Salary survey: Willing to work

Daphne Allen

December 15, 2015

5 Min Read
Salary survey: Willing to work

As job numbers shrink, employed packaging professionals in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries are adapting to intense workloads or finding alternative ways to marketing themselves.

Economic concerns are still clouding the job outlook for pharmaceutical and medical device packaging professionals. Company mergers, consolidations, and downsizing continue to result in layoffs, and those professionals left employed are often carrying more work than ever, potentially at reduced salaries. “Continual downsizing, industry consolidation, lack of sr. leadership” are all affecting compensation, reports one respondent to this year’s salary survey conducted exclusively for Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News. “Lean, more work, and same salary [equal] less compensation,” added another respondent.

However, average salaries remain in the six-figure category, and some professionals are seeing a slight uptick in the market. “The current economic condition of the nation is improving, day by day,” wrote a respondent. “Looking forward to the brighter next year. More hiring, more projects . . . and better personal compensation.”

The average annual salary for respondents this year is $105,000, and they report an average raise of 4.5%. These figures are lower than those reported in last year’s survey, which found an average salary of $107,000 and an average raise of 4.8%. While this year’s lower average annual salary is noteworthy, it would be misleading to claim that salaries are dropping because there is the chance that entirely different groups of professionals completed each year’s survey.

Despite economic concerns and greater workloads, 70% of respondents this year selected a four or higher when asked to rate job satisfaction on a scale from one to five, with five representing “very satisfied.” Employees seem willing to adapt to the new business climate, with respondents recognizing that “accreditation, advanced college degrees, and will to work in new groups/departments” affect compensation, perhaps for the better.

According to 2010 survey findings, most packaging responsibilities are carried out in-house. On average, respondents indicated that they outsource 24.8% of their packaging responsibilities.

Perhaps the level of in-house packaging expertise can account for the do-it-themselves approach. The average number of years that respondents have spent in the pharmaceutical and medical device packaging industry is 14.9 years. Eleven years or more is the average tenure respondents have spent with present organizations. Eighty-six percent have completed college degrees and beyond, with 33% holding postgraduate degrees.

Pressure to reduce costs appears to be as intense as ever.

But not all respondents find the push to save a regrettable trend. “Lean manufacturing [affects compensation] for the better, since it leads to savings bottom-line,” wrote one respondent. Another packaging professional felt that “continuous improvement” influences compensation.

Many respondents pointed to automation as playing a role in their positions.

“Centralizations of services” is also occurring, such as in “laboratories, warehouses, etc.,” pointed out one 

But while respondents are not outsourcing huge percentages of projects, some do sense that trends toward offshore outsourcing could affect their compensation. “Offshore product development” and “offshore component sourcing” will affect the compensation of professionals. “Outsource is the main issue,” added another respondent. “USA is losing jobs to China.”
One respondent fears a possible job loss because of “continued outsourcing to Asia and Mexico.”

This year, more packaging professionals are actively looking for new employment. For instance, 19% of packaging engineers are looking, compared with only 7% last year. And nearly 14% of professionals involved with production, manufacturing, and QA/QC are on the lookout for openings, whereas last year it was just 6%.

Some packagers, however, have had no choice but to seek new positions after being laid off. In fact, among this year’s survey responses were a few from employees facing a layoff or having just been laid off. One professional wrote of having “recently been laid off due to acquisition of company. Not likely to get another job at previous salary.” Reported another: “Unemployed as of June 30th.”

Several respondents intimated fear over “consolidations of job functions and potential layoffs” and “reduced salary, options, stability.” Others report “plant shutdowns,” and one pointed to “outsourcing [which] may eliminate my department.”
Such layoffs affect the entire industry. “Layoffs [are] leading to a flooded job market,” indicated one professional. “Industrial consolidation and number of available candidates will continue to hold increases low,” said another.

The data for this year’s survey were obtained during a mail survey of PMP News subscribers. The survey was designed jointly by PMP News and Readex Inc. and conducted April 20 through June 4 of this year. Surveys were mailed to 1200 domestic subscribers, representing 9564 packaging professionals who work for manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, in vitro diagnostics, and nutritional supplements. The sample was limited to only those with one of these five job functions: engineering, packaging design, production/manufacturing, QA/QC, and research & development. Of the 1200 mailed surveys, 339 usable responses were returned, representing a 28% response rate. Survey results should be interpreted with this in mind.

The results in this article are based on the responses of 243 respondents who indicated that they are involved with healthcare product packaging and work full time for a medical device manufacturer, in vitro diagnostic manufacturer, pharmaceutical manufacturer, and/or nutritional supplement manufacturer. Statistically speaking, these 243 individuals represent an estimated 6800 industry professionals. The margin of error for percentages based on 243 usable responses is ±6.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error for percentages based on smaller sample sizes will be larger.
The survey was conducted by Readex in accordance with accepted research standards and practices.

Below please find specific salary and related information below for Engineering, Production/Manufacturing/QA/QC, and R&D/Package Design.


About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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