Life science workers pay rises fastest in the UK

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Life science workers pay rises fastest in the UK

Life science workers pay rises fastest in the UK

A new report by SRG and New Scientist Jobs reveals that UK life sciences salaries have risen rapidly but still lag behind North America and Europe. The report highlights key trends in job mobility, remote work preferences and workforce diversity.
  • A slowdown in compensation increases eases the pain for employers but the relief may not last long
  • A majority of workers plan to change jobs this year, with an overwhelming number of full-time, in-office talent looking to make the switch
  • Hybrid and remote work policies remain unsettled, with job flexibility highly valued
  • Workforce diversity remains elusive, but workers say they see progress occurring
  • AI continues to be a central discussion, and results show that AI has already made workers more efficient

Salaries in the UK for life sciences workers have risen exponentially compared with peers in other parts of the world, but average pay still trails that of North American and European counterparts, a new survey conducted by SRG and New Scientist Jobs reveals. Since 2022, average salaries have risen 11.1% in the UK to £57,725, a rate nearly three times faster than in North America. Even so, this is still lower than the average pay in comparative markets, according to the 2024 Global Talent Trends and Insights report.

Among all life sciences workers, North American respondents averaged $87,874 in annual pay, the highest ever surveyed by the publication. The average in Europe is €65,070. Those in the engineering field are the highest paid, with an average salary of $98,720 in the U.S. and £68,177 in the UK. Other highly-paid jobs can be found in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medtech fields. 

Pay for life sciences specialists had jumped tremendously in the two years following the COVID outbreak, but growth has since slowed, with the market normalizing and inflation retreating from recent highs. Moreover, wage inflation has subdued in light of a broad reduction in hiring and increased layoffs in life sciences positions. 

“This is good news for companies struggling to rein in increasing workforce costs but a challenge for talent in search of better opportunities and pay,” said Andrew Turner, UK Managing Director of SRG. “However, with talent scarcity caused in part by a structural deficiency in the labor market, this balance may shift again with an improvement in the global economy. Regardless of where we are in the economic cycle, employers need to focus on attracting and retaining the best and most in-demand talent.”

Data from the survey, conducted with more than 4,000 scientists and STEM professionals from December 2023 through February 2024, indicated cautious optimism about the future. One-third of North American respondents expect their budgets to increase this year. However, job mobility may rise as more than 60% say they expect to or will change roles in 2024. 

Such sentiments reflected unmet needs for job flexibility, higher pay, and health and wellness benefits. Workers in North America were more likely to say they will change jobs this year than counterparts in the UK and Europe (61% vs. 51%). Job satisfaction levels among life science specialists have been historically higher than other occupations, and more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they remain happy in their roles. Nevertheless, the high percentage of people seeking new opportunities may be a wake-up call for employers to do more to incentivize people to stay.

One of the reasons for workers’ strong desire for new opportunities is the unsettled debate over remote and hybrid working arrangements. An overwhelming majority (90%) of those who are on-site every day say they plan to switch jobs. Furthermore, two-thirds say they prefer a hybrid schedule, but just 40% currently have this benefit. As executive leaders push for greater in-office attendance, this insistence may diminish their appeal as employers of choice.

“Whether it’s life sciences or the IT sector, policies and practices regarding hybrid and remote working must remain agile and responsive to the needs of the workforce,” said Patrick Stedman, Senior Vice President of SRG North America. “Leaders understandably are pushing for more people to return to the workplace, and their concerns around innovation and accountability are certainly valid. They need to, however, weigh the impact on retention, engagement, and satisfaction. Does being in the office daily lead to greater productivity? Each company must do their homework to make this determination.”

The 2024 Global Talent Trends and Insights report closely examines remote work and many other critical issues facing life sciences human capital leaders. New Scientist Jobs has been tracking the salaries of professional scientists for more than 20 years, and results from the latest report show that wages, despite a recent slowdown, remain high compared with many other occupations. The publication also provides geographic breakdowns of salaries in various science hubs across Europe, the UK, and North America. 

The data also tracks the chronic pay gap between men and women scientists, with the differences ranging as high as 19% in the UK to 14% in Europe to 8% in North America. Progress toward pay equity has been inconsistent over the years but trending in the right direction.   

Additionally, the report examines employers' progress in achieving a more diverse and equitable workplace. A standout finding is that black workers account for just 4% of life sciences specialists in the UK, compared with 11% in North America. However, 40% of those surveyed in the UK said they have witnessed efforts within their organization to be more diverse. 

Other findings in the Global Talent Trends and Insights report examine people’s priorities when considering an employer, the skills they need to keep their careers future-proof, and their outlook on AI and its impact on jobs and the future of work. Despite fears that the technology will lead to large job losses, most survey respondents say they don’t believe they will be made redundant. Rather, they believe AI will make their jobs easier, with 60% saying AI has
already make them more efficient. An even larger majority (78%) say they will be even more so in the future. 

Pro tips for employers to consider as they strategize on workforce planning, learning and development, talent attraction and retention, internal mobility, and other critical human capital issues:

  • Closely track and mirror competitive wage levels and prevailing benefit offerings at a time when most people are expressing a strong desire to change jobs   
  • Regularly survey workers and develop actionable plans to mitigate growing dissatisfaction or unmet needs of people
  • Build on a culture of inclusion and equity to ensure workers are fully engaged, can bring their best selves to their jobs, and maximize collaboration with other team members
  • Identify the skills needed today, and in the future, and leverage this insight to map the learning journey for every employee as a way to address the skills gap   

Access the full report in both the UK here and North America here, respectively.


About SRG

By applying specialist industry expertise and knowledge built over decades of experience as a global STEM network, SRG recruits across the whole product life cycle, from scientific research and clinical trials to manufacturing, helping to create meaningful connections, empower STEM talent, and shape a better, brighter future.

SRG is powered by Impellam Group, a global leader in workforce and STEM talent solutions.

About New Scientist Jobs

New Scientist is the world’s most trusted source of science and technology weekly news. New Scientist Jobs was created over 20+ years ago to connect leading employers and candidates. New Scientist Jobs also provides dedicated career advice and job opportunities across the STEM industry.

To find out more, visit


Press contact: Kirsty Tranter, Head of Communications, Impellam Group - 

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