2018 Career & Salary Survey Results: Pharma Gains Momentum

As the industry looks towards a strong 2018, survey respondents report satisfaction and security despite mounting pressures

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

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For the 14th consecutive year, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing readers have provided insightful feedback on careers and salaries through our annual survey. We query readership to gain a sense of how their pharma careers are treating them — both financially and emotionally — and speculate on how those answers reflect the bigger industry picture.

Job satisfaction in the pharmaceutical industry remains good — more than 89 percent reported their satisfaction levels within the range of “very high” to “OK,” which is exactly the same as last year’s survey.

Results varied by respondent demographics. Of the 307 respondents who indicated their gender, 94.5 percent of women were in the very high to OK range, and 88.5 percent of men reported as such. When broken down by industry segments, those working for consulting companies reported the greatest amount of job satisfaction, with a whopping 79 percent ranking their satisfaction levels from high to very high. This was followed by small to mid-sized specialty pharma manufacturers, which had 61.6 percent reporting high to very high satisfaction levels.

Overall job satisfaction has been on the rise in the U.S., but even so, only just recently (in 2017) surpassed the 50 percent mark — so it would appear as though the pharma industry is way above average.¹
job satisfaction

While “satisfaction” can be a subjective state, our survey asked readers which specific factor contributed most to their overall level of satisfaction. When asked about a variety of factors, among them challenging work, salary and benefits, opportunity for advancement, job security, stress levels and work/life balance, just over 25 percent ranked challenging work as the most important contributing factor. This was closely followed by 23 percent who ranked salary and benefits as the most important factor. While this ranking order has stayed consistent for the past six years, the gap between the perceived importance of challenging work versus salary is shrinking.

Additionally, job security and appreciation slightly declined in importance since last year, while low-stress environments and opportunity for advancement gained votes.

These results were corroborated by a write-in question, where respondents were asked what satisfies them most about their current position. Many respondents pointed out that their jobs offer new challenges and new problems to solve — and that projects are unique, interesting and diversified. Overall, respondents feel good about helping people, and find satisfaction in the belief that they are making a difference for their companies and for patients. “My company is making a major impact on improving the quality of patients’ lives,” said one respondent.

Interestingly, while only 11 percent said that work/life balance is the most important factor when it comes to overall job satisfaction, many said that freedom — in terms of working environments and work/life balance — is what they like most about their jobs. Respondents enjoy having the ability to make decisions independently as well as the perks of flexible hours, understanding employers and time-off.

Compensation appears to be healthy and reflects the sustained recovery of the pharma industry in 2017. Just over 25 percent of those surveyed have gross annual salaries between $100,000-150,000, with the next largest group (20%) making $150,000-200,000 annually. And 14.4 percent of respondents indicated their salaries are above $200,000.

According to survey results, both seniority and education factor into salaries. The majority (78 percent) of those who report gross yearly salaries exceeding $100,000 have more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Additionally, 67 percent of those who report salaries exceeding $100,000 have postgraduate degrees.

In this year’s survey, almost 65 percent of respondents reported getting raises last year, with most (77 percent) seeing an increase of 3-5 percent. Just 10.5 percent of those who reported earning raises said their salaries were increased by more than 10 percent.

These numbers are slightly down from year’s survey, where a greater percentage of respondents reported getting raises (70 percent), as well as a greater percentage (13 percent) seeing raises higher than 10 percent. This small drop in wage increases was projected on a global level, however. A Hay’s Group 2017 forecast predicated that, adjusted for inflation, workers around the world are were expected to see real wage increases of 2.3 percent (down slightly from 2016’s prediction of 2.7 percent).2

For the pharmaceutical industry, 2017 was challenged with a new administration that was both unpredictable and unconventional, a new FDA commissioner, and high levels of scrutiny surrounding drug prices and opioid use.

Despite all obstacles, 2017 saw the pharmaceutical sector bouncing back from what many analysts referred to as a “lackluster 2016.”3 The past year saw major advances in innovation, specifically in immunotherapy, stem cells and personalized medicines, as well as a higher number of drug approvals.

job security


When asked how current market and competitive forces affected their companies, 41 percent of respondents noted major business unit or operations restructuring. This answer has remained in the top spot since we started asking the question in 2014. This year, 33 percent said market pressure resulted in the launch of new facilities and capabilities in emerging global markets.

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