Taking the Industry's Pulse: Fifth Annual International Employment Survey

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Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe-01-01-2003, Volume 15, Issue 1

After a year that has endured the devastating effects of global economic recessions, corporate bankruptcies, lay-offs and reorganizations, the need for a stable work environment has been steadily moving toward the top of every employee's list of priorities. Industry analysts have been carefully watching for signs of how these factors, and the responses to them from government and regulatory agencies, may ultimately affect the corporate job environment as a whole. The following results of the fifth annual international employment survey show that while the pharmaceutical industry remains strong, its employees are only cautiously optimistic.

The fifth international employment survey conducted by Pharmaceutical Technology Europe and Pharmaceutical Technology North America reports on the issues directly related to those who work in the pharmaceutical industry, including demographic information (such as age, gender and location of employment), 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. Although industry workers located in other countries also participated in the survey, the number of responses received from these areas was too few to be statistically significant.

When comparing salary and benefits information, including the statistics from the first four annual international employment surveys,1–4 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.

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

Methodology and statistics

The questionnaire was posted on the Internet from 10 August to 30 September 2002. Results were exported and separated according to respondents' geographic region of employment (US, including Puerto Rico, or Europe). A total of 1644 responses were received. Of these, 989 were from pharmaceutical employees working in the US, 525 were from those working in Europe and 130 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.

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 www.pharmtech.com. The editors encourage readers to submit comments about this year's survey as well as suggestions for next year's questionnaire.


Gender. Of 1492 total responses to this question, 1128 (76%) were from men and 364 (24%) were from women. Figure 1 shows this statistic according to US and European respondents. The pharmaceutical industry remains a predominately male field by nearly a 3:1 ratio in the US and at least a 4:1 ratio in Europe.

Age. The average age of a pharmaceutical industry employee working in the US or in Europe is 42 (n5973 and 506, respectively).

Work location. Of 525 respondents working in Europe, 125 (24%) work in the UK. The responses received from those working in other European nations were as follows:

  • Austria: 8

  • Belgium: 20

  • Denmark: 23

  • Eastern European countries: 6

  • France: 44

  • Finland: 14

  • Germany: 65

  • Greece: 9

  • Ireland: 41

  • Italy: 45

  • The Netherlands: 28

  • Norway: 7

  • Portugal: 5

  • Spain: 14

  • Sweden: 22

  • Switzerland: 35.

As previously stated, 989 responses were received from industry employees 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 salary information.

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 two per cent (n5924) of all respondents working in the US reported completing their formal education at a bachelor's degree level, compared with 25% (n5515) of European respondents. More than one third (37%) of European respondents completed a doctorate degree, compared with 27% of respondents working in the US.

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

Similar to the results from the previous three surveys, the most common field of study for US respondents was analytical chemistry. Fifteen per cent of US respondents reported it as their major field of study. For European respondents, pharmaceutics or pharmacy was the field of choice, again similar to the results of previous surveys. Twenty three per cent of those working in Europe earned their highest qualification in this field. A significant number of respondents (21% of US and 14% of European) reported their highest qualification was in a field other than those that were listed in the questionnaire. Of these, most were in a biotechnology, biology or a chemistry related area, and several respondents indicated they had earned double majors.

Industry employees in the US and Europe reported an average of 16.5 years of professional work experience, including postdoctoral study. This value remains unchanged from that of previous surveys.


Type of employer. A preponderance of US and European respondents are employed in private industry (90 and 88%, respectively; n5979 and 511, respectively). Those employed in academia represented 6% 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 (discussed later in this article) clearly best represents those working in the private sector.

Top five job functions

Employees in academia. Of the 57 US responses and 40 European responses from those working in academic institutions, 19 in the US and 20 in Europe hold the position of either full, associate or assistant professor. Most of those employed in academia (26 and 10, US and Europe, respectively) hold no administrative title.

Employees in government or private industry. Out of 882 private industry employees working in the US, 76% work in pharmaceuticals as opposed to working in contract services, diagnostics, equipment, non-manufacturing areas and excipients/ chemicals. Similarly, 81% of private industry employees in Europe indicated that they work in pharmaceuticals (n5455). Although the survey received few responses from those working in government (19 for US and 18 for Europe), the majority of these (12 and 12, respectively) indicated that they work in pharmaceuticals.

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

Job description. The sidebar "Top five job functions" lists the most common job descriptions. As in the past 4 years, quality control/quality assurance was the most common field of expertise (19 and 21%, US and Europe, respectively), and pharmaceutical development was the second most common field of work (12 and 14%, respectively). Nine per cent of US respondents work in pharmaceutical analytical development; 8% work in engineering/engineering management; and 7% work in validation. For European respondents, engineering or engineering management (8%), production management (6%), and (appearing for the first time at the top five) consultant services (5%) rounded out the top five.

Interestingly, the number of consultants and the number of engineering/engineering management employees in the pharmaceutical industry have been steadily increasing during the past 5 years. One would expect this number to rise as the salaries and demand for consultant services and engineers continue to increase (see salary information later) - a demand undoubtedly driven by pressures for companies to speed time-to-market and increase the bottom line in an unstable global economy, without compromising regulatory compliance.

"Given the oppportunity, I would leave my current job." and "I believe my presnt job is secure."

US and European pharmaceutical employees continue to share similar employment conditions. Ninety seven per cent of US respondents (n5984) and 96% of European respondents (n5514) are employed on a full-time basis. On average, US and European employees are contracted to work 39 and 38 h per week, respectively, but actually work more than 46 and 45 h per week, respectively. This value has remained unchanged from the results of surveys conducted during the past 5 years. Eighty eight per cent of US and 85% of European employees indicated that they do not receive financial reimbursement for extra hours worked - a fact also unchanged during the past 5 years.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the pharmaceutical industry continue to have little or no effect on employees' job titles and company affiliations. Sixty one per cent of US and 59% of European employees that had indicated that their job title or affiliation had changed during the past 2 years reported that it was not a result of M&A and/or downsizing. In fact, most (56% and 49%, US and European respondents, respectively) indicated no change in this area. Industry employees in the US have, on average, worked for their current employer for approximately 6 years. European respondents reported an average number of 9.6 years with their current employer, the same result reported in last year's survey.

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

Salary and benefits

Overall results. The mean base annual salary of those employed in the US was $82163 (n5921), which is approximately a 4.7% increase compared with last year's average of $78470. This value 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 $9161, including bonuses, summer work and grants, and an average additional income from other professional work of $1554.

The mean base annual salary for those employed in Europe was $59918 (n5445), which is an increase of more than 9.2% compared with last year's reported value of $54854. This value 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 $6263, including bonuses, summer work and grants, and an average additional income from other professional work of $1364.

Salary according to location. Figure 3 shows annual salaries according to the geographic region of employment. For European respondents, the range varies from an average of $80530 for those working in Switzerland to $24625 for those working in Eastern European countries. The reported average salaries from respondents working in Eastern European countries, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the US were higher this year than the average salaries reported last year in these areas.

"I believe my work is fully valued by my employer." and "In my present job, I use my skills and training to the fullest extent."

Salary according to gender only. As in previous years, Figure 4 shows that, on average, US men earn more than US women by slightly more than $12000 ($85288 versus $73285), more than a 16% gap. The gap between European men and women's salary is slightly less, though not by much, than the salary gap between US men and women. European men reported an average base salary of $61062 per year, and women reported an average base salary of $54235, a difference of more than 12%.

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 production management, bulk pharmaceutical chemicals, consultant services, finished dosage form manufacturing, and engineering/engineering management and pharmaceutical development (which were equal). Most fields in the US had an increase in their mean base annual salaries compared with the values reported in last year's survey. The highest paying job in Europe was in drug delivery ($74688). Several areas (job functions) of industry employees working in Europe provided annual base salaries of approximately $64000, including bulk pharmaceutical chemicals, consultant services, production management, and quality control/quality assurance.

Figure 5: Annual salaries according to job function. and "Top reasons why I would change jobs"

Benefits. The most common benefits received by both US and European respondents included health insurance for themselves and for their families, employer contribution toward their pensions, share options and training fees (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 2001. European respondents were granted an average of 36 days of paid holiday time during the calendar year but took only 25 of those days during 2001.

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. Most US and European 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. However, respondents are notably more reserved this year than in previous years when expressing that they either agree or disagree strongly to each question.

In particular, the question of job security can be an indication of how employees feel about the current state of the local or global economies. Interestingly, in last year's survey, 27% of US respondents indicated that they strongly agree that their job is secure. This year, however, the value was only 16%. In fact, the percentage of those that either disagree or strongly disagree has increased from 17% last year to nearly 23% this year. In Europe, the outlook regarding job security is even more grim. Last year, 22% of respondents in Europe indicated that they strongly agree that their job is secure. However, this year, the result is nearly half, at 11%. Obviously, industry employees in both the US and in Europe are less optimistic about the staying power of their current positions. In fact, given the opportunity, only 43% of US respondents would leave their present employment, a decrease from 51% from last year's survey.

Figure 6: Common benefits received by employees.

For US and European respondents, the major motivating factor behind the desire to leave their current jobs means the opportunity to make more money (see sidebar "Top reasons why I would change jobs"). This importance on income has remained unchanged since the first annual international 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 environment. For the first time, however, job security is one of the top five factors for those employed in the US, displacing the intellectual challenge category. US and European respondents indicated similar least important factors that would influence their decision to change employment, namely, holiday entitlement, scientific opportunities, pensions, and health and safety.

Preferred employer. The majority of US and European employees (64% and 55%, 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 all US and 87% of all European respondents prefer to work in private industry.

Evaluating employment candidates

The survey asked participants to indicate the importance of various educational backgrounds and skills when considering the hire of new pharmaceutical employees. Table II shows how various skills and educational backgrounds are valued. Knowledge of good manufacturing practices and good laboratory practices continues to be the most important factor when evaluating employment candidates. Skills in chemistry were also highly valued in both the US and Europe. Interestingly, ethics was an aspect of greater importance to those employed in the US than for those employed in Europe. Last year, only 44% of US respondents considered ethics to be important; this year, the value is 61% - but only 34% for European respondents. Clearly, the corporate scandals and cries for responsibility among the ranks have influenced the current working environment. Of course, the importance of each skill or educational coursework depends on the type of employment and area of expertise.

Figure 7: The average increase in annual salaries.


Results of this year's survey are very similar to the results of past employment surveys, and employment conditions continue to be stable worldwide. For example, although both US and European employees saw an overall increase in annual salaries during the past year (Figure 7), on average, women continue to earn less than their male colleagues. Pharmaceutical industry employees, in general, seem secure in their jobs, though one can sense from the data that respondents are less optimistic about the security of their jobs than they have been in previous years. However, most respondents continue to believe it is unlikely that they will change employment in the coming year.

During the past 5 years, through changes in political, economic and regulatory climates, very little has changed: pharmaceutical employees continue to work more hours, without extra pay; take fewer vacation days than they are allowed; and, although they may disagree that they use their skills and training to the fullest extent, the majority believe that their employer fully values their work and prefer to stay within their current type of employment.

The editors of Pharmaceutical Technology North America and Pharmaceutical Technology Europe hope the results presented in this article provide an insight into the employment issues most important to you, our readers. Thank you to the participants of this survey and best wishes for continued success in 2003.