Hess Associates

2012 Pharma/CRO Employment/Salary Picture

Employment in the US pharmaceutical or clinical research segment has been devastated, over the past few years, with several elements at force, including M&As, outsourcing, global competition, increasing regulations, restructuring, actual closings, decrease in new drug development, and cost-cutting. In 2010 and 2011, the overall pharmaceutical industry lost 50,000 and 20,000 jobs respectively in the US, and close to 9,000 in the first half of 2012. Despite a levelling off trend in job cuts, the hiring prospects within pharma remain challenging. The 3 main areas where outsourcing from pharmaceutical companies seems to be heading include full service CROs, monitoring, and patient recruitment, suggesting a positive outlook in the CRO employment sector. This is 10% more than most other industries.

For the last 6 years, Applied Clinical Trials has carried out a biannual “Salary and Career Development” survey of the US CRO industry. The over 1000 respondents (at least half with advanced degrees vs bachelor’s degrees, 75% US) were also chosen from related fields such as biotechnology, government labs, private consultants, medical devices, sponsors, and trial site management organizations. Results were in their report based on September/October 2012 data (done together with Center Watch)1.

Due to the number of job downsizings in the pharmaceutical industry, global CRO market growth, and increased pharma outsourcing to CROs, pointed questions were asked:

1. Change you foresee in CRO industry economy – CRO respondents 51% positive, investigative sites or sponsors 25%,

2. Industry sector where you still see most opportunity – Biopharmaceutical (65%), then CROs (26%) – where 46% of the respondents were in the CRO sector, and 27% in medical devices.

3. Job security –30% of respondents felt secure in their positions, and 52% somewhat secure (higher values than the previous year), and by industry, more CRO respondents felt very secure in their positions than site respondents or sponsors.

4. Salaries – median salaries within Biotech rose from $96K to $110K between 2010 and 2011, in CROs from $98K to $100K, in medical devices $104K to 108K, the lowest being clinical study-investigative sites, up to $60K in 2011.

Looking at individual positions, all earnings average, scientists, researchers, data managers – $70K, managers – $95K, associate directors – $130K, directors – 150K, VPs – $190K (for exact details please refer to paper).

Overall, there was a positive outlook amongst CRO respondents, not surprising, as Business Insights sees the CRO market to be $35 billion in 2013.

Nor does this mean that all CRO positions will go off-shore, as there are still hurdles, such as supply chain, unmet regulatory requirements, lower enrolment rates, and difficulties with infrastructure, and difficulties overseeing the CROs. Let’s hope a positive outlook prevails.

1 Applied Clinical Trials 21, 18-22, 2012.

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