Calm in the Storm: Our 2005 Job and Salary Survey
The pharma job market’s going to get worse before it gets better. Hold on to your hat, and take stock of what you’ve got.
The work-life balancing act
Another sign of the times is that you seem to be putting in longer hours without raising a fuss. “In a turnaround, employees know they’re going to work more,” says Michael McCarthy, director of global staffing at Schering-Plough (Kenilworth, N.J.). “People come in knowing that they have a certain amount of work to get done.”
Our numbers back this up. Forty-hour work weeks are a luxury few of you have. And only half of you took all of your vacation time last year.
At the same time, McCarthy sees more and more job seekers inquiring about work-life balance. They want to know that a company like Schering-Plough offers not just a 401K but also a health club subsidy, tuition reimbursement, and nearby child care. As companies focus on worker productivity, most firms are willing to offer a comprehensive benefits package, McCarthy adds.
We asked you to tell us about what your employers are doing to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. While some of you were less than pleased — “If you are salaried, you are a slave laborer,” one of you lamented; “pretty much a cold heartless wasteland,” said another — most of you were satisfied with your firms’ options. In addition to the biggies — medical, dental, life, 401K — you spoke of flex time, telecommuting and free Internet at home, health club and fitness subsidies, and online programs such as LifeWorks.A healthy earnings outlook
Given the industrywide employment shakeup, salaries in pharmaceutical manufacturing remain very competitive, says Schering-Plough’s McCarthy. Our numbers bear this out (to see this and other graphics, click the "Download Now" button at the end of this article
AstraZeneca’s Harvey concurs, though he notes that manufacturing jobs aren’t really commanding higher salaries and bonuses these days. Scientists and M.D.s coveted for R&D functions are seeing sizable jumps in pay, he says.
Pharmaceutical companies these days are “uncomfortable” about finding “quality” people — as in QA and QC — and may be willing to pay a premium to hire or keep staff in this area, says Dave Jensen, managing director of Sedona, Ariz.-based search firm CareerTrax, Inc. One reason they are in demand is that QA/QC professionals can make the transition from the traditional pharmaceutical arena to biotech fairly easily. Quality issues tend to be the same on both sides of the fence, Jensen says. That bodes well for the nearly 20% of our survey participants who work in quality (see graphic).
Out West, Jensen is seeing consistent salary increases for chemical and biochemical engineers, who also look good on both sides of the fence. He says annual raises of 5% are common, with companies getting more and more comfortable with raises above mere cost-of-living adjustments.
Should massive industrywide layoffs materialize, biotech may be poised to pick up some of the slack, Jensen says. “There are companies in California waiting for the opportunity to get some of these people.”
Jensen says salary and job prospects are also good for biochemists and formulations specialists, and anyone with experience in downstream bioprocessing and purification. Some of the latter are even commanding up to 20% annual increases, he says. “What has me concerned is the large number of people that will be laid off who are tied into the classical pharmaceutical skills” like tableting and filling, he says.Sharpen your skills
There is increased traffic in resumes with two skill qualifications: automation and compliance, says Massachusetts Technology’s Kneece. A working knowledge of specific automation systems, he says, is a requirement for many positions, and definitely a “nice-to-have” for others.
Given the increased influence of regulatory issues on corporate bottom lines, having any kind of regulatory- or compliance-related experience, or just having experience in a highly regulated environment, adds to your marketability, he says.
“The emphasis on compliance is huge,” adds Schering-Plough’s McCarthy. “People who have worked in an FDA-regulated environment clearly have an advantageous skill set.” Familiarity with Sarbanes-Oxley is also helpful, he says. That knowledge doesn’t always translate into higher wages, he says, but there is a higher demand for employees with compliance and validation experience.
AstraZeneca recently tapped into FDA to fill a few key leadership positions, says Harvey. In fact, in addition to experience in regulatory, validation and compliance matters, he puts a premium on any job candidate with demonstrated leadership ability. “From a technical standpoint, we don’t have difficulty finding entry- and mid-level people,” he says. However, finding a combination of technical and leadership skills is much harder. Harvey recommends that professionals take every opportunity to enhance their leadership profile by leading projects, mentoring others, and taking on cross-functional responsibilities.
“Anyone showing leadership skills in a GMP environment should be set,” says CareerTrax’s Jensen. “Those with only technical skills will have difficulty.”
A matter of degree
|To access numerous helpful graphics that illustrate our survey findings, click the "Download Now" button at the end of this article.|
Having the right degree, rather than the highest degree, is another plus. “Companies are looking for the perfect fit,” says Bramswig of Pharmaceutical Careers. They’re not as willing as they have been in the past to hire green workers and nurture them, or to wait for experienced hires to retrofit their skills and training. They want the person on the resume. Getting a higher degree won’t help, Bramswig says, unless it helps you fill a niche.