When the Career and Salary Survey debuted in 1987, it was with the intention of providing a resource that industry marketers sorely lacked. If anybody had been benchmarking career wants/needs and salary sums pre-1987, well, that person was doing so behind closed doors for a limited audience. The information was simply inaccessible by the people who stood to benefit from its wider dissemination.

Thirty years on, employees now have the opposite problem: There’s almost too much information about employers, salaries, career-development programming, job perks, and more. As a result, individuals hoping to make a smart decision about their professional future find themselves questioning the reliability of the source. Could that person who anonymously posted an unfavorable Glassdoor review of the dessert options at a certain pharma company’s cafeteria possibly have an ax to grind? Truly, it’s anyone’s guess.

Welcome to the 31st MM&M Career and Salary Survey, which brings tidings both welcome (salaries are up) and somewhat less so (the gender gap hasn’t narrowed much). Buckle up — there’s lots of ground to cover.

As with any survey of this nature, the headline data are always the ones related to salary. Based on conversations with marketing higher-ups at pharma companies and agency leaders, we expected to see some salary inflation from a year ago. What we didn’t expect was the sizable percentage jump: the average base salary exclusive of bonuses or commissions increased a stunning 12.7%, from $139,200 last year to $156,900 this year (see Fig. 1). And 67% of respondents reported receiving a bonus on top of that.


Unfortunately and embarrassingly, the gender pay gap persists. In 2016, the average men’s salary, $154,100, was 23.7% higher than the average women’s salary, $124,500. This year, women saw a greater gain than men did, with increases of $19,600 and $17,300, respectively (see Fig. 3). But that still amounts to an 18.9% disparity between the average men’s salary of $171,400 and the average women’s salary of $144,100.

Is the gender gap perceived as a major issue? In the real world, it sure seems to be. In the Career and Salary Survey world, it’s not as clear.

Perhaps the survey’s most interesting results related to industry diversity. Speakers at industry events regularly bemoan the lack of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity within the world of pharma. There’s practically a cottage industry of think pieces offering solutions to what pretty much anyone you ask will concede ranks as one of the most vexing problems in and around healthcare.

Our survey respondents beg to differ, at least as it pertains to their own organizations. A whopping 77% — 80% of men and 73% of women — said they believe their organization has “made progress hiring diverse talent.” Those percentages are consistent across demographics and type of organization.

However, respondents are less impressed with the way their organizations have diversified the C-suite. Slightly more than half of respondents (51%) said they feel their company “has made progress including diverse talent in the C-suite.” This result varied by gender, with 60% of men but only 43% of women saying their organizations have improved in this critical area. Perhaps the biggest surprise, at least based on previous industry research and a wealth of anecdotal evidence, is that so many women believe their firms have made progress.


When asked specifically about women in the C-suite, respondents similarly bucked industry conventional wisdom. A jaw-dropping 71% — 80% of men and 64% of women — said their companies have “made progress including women in the C-suite.” If anyone can help reconcile this result with the common perception that pharma has a gender diversity problem, feel free to give us a call.

Less surprising were the salary data for various healthcare/pharma types of employers. As in years past, respondents indicated that manufacturers pay the best, with an average salary of $174,100 (see Fig. 2). Agency posts averaged out at $130,500, down 5% from last year’s sum of $137,300, and supplier/vendor gigs paid an average of $116,800, down 10% from $129,800.

Slightly less in line with expectations were the salary averages for various market sectors. Jobs in the white-hot managed markets and biotech realms paid the most, with averages of $240,600 and $209,400, respectively (see Fig. 4). Both figures were way up against the year-ago period, meaning either people with this knowledge are finding themselves on the happy side of a supply/demand curve or that a few more heavy-hitters than usual responded.

On the whole, respondents expressed a high degree of contentment with their current professional lives. When asked, “Which of the following best describes how you feel about your job?” 29% answered, “I thoroughly enjoy it,” and 53% answered, “It’s generally satisfying.” Granted, generally satisfying isn’t the type of endorsement most organizations will highlight, but it sure beats “it’s OK sometimes” (13%) and “I’m not happy in my job” (6%).


They’re also bullish about their career advancement prospects. Overall, 53.4% of respondents rank those prospects as either “excellent” or “good,” while only 20.2% rank them as “poor” (see Fig. 6). Contrary to what MM&M hears around the time it releases its annual agency issue every July, agency workers appear to be quite content, at least when it comes to optimism about their career prospects: 64.9% ranked those prospects as either “excellent” or “good.”

A majority of respondents plan on staying at their current business for a while, too. Last year, 39.4% of employees said they had no plans to seek a new job in the year ahead, and 31.7% said they were planning to put themselves on the market. This year, those percentages shifted to 36.6% and 28.6% (see Fig. 7). Of course, there’s a lot of room for movement among the 34.8% who answered “don’t know.” Those who plan to pursue a new gig cite a desire for better salary/benefits and a better work culture/environment as the top two factors.

When respondents were asked to rank a gaggle of job attributes in order of importance to them, salary was listed first on 35% of responses. The most important attributes, in order, were salary (average rank of 2.4), work environment (3.2), benefits (4.1), and job security (4.1). Make of this what you will: Environmental/social responsibility had an average rank of 6.9, placing it behind loyalty toward employees (4.7) and training (6.2) on the attribute checklist.

Finally and inevitably, the 2017 Career and Salary Survey revealed that most people think they’re underpaid. When respondents were asked how they believe their compensation compares to other individuals in the same position, 48% said they “think they get paid less,” compared with only 11% who said they “think they get paid more.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS | sorted by the top-earning positions

Position Salary % Change Dollar Change
CEO $845,666 279.2% $622,666
EVP $277,985 3.9% $10,395
President $259,130 -1.9% -$5,070
VP, marketing $207,478 -8.8% -$20,022
VP, creative director $187,000 -6.1% -$12,200
Research director $182,100 18.6% $28,500
Managing director $175,478 -1.4% -$2,422
VP, operations $170,022 -5.6% -$10,178
VP, group supervisor $165,024 -6.3% -$11,176
VP, marketing and sales $158,375 -38.3% -$96,125
Medical director $145,714 5.3% $7,314
VP, sales $144,400 -6.1% -$9,400
Director, new business development $144,071 1.3% $1,871
Associate creative director $141,600 2.4% $3,300
Director, marketing $137,246 -7.2% -$10,654
Senior product manager $133,546 3.0% $3,946
Director, corporate/marketing communications $120,786 -21.7% -$33,514
Management supervisors $116,200 -26.0% -$40,800
Group supervisor $109,042 -19.6% $-26,658
Research manager $89,200 -29.3% -$36,900
Publisher $76,000 -62.0% -$124,000


A total of 1,089 marketers (511 men and 578 women) responded to the survey, which was fielded in late July and early August. The majority of the respondents (564) were aged between 36 and 55. They’re an experienced lot, with an average industry tenure of 12.6 years, and they’ve stuck around in their current position for an average of 6.2 years. They handle a range of responsibilities: 58% reported their “primary market involvement” was Rx pharmaceuticals, with medical devices/equipment (33%) and biotechnology (27%) lagging behind.

Similarly, the respondents hailed from a range of organizations, with pharma companies (408), agencies (356), and suppliers/vendors (99) leading the way. Of those organizations, 14% have approximate gross U.S. revenue of less than $5 million, 20% between $5 million and $20 million, 16% between $20 million and $50 million, 11% between $50 million and $100 million, and 40% greater than $100 million.