2004 Salary Survey results

Salary increases modest, but growth is promising

To see tables illustrating the 2004 Salary Survey results, click here.

The job outlook for clinical trial professionals is good if the dollars that have been flowing into medical research are any indication. President Bush doubled NIH’s budget for 2005 and allotted $6 billion over 10 years for Project BioShield, a 10-year bioterrorism countermeasure initiative. And dollars being used for development aren’t all coming from federal sources. According to BioWorld Biotechnology State of the Industry Report 2004 (www.bioworld.com), $16.5 billion — including $3.7 billion from public offerings and $9.5 billion from private equity — poured into the biotechnology industry in 2003.

"Over the last decades, as awareness has grown that medical-related research and development leads to curing our diseases, mitigating our pain, and even giving us many more years of quality life, increasingly enormous amounts of money were and are being poured in the R&D coffers," says Nancy M. Deeg, co-founder/partner of Norfolk, VA-based Life Science Recruiters LLC (www.LifeScienceRecruiters.com).

"Of course, there’s the profit motive. Billions of dollars can be made through discovery, development and marketing of a single drug or medical device. Clinical trials are the necessary step after development and before regulatory approval and subsequent marketing," she says.

"There is a robust pre-IPO market out there and a flurry of pharmaceuticals that are in the arena of drug development. Given these scenarios, the outlook should be very promising in the next five years," says Joe Cassell, former principal at Life Science Staffing and now business development manager and biotech recruiter for Akraya Scientific, a pharmaceutical and information technology staffing company based in San Jose, CA.

Recent breakthroughs in genetics, the threat of bioterrorism, development of implant devices, and the pharmaceutical industry ongoing search for the next big thing (think Viagra) have created numerous opportunities for medical research. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for medical scientists is indeed expected to grow "faster than average," which means job growth at a rate of 21% to 35% between now and 2012.

Clinical personnel report decent wages

Jobs are plentiful, but how are salaries? Those responding to the CTA survey reported salaries in several ranges; 30% had salaries in the $60,000 to $69,000 range. More than half of the respondents listed their job title as director level. Directors had a median income of $81,250. Those who listed their job title as clinical coordinator, clinical research manager, or administrator had a median income of $60,000.

"The median salary for a clinical trial coordinator in the United States is about $55,000," reports Deeg. "In smaller towns that are not close to a metropolitan area, that figure might be $35,000; while in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or New Jersey, clinical trial coordinators might earn $85,000." Salaries for those listing clinical trial coordinator or administrator as their job title did not vary by region or city size, but respondents who listed their job title as director reported higher salaries in urban areas — the median income was $83,000, compare with a median income of $75,000 for those working in suburban or medium-sized cities.

Most respondents do not work a 40-hour week. Forty percent reported working 41 to 45 hours per week. Another 40% reported working 46 to 50 hours per week; and 13% reported working more than 50 hours a week. Only 7% reported working 31-40 hours per week.

Experience, education make a difference

Among those respondents who listed their job title as clinical trial coordinator or administrator, 25% had 10-12 years in the field, and 75% reported 13-15 years in the field. Their median income was $60,000. Three-quarters of respondents reported 20-plus years in health care.

Among those listing their job title as director, the experience in the field ranged from a minimum of four years to a maximum of 24 years. Half of respondents had 13 or more years of experience; the median salary for them was $72,500.

Experience does play a part in increased salaries, agree Cassell and Deeg. "The number of years of experience and the direct relevance of that experience to the needs of an employer will play a significant part in determining the salary any life science professional can command. For example, if an employer is conducting trials on a cardiovascular [CV] product or drug, they are willing to pay a higher salary for more years of experience in CV trials."

Education seemed to play a bigger part in higher salaries. Among all respondents reporting associate or two-year degrees, the median income was $48,000. Those with bachelor degrees made a median income of $80,000. Those with graduate degrees earned the most — a median income of $83,000, with the lowest salary being in the $60,000 to $69,000 range and the highest salary being in the $100,000 to $129,000 range. More than half of respondents with graduate degrees earned salaries from $80,000 to $129,000.

Increasing one’s value

Though salaries are decent, increases over the last year were modest, and a significant number of respondents reported a decrease (13%) or no change (20%) in salary. Nearly half — 47% — reported an increase of 1% to 3%. Another 13% reported a 4% to 6% increase. A small percentage — 7% — reported an increase of 16% to 20%.

"The high and low ends of the salary range are determined by education as well as experience," says Deeg. "An MS on top of a BS or RN raises the ante. An understanding of the life sciences — e.g., biology — is the most impressive base to build on. Secondly, but very importantly, thorough knowledge of regulatory guidelines and requirements is needed."

Lynette Schenkel, administrative director of research & academic affairs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, agrees that training and education will be factored into increase discussions.

"Education is key," she says. "Go to seminars, special training events; acquire certification in your field or in those fields that are related. Always move to increase your technical skills in any way possible, and become an expert in compliance."

Becoming a team player will also set you apart, Schenkel adds.

"At any level, but especially the entry- and midlevel positions, be willing to take on special projects or extra assignments. As an employer, I understand that you have a life outside the medical center or institution where you are employed, but your willingness to help me out with extra assignments or special coverage when I am down staff speaks volumes. At the senior level, your willingness to review and document administrative infrastructure and processes, write necessary policy, makes a deep impression."

The salaries and growth opportunities can encourage those in the field or entering the field.

"Research and development in the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, and medical device fields has continued to grow at an ever-accelerating pace over many years. The phrase geometric progression’ comes to mind, and there’s no end in sight," says Deeg. "Overall, the demand for professionals in all areas of the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device fields can only increase."