Compensation Does Not Necessarily Align with Job Satisfaction

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-01-01-2021, Volume 34, Issue 01
Pages: 14–18

Essential bio/pharma employees show hard work and dedication can pay off, for patients.

In 2020, the bio/pharma industry initiated a monumental effort to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent COVID-19 disease and therapies to treat the symptoms. Behind the scenes, researchers, biologists, chemists, process engineers, formulators, quality control experts, and other professionals involved in drug development and manufacturing worked under pressure and sometimes socially distanced from other collaborators or team members.

The long hours and adverse conditions endured by drug development and manufacturing professionals have started to show results with the Emergency Use Authorization of two vaccines and two monoclonal antibody treatments and FDA approval of remdesivir. In addition, nearly 50 drugs for other conditions were approved by FDA as 2020 drew to a close (1).

Drug development and manufacturing professionals participating in the 2021 Bio/Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Employment Trends Survey, sponsored by BioPharm International (2), worked longer hours in 2020 than previous years with fewer salary increases. Respondents, however, said compensation was not a top priority and nearly two-thirds expect to stay in their same position in the coming year. (See the infographics for an overview of survey results.)

The pandemic impact

As an essential industry, bio/pharma companies were very busy during 2020, as evidenced by the increased workloads reported in the survey. Nearly 60% of respondents said they worked more hours in 2020 than in the previous two years compared with 38% in the previous survey. Only 10% said they worked fewer hours.

Nearly 80% of the respondents reported some impact from the pandemic on their daily work. More than half of the respondents (53.2%) changed work schedules to enable social distancing at work. A similar number (53.9%) worked remotely from home. Nearly one-third of the respondents said they assumed additional responsibilities; 20% worked additional hours on pandemic-related projects and 10.3% switched to pandemic-related projects. Development programs were changed or reduced for 13.5% of the respondents. Work hours or responsibility were reduced for 18.6%, and 5.8% said their position was eliminated.

After a difficult 2020, biopharma professionals have an optimistic outlook for the industry for 2021; more than three-quarters of survey respondents expect business to improve; 64.3% expect business at their employer to improve.

Compensation question

Satisfaction with compensation increased slightly in 2020, following a few years of downward movement. Almost 43% of the respondents said they were paid fairly or excessively in 2020, compared with 41.5% in 2019. A majority of respondents were not happy with their salary; 37.7% said their pay was at the low end of the salary range for their expertise and responsibility; 19.4% said they were paid below market value.

The percentage of respondents reporting salary increases continued a downward trend. Only 41.7% of the respondents reported a salary increase in 2020 compared with 55.4% in 2019 and nearly 63% in 2017 (2–4). A slightly greater percentage reported a decrease in salary (13.7% in 2020 vs. 11.4% in 2019). More people reported no change in salary (44.6% for 2020 compared with 33.2% in 2019) indicating some stagnation in compensation levels.

Salary ranked second to last on a list of 13 factors contributing to job satisfaction in the 2021 survey, down from fifth place in the 2020 survey. Compensation trailed factors such as challenging projects, intellectual stimulation, company’s potential for success, supportive management, and a good work/life balance as the “main reason I come to work.”


Job security and new opportunities

Approximately half of the respondents reported no change in job security comparing calendar year 2020 with 2019. However, only 17.8% said they felt more secure in 2020 vs. 2019, compared with 30% feeling more secure in 2019. Those feeling less secure increased slightly, from 30.6% in 2019 to 34.4% in 2020.

Similar to surveys in previous years, more than half of all respondents said they would like to leave their jobs, given the opportunity; however, 62% said they do not expect to leave in 2021. A significant segment, 21%, said they would like to change careers and leave the bio/pharma industry.

Compared with previous surveys, respondents to the current survey tended to stay in the same position for a longer time. Fewer than 30% of the 2021 survey respondents—compared with 44% of 2020 survey respondents—said they stayed with the same employer, on average, for five or fewer years.

Fewer than 20% of the respondents said they voluntarily changed jobs in the past two years, primarily to pursue a better career opportunity or more challenging work.

Salary was the fifth most-cited single reason for job change, trailing professional advancement, intellectual challenge, scientific opportunities, and work/life balance. Two-thirds of the respondents were confident they could find a job similar to their current position, should they choose—or were forced—to find new employment.

Respondents suggest there is a positive market for job seekers for the bio/pharma market; however, they are somewhat split on the opportunities. More than one-third (35.6%) of respondents said there are few qualified candidates for open scientific/technical positions. A smaller percentage (30.5%) said there were more qualified candidates than open positions. As in previous surveys, respondents expressed somewhat negative opinions about the knowledge and skill sets of new hires; 74% said the new hires were adequately trained but not exceptional; 20.1% said they were poorly trained.

Respondent profile

More than 200 bio/pharma professionals from around the world responded to the survey, which was fielded in November and December 2020. Respondents primarily were from innovator and generic-drug bio/pharmaceutical companies (41.4%), and contract research and manufacturing or consulting organizations (17.3%).

The respondents were involved in developing or manufacturing a range of drug types—with some listing multiple types—including small-molecule drugs (55.4%), large-molecule drugs (34.4%), vaccines (17.2%), cell therapies (15.6%), gene therapies (10.2%), and nutraceuticals (19.4%).

A range of company sizes were represented: approximately 30% work for companies with fewer than 100 employees; another 29% for companies with 100–1000 employees. The responses reflect a broad geographic spread, with responses from the United States, Europe, India, Asia, and Africa.

Top responsibilities listed were quality control/assurance, validation, production/manufacturing operations, analytical studies, process development, production R&D, formulation, R&D, and technology transfer. More than two-thirds are responsible for managing other employees.

The respondents are experienced in the bio/pharma industry; 16.3% had fewer than 10 years of experience, 25.6% had 10–20 years, 41.8% had 20–35 years of experience, and 16.3% have worked in the industry for more than 35 years. Nearly one-third held a doctorate degree or higher; 44% held a Master’s degree.


1. FDA, Novel Drug Approvals for 2020,, accessed Dec. 21, 2020.
2. BioPharm International, 2021 Bio/Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Employment Trends Survey, December 2020.
3. BioPharm International, 2020 Pharmaceutical Technology/BioPharm International Employment Survey, December 2019.
4. BioPharm International, 2019 BioPharm International Employment Survey, December 2018.

About the Author

Rita Peters is editorial director of BioPharm International.

Article Details

BioPharm International
Volume 34, No. 1
January 2021
Pages: 14–18


When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Peters, “Compensation Does Not Necessarily Align with Job Satisfaction," BioPharm International, 34 (1) 2021.