With the Salary Growth Rate Slowing, Should Biopharma Employees Look for New Jobs?

Collage of man contemplating employment

Pictured: Collage of man contemplating employment/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

While biopharma industry salaries are rising, the 2% average salary growth rate reported since last year’s survey was the lowest year-over-year increase in the past five years, according to the BioSpace 2024 Life Sciences Salary Report. It should come as little surprise, then, that 68% of survey respondents think they’d need to change companies to get a raise that would make them happy. 

Given recent industry layoffs, closures and slowed hiring, there are drawbacks to launching a job search. Biopharma professionals who want significant raises therefore have an important decision to make: “Should I stay, or should I go?” 

The Biopharma Job Market

A key consideration in deciding whether or not to change employers is the biopharma job market itself, which could become even tougher if the proposed Inflation Reduction Act expansion is approved. While the act is intended to reduce prescription drugs costs, some industry professionals are concerned that it’s harming drug development pipelines and shrinking the workforce. A recent report from healthcare consultancy Vital Transformation predicts that the proposed expansion would eliminate 136,000 to 216,000 biopharma jobs. 

The job market is no longer a candidates’ market, Porschia Parker-Griffin, founder and CEO of Fly High Coaching, told BioSpace. She explained that for the past two years, job seekers had the upper hand because there were so many open positions. Now, she said, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people eyeing the same role. 

“This means that your margin of error in the job search process, and the interviewing process, is going to be very small, because a recruiter can just think, ‘Hey, you know what, we can easily find someone else if something doesn’t work out with this person,’” Parker-Griffin said. 

Greg Clouse, recruitment manager at BioSpace, agreed it’s a tough time to look for a new job but said that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do it.  

Why Employees Look for New Jobs

For just over half of BioSpace survey respondents looking for new roles, more money is a top motivator. Based on what job candidates have shared with Clouse, other motivators include being unhappy with the company culture, a manager or the work itself. 

“It really almost never comes down to dollars,” Clouse said. “Now, once they’ve decided to make a change, then they always want more money. But it usually isn’t motivated by ‘I’m not paid fairly.’” 

In terms of securing higher compensation, Clouse noted that today’s employer-friendly market means job candidates probably won’t get the offers they’re hoping for when changing jobs. 

The BioSpace 2024 employment outlook report and salary report findings illustrate the challenge this presents. The outlook report found that 40% of organizations are struggling to meet compensation expectations, and more than half (51%) think compensation expectations are unrealistic or too high. Yet 61% of salary report respondents say they’re not reducing their compensation expectations. 

Still, making a move can have financial benefits. Of salary report survey respondents who changed employers and had an increase, 20% reported a raise of more than 25%. Compare that to merit-based raises, where only 1.5% of respondents had an increase of 25% or more, while the majority (67%) reported an increase between 2% to 5%. 

Why Employees Stay at Their Jobs

Not every employee who wants more money will look for a new job. Clouse said some will stay with their employers because they’re happy in the work they’re doing or like working at the organization, which implies they like the culture, people and management.  

Parker-Griffin agreed and noted another top reason people stay is the job fits their lifestyle. For example, their start and end time works for their family. Clients have also told Parker-Griffin they stay because they feel like they’re making a difference in what they do. 

It’s important to note that employees who stay with their companies may get promotions or new jobs that result in pay bumps. When salary report respondents were promoted or changed roles within the same organization, half of salary increases were between 5% and 10%, and 5% reported an increase of 25% or more.  

That said, those who stay may not get their desired raises. Some could also face another drawback: If their companies are downsizing, they might inherit extra work—and they might not get compensated for it. 

Advice for Seeking a New Job

If biopharma professionals want to change employers, Clouse recommended they be diligent and determined during their job search. He also recommended rewriting resumes for every application.  

“You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing, but go back and touch up your resume to reflect more directly the job that you’re applying for,” he said. 

Parker-Griffin recommended job candidates use a customized search strategy based on their job targets, the industry they’re focusing on, best practices for a job search and their unique personalities. That strategy could include submitting for positions posted online, having an optimized LinkedIn profile so recruiters can find them on the platform, networking both online and offline and working with an external recruiting firm.  

Strong professional branding documents are also important, according to Parker-Griffin. She said they should include a cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile that are converting, clear and compelling. 

  • Converting: Documents should score highly in screening software programs so candidates secure interviews. 
  • Clear: Documents should display who candidates are, what they’ve done in the past, their skill sets and their expertise. 
  • Compelling: Documents should show or demonstrate how candidates could achieve results in the organization.  

Advice for Requesting a Raise

If biopharma professionals want to stay at their companies and ask for a raise, Parker-Griffin recommended they know how their organizations are doing financially. This way, they’re not requesting an increase when their employers aren’t doing well. She further advised identifying the standard salary rates for their jobs in their geographical area, as it’s possible they’re being paid above market value. She noted they may still deserve a raise in that instance, but with that information, they’d make their case differently.  

“I also recommend that some of our clients look through performance review information to find evidence to kind of back up their case of why they deserve a raise,” Parker-Griffin said. “That can help them to make that case to their manager.” 

Clouse noted it doesn’t hurt for biopharma professionals to just ask for what they want, which is typically a dollar amount versus a percentage increase. 

“I don’t think it hurts to go tell your manager, ‘Hey, this is where I am, and this is what I’m looking at,’” he said. “You don’t have to go in and threaten them. You just have to go in and tell them, ‘Hey, I’m looking for this.’” 

Angela Gabriel is content manager, life sciences careers, at BioSpace. You can reach her at angela.gabriel@biospace.com and follow her on LinkedIn

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