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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


2008 Salary and Satisfaction Survey of Clinical Research Professionals

Recently, Applied Clinical Trials has conducted the 2008 Salary Survey for clinical research professionals.

Behind the answers

As for the who, what, and where of the survey, we're looking at professionals from across the clinical trials field, with the majority divided three ways among pharma/biopharm/biologics companies, CROs, and study or investigative sites (see Figure 1). We received the most responses from those who described their job title as manager, clinical research associate (CRA), and clinical research coordinator (CRC). Other responders included scientists, CEOs, and medical directors (See Figure 2).

(click the figure for better view)

On average, those who responded have been in their profession for 13.3 years (See Figure 3), hold at least a bachelor's degree, and 90% are employed full time. All of the major therapeutic areas are well-represented—oncology the most (see Figure 4)—so is the United States, with nearly all of the respondents calling it home, followed by Western Europe, Central Europe, Canada, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

(click the figure for better view)

Compensation in currency

So, who's making the most money? Well, there's three sides of the fiscal coin: people, business/industry, and location.

The people. The professionals earning the highest annual salaries are, no surprise, vice presidents ($149,324), chief executive officers ($127,788), and medical directors ($135,357). The explanation for why those higher up the corporate ladder earn more is straightforward. "As you rise, the scope of responsibility is much broader and that's what the pay is for," explained Carolyn Y. Woo, PhD, Dean of the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

In the case of medical directors, it's compensation for years spent in med school, residency, and fellowship, says Jim Brennan, director of clinical at Klein Hersh, an executive recruiting firm for life sciences. "The advanced degree and the specialization they bring to the table brings a higher salary and higher level of compensation," he explained.

Also earning six-figures are IT professionals. In fact, according to survey results, all of the respondents who indicated they work in IT earn at least $100,000 a year (see Table 1 to see where you stand among your peers). Granted, most companies today rely heavily on their IT department, which likely accounts for the generous compensation, but one industry insider also credits the fact that these professionals, in particular, require wooing. Apparently, in addition to being in high demand, they prefer IT companies over pharma or biotech companies, where they're surrounded by other IT experts.

(click the figure for better view)

Business or industry. Turns out when it comes to the highest paid industries within the industry, there's more than meets the eye, at least for the top two: drug development/clinical trials consulting companies ($111,591) and independent CRAs ($115,147). While pharma/biopharm or biologics' high third-place spot ($106,718) isn't likely to require any explanations, that's not the case for first and second place. And the reason why is the same for both. Independence requires money.

"While some people may want the flexibility, you have to market yourself, pay for your own benefits," explained former independent CRA Beth Harper, now president of Texas-based Clinical Performance Partners. "So the CRA that's got the $76,000 salary (the mean salary for CRAs who responded to the survey), if you add on their benefits, it's probably more than what an independent makes." It's a similar situation for consultants.

Location. The old real estate slogan that it's all about location holds true for salaries as well. As most folks know by now, how much you make generally depends on where you live. And in America, while we might be united, when you break the 50 states into five different regions, it becomes clear that an average annual salary isn't average across the board.

Take for instance the Midwest, where the mean salary for respondents was $77,500, the lowest among the five different regions (see Figure 5). A drive several hours west or east, however, bumps up that average by at least $21,000. In the Northwest region the mean salary for respondents is $106,979, and in the Northeast a distant $99,733. It makes sense then that the majority of respondents who earn more than $150,000 a year (29.2%) live in the Northwest. Of course, lest not forget that even the regions can be broken down.

Which brings us to cost of living. California and Washington might both be in the Northwest, but a 2,200 square-foot, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home costs $1.8 million in Beverly Hills and $658,000 farther north in Bellevue, WA, according to a recent Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index. Out east in Ridgewood, NJ, a similar home will cost you around $1 million, and $255,000 in the heart of America in St. Louis, MO. When you factor in cost of living, the divide between the highest and lowest paid regions ($29,479) shrinks.

In addition to job title, industry, and location, years of experience also influence pay, according to the data. Respondents' average salaries steadily increased with years of experience, from $88,767 for those in the industry three to five years to around $98,000 for those with 11 to 15 years experience. What's not clear is why that isn't the case for the 16 to 20 years category, where average salary drops back down to $82,361. Todd Hamberg of Klein Hersh offers one reason that might be: "People go up the mountain, get to the top, and stay there awhile, and then at the back end of their career they still want to work but don't want the headaches, so they'll take a different title."

Applied Clinical Trials
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