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.

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There's no doubt times are tough
for pharmaceutical manufacturing
pros, but there are many positives,
too. You are well-educated,
dedicated, and among the most
highly paid professionals around.
Photo courtesy of Merck.



By Paul Thomas, Managing Editor

The pharmaceutical industry may have weathered the recent U.S. recession better than most industries, but, just as other industries are bouncing back, job experts agree that pharma is due for an even bigger tempest: a wave of downsizing spurred by narrow profit margins and soaring costs, mergers and consolidations, and general industry woes exacerbated by Pfizer’s troubles with Celebrex and Bextra and Merck’s with Vioxx. Sales and marketing may take the greatest hit, but manufacturing is due for its fair share of job cuts.

To access numerous helpful graphics that illustrate our survey findings, click the "Download Now" button at the end of this article.
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s 2005 Job and Salary Survey confirms that these are trying times. Half of you are concerned about job security. More than half of you said your company has been affected by hiring freezes recently. More than a quarter said outsourcing is increasing at your firm.

When gold standard firms like Pfizer and Merck start to swoon, you know things are bad, says Jeff Harvey, U.S. recruiting director at AstraZeneca (Wilmington, Del.). “I wish I could reassure people,” he adds, speaking from an industrywide perspective, “but I can’t.”

Be prepared, Harvey says. “The people who will land on their feet are those who are adaptable, positive, and capable of continuing to learn,” he says.

Take heart. We have positive news to report. First of all, despite layoffs, salaries are holding firm. You are some of the highest paid professionals around. What’s more, you’re well-educated, dedicated to your job, and aren’t afraid of a little hard work. You’ve chosen a noble profession and the pharmaceutical industry is all the richer for it.

Moreover, you really seem to like what you do (see graphic). Here’s a flavor of some of your comments in our survey:
  • “I enjoy making a world-class, important product.”

  • “I have the opportunity to work with new technology that is changing the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing."

  • “The people I supervise are like my family away from my biological family.”

  • “You get satisfaction knowing that you are making a difference.”
So, while clouds may be rumbling on the horizon, think of our first-ever job and salary survey as an opportunity to appreciate what you have, and to take stock of assets that will serve you throughout your careers.

Before we move on, a hearty “thank you” to the hundreds of you who responded. Thanks, also, for your copious comments to our open-ended questions. We wish we could have included them all, because it’s the stuff that let’s us know how meaningful your life and work are to you.

Job security: It’s not the economy, stupid

To be exact, 44.4 % of you say that job security is a big weight on your shoulders. Tom Bramswig, president of recruiting firm Pharmaceutical Careers, Inc. (Pleasantville, N.Y.), is surprised that number’s not higher. “These days, anyone can be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he says.

THE TOTAL YOU

If all of you who responded to the survey were grouped together into one uber-human pharmaceutical professional, what would be your dominant traits? Let’s try this:

First of all, you’re a man, although not without your feminine side (20 percent of our respondents were women). You’re about 45 years old, with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. You’re in manufacturing and operations (or maybe QA/QC) and have worked in the industry for 15 years, though only five with your current employer. Your annual salary is around 90K, just a cost-of-living-increase higher than last year. You’ve got medical, dental, and a 401K, but not profit sharing, paid parental leave and daycare, or a company car.
Our survey illustrates the tough times. Significant percentages of you are seeing layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, fewer promotions and more outsourcing.

What’s becoming clear is that the economy is not to blame. Credit instead low profits and the general industry malaise. “It has more to do with the number of mergers going on,” such as that between Sanofi and Aventis, says Richard Kneece, CEO of Massachusetts Technology Corp. (Allston, Mass.), which runs a number of popular Internet job sites, including hireRx and hireBio. “That always slows things down for a period of time.”

Consider the experience of one survey respondent: “During a five year period, I was employed by four different firms without changing offices. It was a nightmare worrying about job security and adapting to each ‘new way’ of doing business. . . My biggest fear is that eventual mega-mergers and consolidations will result in a handful of pharma companies left standing, limiting opportunities for employment and advancement.”

Amid all the restructurings and layoffs, loyalty has suffered. Young people take this in stride as part of today’s working world, and late-career job seekers should follow their lead, Bramswig adds. That concept may be hard to swallow for the roughly 50% of you who have been with your company for more than five years.

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