Who Has the Best Pay in Life Sciences? A Study

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Who Has the Best Pay in Life Sciences? A Study
Patrick Stedman

10 min

Who Has the Best Pay in Life Sciences? A Study

A career in Life Sciences has changed dramatically over the years making the job market far more attractive than before. What career can you expect?

Life sciences professionals working in North America have always had compelling reasons to stay in the industry. Not only is North America the largest market globally and home to many global pharma, biopharma, medical device, and other leading companies, but it’s also one of the most innovative hubs, offering talent tremendous growth and learning opportunities. But now there is even more evidence affirming the attractiveness of the life sciences industry in North America: the highest average pay for scientists in this field.  

The SRG Global Life Sciences Talent & Trends Insights Report, conducted with New Scientist Jobs magazine, found that among more than 4,000 STEM professionals surveyed, those in North America earn significantly more than their peers in Europe or the UK. In 2023, the average salary rose 3.9% to $87,874, much more than the €65,070 average in Europe and £57,725 in the UK. But in some regions of North America, wages are even higher, like in New Jersey, a life sciences hub home to companies such as J&J, Becton Dickinson, Merck, and others. The Garden State offers the highest average compensation in the US, at $97,913, followed by Massachusetts and California.  

This and other talent trends data shows where competition for talent is most acute in the US, and around the world, so employers have a better understanding of local labor markets to execute their workforce strategies. The research also provides a deep dive into the psyche of life sciences professionals — from their preferences for hybrid working, the impact of AI on the workplace, how diversity, equality, and inclusion impact the culture, and what candidates desire in an ideal employer. More importantly, data compiled from before and since the pandemic reveals how scientists’ sentiments have shifted over time

Is the gender pay gap shrinking in Life Sciences?

One of the most encouraging trends we found is the considerable progress women have made in the industry regarding wages. Last year, the gender pay gap in North America fell to 8.2% from 21% the year before — one of the largest declines recorded since this research began. Furthermore, the North America region was the only one in which the disparity was only single digits, compared with gaps of 19% and 14% in the UK and Europe, respectively. Regardless, organizations should address even the smallest gap in their compensation practices to attract and retain great talent  

This year’s gains are indeed noteworthy for women scientists, but the data should be regarded with some added context. Since 2017, improvements in the gender wage gap around the world have fluctuated year to year, with minimal gains achieved during that time. Whether last year’s significant reduction was an anomaly remains to be seen, but other research has indicated longer-term improvements in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills and employment gap. If this continues, pay parity may also sustain its momentum 

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Life Sciences

With AI predicted to fundamentally disrupt the world of work, our research sought to gauge the sentiments of scientists on this important development. While large job losses have been predicted by some, the STEM professionals we surveyed around the world appeared less worried about their jobs than those of their peers. Just 23% are concerned about being replaced by AI, but 36% say they are worried about colleagues. The prevailing sentiment is AI will help people be more productive. In fact, a majority (60%) believe AI is already making them more efficient, and a large majority (78%) say it will further enhance their productivity in the future.  

This isn’t surprising considering the professionals we surveyed possess specialist skills that AI cannot master. However, AI is capable of automating many tactical, labor-intensive tasks, which could help make scientists more productive. Whether these are design engineers working on medical device connectivity or chemists developing novel drug molecules, they possess skills so advanced and esoteric that replicating these with AI may not be possible in the near future, if at all. And even if technology is capable of doing so, the cost may be so prohibitive that human labor would be preferred.

Does AI increase the potential for brain drain?

Our research shows that voluntary quits more than AI will disrupt the jobs market in the near future. In North America, 61% of those surveyed say they expect to change roles this year, markedly higher than the 51% in the UK and Europe. That a majority of scientists across the world plan to change jobs is surprising, considering that more than two-thirds say they are satisfied with their current employment.  

Several factors could be behind their thinking: the high rate of inflation has forced many to look for higher pay, a desire to learn new skills and technologies requires a change, and a lack of career advancement is spurring job switching. Whatever the reason, this could lead to a potential brain drain for some employers in the months ahead if our data effectively reflects the general consensus within the industry.  

Want to learn more about what’s on the minds of life sciences professionals around the world? Get an in-depth look by downloading your copy of the SRG Global Life Sciences Talent & Trends Insights Report today.  

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