Career & Salary Survey

There’s little denying that it’s been a torrid millennium so far in the pharmaceutical business. Since, 2000, the industry has cut around 300,000 jobs, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Around half of these losses have occurred in the past 2-3 years and there is every indication that there are more to come.

“It’s a crazy time,” says Cliff Miras, co-founder & managing partner at Cornerstone Search Group, a Parsipanny, NJ-based search and recruitment firm specializing in the pharma industry. “A lot of people have been laid off and I’m sure a lot more people will continue to be laid off. But talent is always in demand. That never seems to go away.”

And logic would dictate that there is a lot of available talent right now, an observation not lost on Kristine Garberding, VP of human resources and organizational development, North America at Galderma. “There is certainly a greater pipeline of available talent, either because they’ve been downsized or are the fallout of an M&A activity,” she notes. “Uncertainty creates the right environment for very highly qualified, high performers to be looking.”

However, Miras believes there is still a shortage of the right skills. “Companies have more people to choose from, however, in terms of the types of people that they want to hire, the true talent, I’d say that the demand is even higher now.”

How much are they making?

According to MM&M’s 25th Annual Career & Salary Survey, average salaries across the board are flat at $129,000, following a 5% hike in 2010 and a decrease of similar proportions the previous year (Fig. 1). Note, our sample of 830 includes employees from pharma, biotech, devices and diagnostics manufacturers, as well as agencies, media companies and other related disciplines within pharma and healthcare marketing. Demographic details of respondents can be found later in this article.

Manufacturers’ salaries fell by 8.0% to $143,521, while Agencies posted a slight drop of 0.8% to $122,009 (Fig. 2). Media salaries were widely different than last year: Print Only rocketed up by 59.2%, however, the significance is questionable due to the small sample size. Conversely, Digital Only was down 11.4% to $111,786, while Print and Digital climbed 27.9% to $109,030.

“As an industry, we’re hurting too, but not as bad as other industries,” says Miras, “so we’re justifying holding the line on salaries. What we’re seeing a number of companies do, especially the larger ones, is give minimal increases across the board.”

Unfortunately, it seems the gender gap is continuing to widen, with Male salaries up 4.4% to $152,834 and Female salaries down by 5.8% to $105,549 (Fig. 3). The 47K difference is, in part, explained by the fact that the highly paid President and CEO roles are male dominated (around 75%). However, this does not necessarily explain, nor excuse, why the gap has gotten wider.

“There continues to be a shortage of diverse and female talent in the senior ranks,” says Garberding, whose company is an equal pay, equal opportunity employer. “When we go to market for a senior level position, we are always wanting and asking to see a slate of very diversified candidates, specifically female candidates, and it’s very difficult to find. It is something in today’s world that you assume does not really exist anymore. We need to get better [as an industry] at giving women the opportunity to achieve [a life balance] by way of more evolved thinking inside of the workplace.”

In terms of sectors, employees working in Rx Pharmaceuticals (not necessarily for a manufacturer) posted a mere 1.1% increase to $134,759, with OTC pharma faring even worse, dropping 1.0% to $123, 359 (Fig.4). Looking better were Medical Products (up 5.5% to $126,317) and Diagnostics (up 7.1% to $133,764), while Biotechnology remained highest at $144,331 on the back of a 2.5% hike.

As for size of company, only the smallest organizations (less than $5 million in revenue) posted an increase, climbing a sizeable 13.1%, but this bracket is still the second lowest-paid at $122,561 (Fig. 5).

What else is in it for them?

For all the bad news surrounding the industry, this remains a fairly satisfied bunch of employees: 29.1% reported that they are “Thoroughly Satisfied” in their job, with another 53.0% saying they are “Generally Satisfied”. Just 6.7% of respondents claimed to be “Unsatisfied”. All of these numbers mirror closely the 2010 results.

Interestingly, 14.0% think they are paid more than their peers (vs. 12.0% in 2010) with 44.1% feeling they make less than their peers, down from 45.9% last year and 48.4% in 2009. 

Overall, 21.8% of respondents described their advancement prospects as “Excellent” (up from 19.1% in 2010) with a further 31.1% perceiving them to be “Good”. Just 18.4% felt their prospects were “Poor”, compared to 19.0% in 2010.

However, if we add together the “Excellent” and “Good” responses, and break it out by type of company, we can see evidence of shifting perceptions between different areas of the business (Fig. 6). “Excellent or Good” advancement prospects were down at both Manufacturers (from 57.4% to 46.1%) and Agencies (from 67.3 to 59.7%). Similarly, the number claiming their prospects were “Poor” rose at both Manufacturers (from 17.9 to 19.9%) and at Agencies (from 9.3% to 12.5%). However, in the Media and Service Supplier categories, “Excellent or Good” perceived prospects increased all around, with “Poor” prospects decreasing significantly.

“You pick up the Wall Street Journal, pick up a magazine, hear all this news about the economy, I can see where someone even with a positive attitude is lowering their expectations for advancement, simply based upon reaction to what’s going on around them,” says Miras.

So, what factors do employees consider to be the most important to their jobs? Unsurprisingly, Salary came out on top overall, having been ranked number one by 40% of respondents, and number two by 23%. (Interestingly, 10% ranked Salary as the least important factor). Work Environment/Culture came next, with 23% ranking it most important and a further 18% ranking it number two. Flexible Hours/Location followed as the third most important factor.

Given we have some idea of what employees want, how do they actually rate their current employers on some of these attributes? It seems companies are doing pretty well on Salaries, Benefits and Work Environment/Culture (67% graded them “Excellent” or “Good” for each), but less well on Training (26% labeled it “Poor”) and Advancement (20% “Poor”). 

 “I’m not surprised to see that,” says Garberding. “When companies are asked to tighten their fiscal responsibility, unfortunately oftentimes the result is that they reach into their training budget or their human capital budgets. That, for us, has been something that we hold near and dear.” Galderma’s staff turnover is below the industry average, at 8-10%, she notes.

What are they going to do next?

Each time we do this survey, 30%-40% of respondents say they intend to look for a new job in the next 12 months. This year was no different, with 35.3% claiming they would search for a new position the next year (vs. 33.7% in 2010 and 36.3% in 2009). This figure was highest for Manufacturers (up from 34.2% to 38.0%) and Media-Print and Digital (down from 47.7% to 42.4%) and lowest for Agencies (up from 31.0% to 32.3%) and Service Suppliers (down from 38.0% to 31.6%) (Fig. 7).

As for their motivations to switch positions, 32% said Better Salary/Benefits was their primary reason, followed by Better Work Culture/Environment (20%) and Better Advancement Prospects (17%). These numbers are almost identical to the 2010 responses.

And how do they intend to look for their next job? The most popular response was Existing Relationships/Contacts; 42% ranked this number one with an additional 22% ranking it second, similar proportions to 2010. It’s interesting that this year several respondents specifically cited LinkedIn as the social media tool through which they would look for a position.

Next was Recruitment/Search Agency; 29% ranked this first (vs. 35% in 2010), with an additional 24% placing it in second (vs. 22% in 2010). Interestingly, 15% said that job advertisements would be their primary method of job search, up from 10% in 2010.

So what are the hot-ticket talents right now? Miras says that leaders with a proven track record of being able to “deal effectively across multiple functional areas” are in constant demand.

Garberding agrees. “It’s difficult to find someone who has both the commercial acumen as well as the medical and scientific acumen. The cross-pollination of the two career paths is a tough one,” she says, adding that the company also is challenged by the regulatory medical/clinical positions and in finding candidates with both sales and marketing experience. “We tend to find the purely marketing profile and the purely sales profile, and really we’re looking for someone who has experience with both.”

Garberding also sees a strong demand for experts in access and coverage. “There is a war for talent around managed care. It is exceptionally hot.”

Who are the respondents and how did we find them? 

The MM&M Career & Salary Survey 2011 was undertaken in July and August as an online self-completion questionnaire. The URL was emailed to several mailing lists of more than 40,000 executives employed in pharmaceuticals, healthcare marketing and related fields, encompassing manufacturers, agencies, media companies and service suppliers/vendors, and including subscribers to MM&M.

Of the 830 respondents: 412 are male and 418 female; 297 work at manufacturers (pharma, biotech, devices, diagnostics), 288 at agencies, 95 in media and 76 at suppliers/vendors; the average age is 43 years; the average time spent in the industry is 14.5 years; and the average time spent in current position is 4.7 years.

On the pages that follow you will find data sets for a limited selection of job titles. However, you can access the full complement of job titles—plus hundreds of additional insights and data sets—by downloading the MM&M Career & Salary Survey Premium Edition at