The Biopharma Working Life

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-12-01-2014, Volume 27, Issue 12

Industry professionals share the ups and downs of working in the biopharma industry.

According to the industry group PhRMA, the average annual total compensation for biopharmaceutical workers in 2011 was $110,490, almost twice the average salary earned by all US workers (1). An American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists survey lists the mean annual base salary for pharmaceutical scientists in the US, as of July 2014, as $143,800 (2). On paper, these salary numbers are impressive. However, the number of research, development, manufacturing, sales, and other positions eliminated in the bio/pharma industry, more than 155,000 since 2009 (3), is sobering.

What is the employment picture for those professionals working in the biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing segments? In this issue, the editors of BioPharm International address employment, compensation, workload, and other factors in our annual employment survey on pages 26-29.

Here are some key results:

  • More than 54% of the respondents are contracted to work 40 hours per week; 24.1% say they work more than 50 hours per week.

  • The respondents were experienced: 61% have more than 15 years of experience in the industry.

  • The respondents are not impressed with the training for people newly hired for the industry; 78% said the new hires were adequately trained, but not exceptional and 13.6% of the respondents said the new hires were poorly trained.

  • Almost 63% reported a salary increase from 2013 to 2014. Of the 52% of the respondents who received a bonus, 26% received larger bonuses than the previous year.

  • While 75% of the respondents received at least two weeks of vacation time; 85% said they spent at least part of their vacation time doing work.

In evaluating factors other than compensation, approximately 80% of the respondents said they did not experience discrimination; their skills were used to the fullest extent; and their work was valued by their employer. Some respondents, however, saw limited opportunities for professional development (35%) and career advancement (39%).

When considering a job change, professional advancement and intellectual challenge ranked higher than salary respondents report, followed by job security and work/life balance.

Salary is not the main reason respondents come to work, however. Challenging projects, intellectual stimulation were the top reasions, followed by a good work/life balance and job security. Salary was ranked with relationships with colleagues and supportive management.

Overall, the respondents were tolerant of negative workplace factors; less than 15% percent identified a specific factor as a reason to quit their job. Low pay, discrimination and limited growth opportunities, and negative workplace attitudues were top concerns.

On behalf of the BioPharm International team, I thank all biopharmaceutical professionals for their contributions to the industry and extend our wishes for a prosperous and successful 2015.

1. PhRMA, “The Biopharmaceutical Industry Helps Strengthen the U.S. Economy,” accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
2. AAPS, 2014 Annual Salary Survey, (Arlington, VA, 2014).
3. Loftus P., Falconi M., and Plumridge H.,“In Drug Mergers, There’s One Sure Bet: The Layoffs”, Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2014, accessed Nov. 24, 2014.

About the Author
Rita Peters is the editorial director of BioPharm International.