Career & Salary Survey: In Check

Salaries are down,the industry gender gap persists and people have their eyes peeled for better gigs. But job satisfaction remains positive and, compared with other businesses, the pay isn't half-bad. James Chase attempts to make sense of the seeming contradictions

Career & Salary Survey: In Check
Career & Salary Survey: In Check

In the context of the seismic activity shaking the foundations of healthcare and the daunting array of challenges—economic, clinical and regulatory—facing the pharmaceutical industry, it's difficult to pick a tone with which to react to this year's MM&M Career & Salary Survey.

On one hand, the overall average industry salaries across all ­sectors, companies and positions have fallen for just the third time in the 28-year history of the study—and that can't be good news, can it? But on the other, this is still the second-largest average ­salary recorded during those 28 years, topped only by 2013's overall ­average of $143,600 (Fig. 1).

Of course, there's much more to scrutinize beyond this number. Of the 1,021 respondents, more than a third (36%) came from the manufacturing side (pharma, biotech, devices, diagnostics), and that hasn't exactly been the most secure place to forge a career path in recent years. Since 2009, the last time the overall average salary dropped, an estimated 160,000 pharma jobs have been eliminated in the US alone. That's an enormous number and the pace of downsizing shows little sign of letting up. Challenger Gray & Christmas reports that US pharma layoffs accelerated in August this year, with 3,093 additional job cuts bringing the 2014 total to 9,358, up from 8,793 for the same eight-month period in 2013.

How does that manifest itself vis-à-vis salaries? Well, if there is one modicum of positivity for manufacturers, it's that the sector fared less badly in this year's survey than did agencies and media (Fig. 2). Pharma salaries were down overall by 2.9% to an average of $155,700, compared to agencies (down 11.2% to $129,800), professional media (down 6.5% to $114,600) and consumer media (down 17.7% to $109,500). Still, that amounts to only a nano-crumb of comfort for pharma. Only service suppliers/vendors—a category which includes consultants and tech firms—bucked the downward trend, posting moderate growth of 4.7% to an average salary of $108,000.

However, pharma's numbers still compare favorably with those in other industries. The Payscale Index reports that since 2006, average US salaries across all industries have increased by about 8.5%. But while the average pharma industry salary has increased just 6.8% during that time, employees working for manufacturers have fared better, reporting raises of 16.2% since 2006. That's almost double the national average.

As was the case last year, the most notable storyline from this year's study is the apparent gender inequality in the industry. This year, the average salary for men was $154,700, versus the average salary of $116,700 for women (Fig. 3). To put it another way: female respondents are making, on average, 75% of what their male counterparts are making. This is by no means unique to the healthcare industry. In fact, a figure of 77% has been quoted by government and media alike as the standard female percentage of the male paycheck in the US.

One could argue that the gender gap highlighted in the MM&M data is misleading because this is not exactly a like-for-like study, in that many of the senior, most highly-paid positions are dominated by men. For example, 88% of CEO respondents are male, as are 80% of presidents, 84% of EVPs and 84% of sales directors. Still, however you look at it, it seems women are either paid less or promoted less (or both). Run with whichever theory makes you the least uncomfortable.

In terms of the different primary market sectors, not a single one posted a year-on-year gain (Fig. 4). Those respondents who listed Rx pharmaceuticals as their primary focus fared the least bad, with an average salary down 3.3% to $144,200. The other sectors rang up an array of double-digit losses, including biotechnology (down 14.2% to $150,500), medical devices (down 12.8% to $135,600) and diagnostics (down 23.3% $132,200).

Average salary appears to correlate largely with the size of the employer (Fig. 5). Respondents working for companies with annual revenues of less than $5 million reported average salaries of $115,200, while those at companies with annual revenues greater than $100 million recorded average salaries of $152,800. The only exception is the $50-$100 million revenue band, where average salaries were down 18.6% to $127,500.

Of course, compensation is about more than just the salaries. As they did in 2013, two-thirds of survey respondents reported ­receiving a bonus, although the average sum received was down by 7.1% to $30,000.

Overall, job satisfaction remains about the same as it was in 2013, with 28.8% of respondents reporting that they were “thoroughly” satisfied, 52.5% “generally” satisfied and 4.6% “dissatisfied” with their jobs. These numbers vary little among company type, with suppliers/vendors having the most “thoroughly” satisfied employees (32.6%) and agencies the least (25.0%). All, however, report combined “thorough” or “general” satisfaction around the 80% mark, which is respectable. Of course, one might also note that while 32.3% of males are “thoroughly” satisfied in their work, only 25.4% of females report feeling the same way.

Where the differences in job satisfaction start to appear is with benefits received. Almost one in three of those receiving a bonus report “thorough” satisfaction, versus one in four of those without a bonus. The pattern is similar for those receiving medical coverage (30.0% “thoroughly” satisfied vs. 26.1% of those who don't receive it) and retirement benefits (31.6% vs. 27.0%).

It gets even tastier when analyzing job satisfaction according to respondents' perceived advancement prospects. Among those who perceive their advancement prospects to be “excellent,” a whopping 59.1% report being “thoroughly” satisfied with their job, with another 35.1% being “generally” satisfied. And among those with “good” advancement prospects, 37.7% claim to be “thoroughly” satisfied. Conversely, among those who perceive “poor” advancement prospects, just 14.4% are “thoroughly” satisfied and 12.2% report “dissatisfaction.”


The Premium Edition of our 2014 Career & Salary Survey, where you can access information about many more job titles as well as a wealth of additional data sets, is now available to download here.

When it comes to the job factors that are most important, respondents unsurprisingly ranked salary highest with a ranking of 2.5 (based on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 is best), closely followed by environment/workplace culture (3.0). But how are their current employers performing on these various attributes? Last year, salary tied for first place with a score of 2.2. However, this year employers scored just 2.4 for salary, tied for fifth place behind environment/workplace culture and benefits (both 2.2) and corporate social responsibility and job security (both 2.3). It seems the slow growth in salary is being felt at the individual level.

Finally, 36.2% of the respondents to the survey said that they intended to look for a new position in the next 12 months, down slightly from 37.7% last year. Of these individuals, 35.9% said they wanted to move for a better salary (vs. just 27.6% in 2013). As in 2013, by far the most popular avenue via which respondents said they'd seek new positions was through existing contacts and executive search firms.

Methodology and respondent characteristics

MM&M readers were invited to fill out an online survey in August 2014. Of the 1,021 qualified respondents, 369 were employed by manufacturers (pharma, biotech, devices, diagnostics), 302 by agencies, 77 by healthcare media and 92 by suppliers/vendors; 181 classified themselves as “other.” 510 respondents were male and 511 female; the average age was 44.2 years. The average time spent in the industry was 15.2 years and the average time spent in their current position was 5.2 years.

On the PDF that you can download at the top of this page, you will find data sets for selected job titles. And to access the full complement of job titles, plus hundreds of additional insights and data sets, download the MM&M Career & Salary Survey Premium Edition.

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