Life Science Executive Search

Recruiting executives across continents and cultures +1 650 740 1837

The War for Biotech Candidates Increases Along with Salaries

Since its inception in the 1970s, the biotech industry has grown tremendously and made huge advances. The industry has gained even more momentum over the past decade and continues to develop. Sara Radcliffe, president and CEO of the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), stated that “the life sciences sector has continued to grow jobs while other industries experienced significant decreases in employment.”

As the expansion continues, Life Science professional salaries have increased an average of 4.4% over last year, according to a recent report by BioSpace. This trend is adding to the already difficult task (due to the other factors of a candidate-driven labor market) of successfully recruiting and hiring candidates within this space. Rivaling other professional industries such as chemical engineering and software system developers, the average salary among the biotech space now sits at just over $113,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Digging into the “hot spot” regions for this industry:

Genetown: Boston and surrounding areas have seen an average salary increase of 5%, with bonuses hovering around $30,000. That places overall compensation at $123,600.

BioTech Bay: Comprised of areas in Northern CA and San Francisco, this region is seeing an even steeper salary increase, averaging 5.7% with an average bonus of around $32,000. That places overall compensation at $126,957.

When considering leadership roles industry wide, the average base salaries skyrocket to well over double the average, coming in as follows:

  1. CEO – $293,944
  2. CFO – $257,222
  3. Other C-suite – $249,192
  4. VP/Senior VP – $234,848
  5. Director/Executive Managers – $219,447

This is important to address because of the Life Science professionals surveyed, 67% reported “a desire for greater compensation” as one of the top reasons for seeking a new opportunity. And, if relocating is necessary, salary becomes the number one reason for changing companies. As such, organizations within this space are paying more to attract top talent.

As record investments are being made into biotech companies, the hot spots like Boston and San Francisco are especially feeling the crunch due to the depleting pool of available talent. This translates into candidates getting multiple offers while companies struggle to edge out the competition and win the talent.

Employers must be prepared to consider all the factors that go into presenting a more attractive offer than their competitors. Yes, market research on national averages when determining the salary for a position is very important, but there are other additional issues to understand when developing the best compensation package, such as:

Geographic location: Local cost of living can drive salaries up or down, as well as affect the available pool of qualified talent in a given area. This is a big issue for candidates considering accepting a new role outside of their current market location. According to the BioSpace report, “Life sciences professionals are not opposed to relocating to increase their compensation. In fact, 78% of respondents indicated they would consider relocating for a new opportunity, with salary being the primary reason for relocation.”

Education/Experience: Many of these roles require candidates to hold advance degrees. Advanced degrees in this space usually translate to $20,000 more in earnings over those with only a bachelor’s degree. But even more impressive is that those holding a master’s or doctorate in their respective space are receiving very generous bonuses on top of the base salary. The more experienced and the more educated, the higher the pay—especially from top targeted programs.

Benefits: It’s rarely just about salary. The desire for benefits typically applies across all industries and all position levels, so it remains an important factor when making a competitive offer. Presenting an attractive benefits package that enhances work-life balance, facilitates professional development, and includes added “perks” can add a lot of value to a compensation package.

In addition to developing and extending the best possible offer to candidates, hiring decisions must be made faster than ever before. As we addressed in a previous article, “Don’t Let Good Candidates Slip Away,” candidates are removing themselves from the interview process because it takes too long. If your organization is interested in an individual, then it’s likely that other companies are interested in them as well. In the Time to Hire survey, when faced with a lengthy hiring process, 39% of respondents lose interest and pursue other roles, while 18% decide to stay put in their current job. Remember the saying, “Time kills deals.”

As emerging technologies continue to evolve at a staggering rate and the rapid progress of research continues, the war for talent will persist for Life Science professionals. Staying abreast of current market conditions and continuous improvement in the recruiting and hiring processes will increase the likelihood of attracting and securing top talent to fill open positions.