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Job Satisfaction Remains High in Device Industry

Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

MDDI Article Index

An MD&DI October 1999 Column

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Results of MD&DI's 11th annual salary survey indicate that long hours at work are being compensated by a continuing increase in average salaries.

Responses to this year's MD&DI salary survey suggest that, aside from compensation, employees of companies that manufacture medical devices and in vitro diagnostics believe the most rewarding aspects of their jobs to be a sense of achievement in completing projects and meeting challenges. And, although device professionals generally work long hours, job satisfaction appears to remain high. In addition, compensation packages in excess of salary—including insurance, stock options, bonuses, and other benefits—are continuing to increase in value.


The typical respondent to the 1999 salary survey was a 42-year-old white male holding a bachelor's degree. He works 50 hours a week for a company that employs 2310 workers and had a median total sales volume of $100 million in 1998. He has worked for the firm for six years and has been involved in the industry for 11 years. On average, he supervises 4.3 employees and earns $74,900 annually.


This year's responses suggest that, overall, little has changed nationwide since the 1998 survey. Most respondents (84%) are employed by organizations that produce medical devices only; 9% work for manufacturers making only in vitro diagnostics; and 8% are employed by firms producing both.

The 1999 salary survey indicated once again that a clear majority of respondents receive health, dental, and/or life insurance as part of their total compensation packages. On average, the value of respondents' personal 1999 total compensation package was $96,000—an increase of $4400 over last year. More than half of all respondents received bonuses in the past 12 months. The average bonus reported for 1999, however, was $10,700—an increase of nearly 18% over last year.

Figure 1. On average, respondents indicated their 1999 compensation package totaled approximately $96,000. More than half received bonuses in the past 12 months.

On average, salaries made up 78% of the value of respondents' total compensation packages. The 1999 average salary of $74,900 represents a 4% increase over the average salary reported in 1998. In addition, 85% of all respondents indicated that their organizations offer annual salary reviews, and 82% reported receiving raises from their current employers. More than two-thirds of all respondents indicated that their last raise was not the result of a promotion or change in responsibilities. The average salary increase among respondents receiving raises was found to be 6.8%, nearly the same as the 6.7% reported in 1998.

Appearing to be generally satisfied with their current employers, respondents gave a satisfaction rating of 3.8 on a 5-point scale for which 5 represents "very satisfied" and 1 represents "not at all satisfied." This rating is unchanged from last year. These results seem consistent with respondents' job-seeking status, given that the majority of respondents—58% nationwide—are not currently considering a new job outside their present organization. Although 30% report that they are strongly considering a job search, only 11% indicate that they are actively looking. These results also changed little from responses in 1998.


A number of factors influence salary levels, including job type and responsibilities, region, education, years of experience and years of employment with the current organization, and gender. Because these are measurable influences, they are the focus of MD&DI's annual salary survey. Other factors, which are generally more difficult to quantify, can also affect salary levels but are beyond the scope of this survey. These include a manufacturer's mission and business philosophy, competition with other employers within a given area, and the local business environment, among others.

Job function tends to exert the most significant influence on salary levels. From highest to lowest, the ranking of job functions this year, based on average salary, were general and corporate management, marketing, research and development, product design engineering, regulatory and legal affairs, production and manufacturing, and quality assurance and quality control.

Regional salary averages have returned to the general trends established in surveys conducted prior to 1998. Despite having led the nation in average total compensation in the 1998 survey, the South ranks fourth this year in both average salaries ($68,900) and average total compensation ($88,000). For 1999, the Midwest led the other regions in total compensation ($101,000), while the West had both the highest average salaries ($78,700) and largest salary increases (7.5%).

The influence of both education level and age on salary averages nationwide was evident in this year's responses. Respondents holding postgraduate degrees again earned an average of $22,100 more per year than those holding a bachelor's degree alone. In fact, the mean annual salary earned by respondents holding a bachelor's degree ($66,900) was found to be $8000 less than the overall average of $74,900. The effect of age—which generally equates with seniority—was equally apparent. Respondents under 35 years of age earned an average of $55,000, whereas those 55 years and older earned salaries averaging $20,000 more than the mean annual salary for all respondents.

A respondent's years of experience within the industry also has a high degree of correlation with annual salary. Those with 10 to 14 years of experience in either medical device or in vitro diagnostic manufacturing earn an average of $73,600, slightly less than the $74,900 national average. However, respondents who have been in the industry for 15 or more years earn an average of $91,300. Those with less than 10 years of experience earn significantly lower salaries than the national average.


Full pages (beginning on page 97) have been devoted to each of seven job categories to help MD&DI readers make appropriate comparisons. Data reported for each category include average salary and average total compensation; average raise; number of hours worked in a typical week; average length of time with current organization; job-seeking status; and salary averages in relation to gender, years in the industry, number of employees supervised, and company size.

This year, comparative data are included for 1999 versus 1998 median total compensation. This comparison has been added to provide a clear illustration of changes that have taken place in typical salary levels. Although comparisons of salary averages provide some indication of compensation levels within the industry, median salary data yield a more accurate depiction of actual salary distribution. Simply put, the median value lies at the middle of the salary distribution: half of all reported values are above this level, and half are below. Average or mean salary, on the other hand, can be substantially influenced by extremely high or low values within the distribution. For example, a single exceptionally high reported salary can cause a significantly higher estimate of average compensation—an estimate that may bear little relevance to typical salary levels. It should be noted that, while 1999 average total salaries increased in comparison with 1998 levels (the exceptions include no change for regulatory and legal affairs and a decrease for quality assurance and quality control), a similar comparison of median salary data suggests a different picture altogether. Median salaries are down for marketing, product design engineering, production/manufacturing,quality assurance and quality control,and research and development. Regulatory and legal affairs professionals experienced no change. Only general and corporate management show an increase in median salary levels from 1998 to 1999.


The 1999 salary survey yielded few surprises and tended to support the general trends established in previous surveys. Although responses to the 1999 survey suggest that only minor changes have taken place in certain areas of comparison—such as raises and job satisfaction—there were significant changes in others. For example, significant increases in the average salary data for upper management and higher total sales volumes were reported for 1999.

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The data for this year's survey were obtained from a mail survey designed jointly by MD&DI and Readex Research Inc. (Stillwater, MN), and conducted by Readex in May and June of this year. Of the 1375 surveys mailed to medical device professionals, 681 were returned with usable responses—a 50% response rate that is in line with accepted standards for representative survey response.

The survey results are based on the responses of 614 individuals who identified themselves as full-time professionals working for companies that manufacture medical devices or in vitro diagnostics. Responses were weighted during tabulation to accurately reflect true population proportions and represent 27,369 MD&DI recipients. Responses were segmented according to the seven job functions outlined earlier as well as by the respondents' level of responsibility as follows: CEOs and presidents, vice presidents and directors, department heads and supervisors, and engineers and scientists.

The margin of error for percentages based on the 614 responses used is ±3.9% at the 95% confidence level.


The 11th Annual MD&DI Salary Survey is available as a bound reprint comprising a copy of this article, tabular breakdowns for the industry as a whole, and previously unpublished tabular breakdowns for the seven surveyed job functions.

Copies cost $60 each. For more information or to place an order, contact Canon Communications Bookstore , Canon Communications, 11444 Olympic Blvd., Ste. 900, Los Angeles, CA 90064; 310/445-3770, fax 310/445-4259.

Gregg Nighswonger is executive editor of MD&DI.

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