Last year, The Scientist reported on annual and semiannual salary surveys of scientists in academia, government, and industry,1 based on published sources from professional societies, private firms, the federal government, and academic groups. This article is an update on the tried-and-true annual surveys and results from some new ones.
"The greatest demand is still for people trained in fields such as information technology and engineering," says Eleanor Babco, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology. "So they will, of course, continue to garner the highest salaries." (A survey by ComputerJobs.com found that IT workers with two to four years of experience had salaries of about $50,000.) Nevertheless, salaries in the life sciences are holding their own, one step above this year's rate of inflation.
What's Available for Academia?
Within academia, there are four major surveys conducted by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), and the College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). The results of the AAUP, NACE, and CUPA-HR surveys can be found in various summary forms on the Web.
The 1999-2000 AAUP annual salary survey found that faculty salaries increased by 3.7 percent--the same as last year and one point above the 1999 2.7 percent rate of inflation. The average faculty salary reported was $58,532. Average salaries were highest at doctoral institutions, $66,991, and lowest at two-year institutions, $46,484.
Camille Luckenbaugh, employment information manager at Bethlehem, Pa.-based NACE, reports that according to her group's Fall 2000 Salary Survey, the average salary offer for biological and life sciences undergraduates was $29,074. The top five employer types were educational services, scientific research and development organizations, hospitals, consulting firms, and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers. The top job categories were research, teaching, sales, and consulting.
CUPA-HR produces summaries of two downloadable salary surveys: the 1999-2000 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities, and the 1999-2000 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Private Four-Year Colleges and Universities. All together, the average faculty salary in public and private schools was $58,313 and $56,308, respectively. By discipline, life scientists in public institutions were paid more than those in private ones--for example, in general biology, $58,396 vs. $53,155; in botany, $57,931 vs. $48,168; in cell and molecular biology, $61,379 vs. $59,876; and in zoology, $62,791 vs. $46,638.
The National Science Foundation also publishes median annual salaries of U.S. scientists and engineers, most recently in 1997 (see Resources). It reports salaries by field, degree, gender, sector, age, and citizenship. NSF's written analysis of 1999 data was in progress in November, notes Babco.
The Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology is one of the only life science professional societies that conducts annual salary surveys, as compared to the annual surveys conducted by the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Physics. As published in the American Physiological Society's The Physiologist, the average 1999 annual salary for department chairs in all types of institutions was $156,071; $100,200 for full professors; $74,201 for associate professors; $58,566 for assistant professors; and $38,478 for instructors.
In the federal government, the majority of biological scientists are employed with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, and, to a lesser extent, with Health and Human Services. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are no recent surveys that cover salaries of scientists employed by the federal government. On some federal job Web sites, salaries are listed by General Schedule (GS) ratings, a salary scale based primarily on experience rather than degree, and can be viewed on the Federal Jobs Digest Website (see Resources).
Industry: Higher Salaries on Average
By most measures, salaries for life scientists are certainly higher on average for those working in the commercial sector. According to a 1999 Ernst & Young report, "Economic Contribution of Biotech Industry to the U.S. Economy," the biotech industry generates about $15 billion in personal income, which is distributed among 1,283 companies and 155,000 employees. This figure only includes biotech companies that concentrate on healthcare applications and does not include pharmaceutical firms or agriculture and industrial biotech companies.
The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) conducts an annual Salary and Employment Status Survey, which will be published in the December 2000 issue of the AAPS Newsmagazine. The average salaries of respondents were $93,000 for those in industry, an increase of 4 percent from 1998; $85,200 for academics, (a 4 percent increase); and $86,000 for government employees (an 8 percent increase). Base salary changes ranged from a more than 37 percent increase for women with master's degrees with 20 to 30 years of experience to a decrease of 6 percent for men with greater than 30 years of experience and males with bachelor's degrees with 20 to 30 years of experience.
Overall, individuals with degrees in toxicology ($103,800), physical chemistry ($102,200), pharmacology ($102,000), and pharmacokinetics ($101,700) had the highest average salaries in 1999. Chemistry ($74,800), biochemistry ($77,700) and inorganic chemistry ($87,800) were the lowest. In industry, the higher salaries were paid to those in management positions: general management ($143,200), R&D ($123,600), marketing and sales ($101,100), clinical research ($99,100) and regulatory affairs ($97,600).
The current average starting salary for individuals beginning their career in 1999 was $60,900, an increase of 14 percent from 1998. For those in academia, which make up less than 20 percent of the AAPS membership, the average salary for full professors is $115,800, up 8 percent from 1998; $67,400 for associate professors, down 3 percent; and $60,700 for assistant professors, up 5 percent.
The BioWorld Group, which publishes BioWorld Today, recently put out its BioWorld Executive Compensation report for 2001. This survey covers the top science employees with titles such as chief scientific officer or vice president of R&D at 145 publicly held firms. The median total annual compensation package--base salary plus bonus--was $232,000. The median base salary was $203,000. One hundred of the 145 companies surveyed, or 69 percent, reported that they also awarded bonuses to their science executives, with a median bonus of $45,000.
Abbott, Langer & Associates Inc. based in Crete, Ill., has been conducting salary surveys for the private sector for the last several years. The Compensation in Research and Development survey report is based on information from 213 companies, including contract research organizations, educational institutions, government agencies, and manufacturing and nonmanufacturing firms. The report indicates that R&D employees earn quite a range--from a median income of $26,520 for technician-level positions to a median of $90,000 for an R&D director.
A summary of the report online also gives median compensation levels for different job titles: for example, R&D director, at four levels: $110,000 to $81,750; R&D manager, at two levels: $72,931 and $85,800; R&D section head at two levels, $70,912 and $83,002; and R&D specialist at three levels, $46,970 to $71,002.
These reports, concludes Steven Langer, president of Abbott, Langer & Associates, are used by human resources departments to set appropriate salary levels as well as by chief R&D executives as evidence to increase the salaries of their staff. Consulting firms, on behalf of their clients, and individual scientists in the midst of the job hunt also find these numbers useful to get a handle on how much they are worth in today's market. S
Karen Young Kreeger (email@example.com) is a contributing editor for The Scientist.
ResourcesAbbott, Langer & Associates Inc.
American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Salary and Employment Status Survey, 2000
American Association of University Professors survey
American Chemical Society
American Physiological Society
College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources
Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology
Ernst & Young report, "Economic Contribution of Biotech Industry to the U.S. Economy"
Federal Jobs Digest
National Association of Colleges and Employers
National Science Foundation
Radford Biotechnology Compensation Report, 2000, summary
U.S. Office of Personnel Management