreover, US respondents are granted an average of 14 days of paid holiday time during the calendar year but took only 12 of those days during 2002. European respondents were granted an average of 26 days of paid holiday time during the calendar year but took only 23 of those days during 2002.

Attitudes toward current employment

Participants in this year's survey were asked how strongly they agree or disagree with the following:

  • Their employer values their work.

  • Their present job is secure.

  • They use their skills and training to the fullest extent.

  • They would leave their present job if given the opportunity.

Overall responses to these questions are shown in pie charts throughout this article. Although most US and European respondents agree that their employer values their work and that they use their skills to the fullest extent, the question regarding job security brought some interesting results. The responses experienced an approximate 2% shift from those who agree or strongly agree that their job is secure to those who would disagree or strongly disagree. This is a trend that has been consistent during the past 2 years. By contrast, there was at least a 5% increase compared with last year in the number of employees working in Europe who strongly agreed that their job is secure. Results also show that, given the opportunity, 47% of US respondents would leave their present employment, an increase from 43% revealed in last year's survey. Similarly, half of the respondents from Europe would leave their present job if given the opportunity, a result unchanged from last year.

Table II: Percentage of respondents indicating the importance of various skills and coursework when evaluating new employee candidates.

The major motivating factor behind the desire to leave their current jobs is again the opportunity to earn a higher salary (see sidebar "Top reasons why I would change jobs"). The importance of income has remained unchanged since the first annual survey. In fact, US and European respondents indicated almost the same five most important factors they would consider in changing jobs, namely, income, geographic location, professional advancement and job security. However, the issue of job security appears to be an increasing concern for both US and European workers. US and European respondents, overall, indicated similar least important factors that would influence their decision to change employment.

Preferred employer. The majority of US and European employees (61% and 58%, respectively) believe it is unlikely or very unlikely they will change employment during the next year. Most US and European employees prefer to remain with their current type of employer. In fact, 91% of US and European respondents prefer to remain in private industry. The second preferred area is government.

Evaluating employment candidates

The survey asked participants to indicate the importance of various educational backgrounds and skills when considering the hire of new employees. Table II shows how various skills and educational backgrounds are valued. Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and good laboratory practices (GLPs) continue to be the most important factor when evaluating employment candidates. Coursework in regulatory issues was also highly valued, as were skills in chemistry.


Although both groups saw an increase in average annual salaries during the past year, US respondents received only a small - if any - increase in their salaries compared with last year (an average of 2.8%). By contrast, employees in Europe reported salaries that were 17% higher than they were last year. On average, women continue to earn less than their male colleagues. Pharma industry employees, overall, seem secure in their jobs, though this percentage continues to decline. Still, most respondents believe it is unlikely that they will change employment during the coming year. Moreover, pharmaceutical employees continue to work more hours, without extra pay, than they are contracted to work; they take less vacation days than they are allowed; and, although they do not feel that they use their skills and training to the fullest extent, the majority believe that their employer fully values their work and would prefer to stay within their current type of employment.