Workers Define the 2016 Biopharma Employment Picture

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-12-01-2016, Volume 29, Issue 12
Pages: 18–21

Job security may have increased, but biopharma professionals remain somewhat dissatisfied with pay levels.

While the funding for biopharma companies may have cooled in 2016 from levels in recent years, professionals that work in biologics drug development and manufacturing remain somewhat optimistic about their employment status and continue to feel secure in their positions, participants in the 2016 BioPharm International employment survey reported (1).

Since 2013, the percentage of survey respondents who have felt “less secure” in their positions compared to the previous year has declined from 33.9% to 25.4% in 2016. The percentage of respondents feeling more secure than the previous year dropped slightly, from 20.3% in 2015 (2) to 18.6% in 2016. Overall, however, 80.2% agreed or strongly agreed that their job was secure, up from 74.6% in 2015.

Survey respondent profile

More than 300 biopharmaceutical professionals from around the globe responded to the 2016 survey, which was fielded in September and October 2016. More than one-third (36.3%) of the respondents were from innovator biopharmaceutical companies; 18.2% were from generic-drug manufacturing companies. Representatives of contract research and manufacturing organizations, government/regulatory organizations, academia, and consulting firms also responded.

Nearly one-half of the respondents (48%) were from privately held companies; 34.4% were from publicly traded firms; and 12.9% were from non-profit, academic, or government organizations.

More than 25 job functions were represented led by quality control/assurance, product research, analytical studies, process development, and production R&D. Geographically, 49.3% of the respondents were from the United States, 24.4% were from Europe, 15.2% from Asia, and 3.2% from Central and South America.

More than two-thirds of the respondents were over age 40, and 70.5% were male. The respondents to the 2016 survey reported slightly more experience in the biopharma industry than the 2015 respondents; 30.7% have less than 10 years of experience, 28.7% have 10-20 years, 34.5% have 20-35 years of experience, and 6.1% have worked in the industry for more than 35 years.

Compensation dissatisfaction remains constant

In 2016, compensation discontent held steady versus the previous year; 38.6% of the respondents said they were paid at the low end of the salary range for their job function, considering their expertise and responsibility. Another 21.7% said they were paid below market value.

The number of people reporting a salary increase (58.6%) was similar to 2015, but is still down from the 62.8% of respondents reporting increases in 2014. More than one-third of the respondents reported no change in salary and 7.7% reported a salary decrease.


Despite the flat levels of compensation increases, a strong majority of respondents--and more than in 2015--said their work is fully valued by their employer (35.8% strongly agree; 46.3% agree).

Workloads ease, a little

Workloads may be easing; however, respondents still work more hours than in previous years and more than they are contractually obligated to work. Nearly one-third of respondents said they worked more hours in 2016 compared to two years ago, down from the nearly 40% of the respondents who said they worked more hours in 2015 than two years prior.

More than half of the respondents reported they are contracted to work approximately 40 hours per week; however, only 23.3% reported working 40 hours. While one-third are contracted to work more than 40 hours per week, 71.3% of the respondents said they work 40 or more hours per week. More than half of the respondents said they will use 75% or more of their available paid time off.

Fewer respondents reported an increase in workloads from year to year. In 2016, just over half of those surveyed said they had a heavier workload in 2016, down from 63.7% reporting an increased workload in 2015. Business increases without staffing increases and increased regulatory pressure were the most frequently cited reasons for the greater workload.

A little more job satisfaction

While more than half of the respondents said they want a better job, fewer people in 2016 expressed the need for a change. In 2015, nearly 60% of the respondents agreed somewhat or strongly that they would like to leave their job, given the opportunity; in 2016, the number dropped slightly to 54.5%. Nearly 70% of those surveyed said they plan to stay with their positions next year, compared to 65.1% in 2015.

Less than 18% of the survey participants voluntarily changed jobs in the past two years, but the respondents also reported employment mobility. While nearly 70% of the respondents have more than 10 years of experience in bio/pharma, 29.4% stayed with the same employer, on average, for 3 to 5 years; 37.1% stayed for 6 to 10 years. Only 38.3% have stayed with the same employer for more than 10 years. Less than one-quarter of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to change careers and leave the biopharma industry, down slightly from 2015.

Respondents were more confident that they could find a new job, but did not necessarily the one they wanted. In 2016, 27.1% said it would be straightforward to find a comparable new job compared to 20.5% in 2015. Nearly 40% said it may take a while, but they would be able to find a comparable position, down from 51.6% in 2015. Of the less optimistic responses, 17.1% said it would be straightforward to find a job, but it probably would not be as good as the current position, compared to 11.6% last year.


Seeking career advancement

More than 85% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were using their skills and training to the fullest extent. Opportunities for growth were somewhat limited, however; 42.9% did not feel there is room for career advancement in their present positions; 28.2% did not feel there are opportunities for professional development.

Respondents had mixed opinions about the types of training offered by employers. Almost three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed that their company provided adequate training for basic job skills. More than 43%, however, felt their companies did not provide advanced training for employee professional growth.  


1. 2016 BioPharm International Employment Survey.
2. 2015 BioPharm International Employment Survey.

Article Details

BioPharm International
Vol. 29, No. 12
Pages: 18–21


When referring to this article, please cite as R. Peters, "Workers Define the 2016 Biopharma Employment Picture," BioPharm International 29 (12) 2016.