A Sneak Peek at Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s 2005 Job and Salary Survey

Here’s a sampling from our first annual Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey. For the real skinny, read the full report in March’s issue of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.

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.

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.

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.

Our survey illustrates the tough times. Significant percentages of you are seeing layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, fewer promotions and more outsourcing.

Survey Results: How has the economy affected your company?
Hiring freezes 50.8%
Fewer promotions, lower raises 37.5%
Layoffs 32.5%
Salary freezes 26.7%
Outsourcing 29.2%


What’s becoming clear, however, is that the economy is not to blame. Instead, credit 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.

Survey Results: How many years have you been with your present employer?
1-2 25.3%
2-5 25.3%
5-10 23.4%
11-15 10.8%
15-20 7%
21-25 5.1%
25-30 2.7%
More than 30 0.6%


The flipside of the coin is that those who do have jobs are cherishing what they’ve got. As one of you stated so profoundly: “It’s better to work than not work.”

A healthy earnings outlook

Given the industrywide employment shakeup, salaries in pharmaceutical manufacturing remain very competitive, says Schering-Plough director of global staffing Michael McCarthy. Our numbers bear this out:

Survey Results: What is your current annual gross salary?
Over $200K 0.6%
$150 to $200K 5.7%
$100 to $150K 33.8%
$90 to $100K 8.3%
$80 to $90K 9.6%
$70 to $80K 10.8%
$60 to $70K 10.8%
$50 to $60K 11.5%
$40 to $50K 5.1%
$30 to $40K 2.5%


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.

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.


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.

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