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Salary Survey: Where Do You Rank?

Are you curious to see how you stack up amongst your peers? Do you want to know if you’re making as much as the “average” person in your position? How about longevity? Have I been in the same position too long? Has the industry passed me by? Are my peers happy in their jobs?

Update: 2011 results are now available

These questions and many more were answered by you and many others in your industry, as part of the annual salary survey performed by MD+DI and Readex Research (see sidebar for details on Methodology). The survey was sent out to 1635 people from our domestic database. Specifically, 24% of the respondents come from the northeast part of the country, 29% from the midwest, 11% from the south, and 35% from the west. From that total group, 517 people responded, which calculates to a response rate of about 32%.

The official findings highlighted in the study are based on 441 individuals who indicated they are involved in the medical device industry and work full-time in companies manufacturing finished medical devices or in vitro diagnostics. We’ve calculated the margin for error to be ±4.6%, giving us a confidence level of better than 95%.
The job categories we pulled those names from included finished medical device manufacturers and in vitro diagnostic manufacturers. The data-collection period for the survey ran from the beginning of July (2010) through the middle of August.

Bringing Home the Bacon

How does your paycheck match up with our salary calculator? Based on this year's survey, we've provided a salary approximation worksheet that is available online. It cross-tabulates work experience, level of responsibility, and other factors for an earnings reference point.

Effects of the Recession

As you’re likely aware, these are trying times in the job market and all bets are off in many instances. We hate to say “I’m lucky to have a job,” but in lots of cases, there’s more truth to that than we may care to admit. Just how true that is generally depends on your personal situation, including where you are located, whether you have kids in (or nearly in) college, whether you lost more than you’re willing to admit in your 401k, etc. Note that while the unemployment rate may be high, many manufacturers will admit—sometimes publicly, sometimes not—that the reins on hiring are beginning to loosen up.

We may not be able to provide specific career advice, nor do we want to, but we can give you some guidance as to where you fit in in terms of salary, total compensation package, years at your current job, how many hours you work, how satisfied you are with your current job, and so on.

First, I’ll touch on some of the highlights, and then we can get into why some of this research says what it says. The typical respondent is a well-educated, 48-year-old male. Males outnumber females by a 5-to-1 ratio. However, this gender disparity is least prevalent among those in the quality assurance and quality control functional area.

Highly Educated Folks

It’s certainly no surprise that educational levels are high across all functional areas that we examined. Nearly half (about 45%) of those in general and corporate management have a postgraduate degree or, in many cases, multiple degrees. However, this number drops to about one in five for those in product design engineering (22%) and production and manufacturing (21%).

Salary Survey Results

General and Corporate Management

Product Design Engineering

Production and Manufacturing

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Regulatory and Legal Affairs

Research and Development

The respondents tend to work for larger organizations, both in terms of the number of employees and sales volume. The typical respondent reported that his organization employs an average of 447 full-time people and had a sales volume of $204 million (including all locations) for the 2009 calendar year.

People in the general and corporate management segment reported that they typically came from the smaller organizations, both in terms of number of employees and sales volume. I rationalize this to mean that someone in a smaller company is more willing to offer data of this type, whereas the employee of a larger vendor is a little more hesitant.

Loyalty Remains High

A somewhat heartwarming fact is that respondents are quite long-tenured in the industry and remain loyal to their current organizations. In other words, people are not jumping around from job to job. Why is that heartwarming? Because it shows loyalty and belief in an employer. These people have been employed for an average of 10.9 years with their current organizations, and less than half of them (40%) have changed employers in the past five years.

According to Brian Walker, president and managing director for the life science practice at the Wise Group, “The average job tenure reflects what I see. Note that the higher up they are in the organization, the more satisfied they are likely to be with their jobs, and the less likely they are to look for other employment. At the same time, family is always in the back of people’s minds when considering a job change, and whether there’s a need to relocate. For many people, relocating is just not an option.”

Joseph Mullings, president and CEO of the Mullings Group, has a different take on the longevity issue. “I would challenge that number (10.9 years with their current organization) and believe that it’s really not that high. Obviously you’re only getting responses from people that filled out the survey. But the people who didn’t fill out that survey would provide for a very different result." Mullings says that five or six years with the current company is probably a more representative number. "The guys who have been with companies for 10 years are the ones who would take the time to fill out the survey because they’re not doing anything anyway. The guys who are only with the company for two to four years don’t have time to fill out a survey because they are busy lighting the world on fire.”

There’s a reason for this long tenure with the same employer—job satisfaction. That’s certainly a better reason than, “no place else to go.” Average ratings are consistently high among people in every job category. A rating of “very satisfied” was indicated by 28%. However, the number jumps to 48% among those in the area of general and corporate management. If you add in those respondents that are “satisfied” (scoring 4 on a scale of 1 to 5), that puts the number of people who are “satisfied or better” at 68%. Bouncing back to the general and corporate management folks, a whopping 80% are satisfied or better. That’s an astounding number in any industry.

Walker notes that there are many factors involved in job satisfaction. “The factors include competitive salary, positive environment, and understanding where the company is going and where the employee’s place is within that framework. People want to feel valued.”

In that same light, the average respondents have been involved with medical device or in vitro diagnostic manufacturing in some capacity for 15.4 years. On one hand, that seems like a fairly long time. However, keeping in mind that the average respondent is 48 years old, it begs the question, what were you doing for the 10 tears prior (from age 22 to 32)? I’m sure there are many likely answers to that question, but I’d like to hear some of them.

Working Longer Hours

Respondents say that they work longer than the traditional 40-hour work week, averaging 49.3 hours in a typical week. In fact, 15% indicated they work 60 or more hours in a typical week. I’m not sure what a typical week is anymore, but I know that working 60 hours on a regular basis is not a good thing. We’re all painfully aware that the recent downturn (tacked onto the downturn a few years before that) showed employers that they could “make do with less” by having people work harder and longer. That effect is obviously in play here.

Walker says, “The number of hours people are working doesn’t surprise me at all. Even though the medical device industry is stable, it’s not completely immune to what’s going on in the world.”
Mullings concurs. “Forty-nine hours as an average work week doesn’t surprise me. Most people are getting in by 7:30–8:00 a.m. and working till 5:00 p.m. If you were to separate out the start-ups, that number would jump to 55 or 60 hours.” time

Two-thirds of respondents (65%) indicated that they feel their job is about as secure now as compared with 12 months ago. Although that number seems relatively high, consider the state of the economy and the country 12 months ago. The fact that people aren’t more comfortable now compared with a year ago doesn’t give me great confidence. However, only 13% are actively looking for a job outside their organizations. Note that this percentage increases to 21% among those in product design engineering.

“With regard to people being secure in their jobs, a year ago, people were very nervous. But today, they are still pretty nervous, just a little less so than a year ago,” says Mullings. “Hiring is fixed. People are more hopeful, but don’t feel much safer.”

Highly Influential Group

Our respondents claim that they are influential within their organizations. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) have decision-making influence for the selection of materials, components, and service suppliers for their organizations. That includes a third (33%) who are at the highest level of involvement, which is approving and authorizing purchases.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the level of influence is so high,” offers Walker. “These are people who are right smack in the design of the product. Consequently, they have a strong say into what goes into those new products.”
“I believe that 90% of the people believe they are influential in buying decisions,” counters Mullings. “But at the end of the day, the decision comes down to the aggregation of all the data.”

Salary Increases

On the downside, a substantial proportion of respondents, 19%, have not had a salary increase from their current employer this year. Among those who have, the percentage increase was 5.0%. Of those that have not had an increase, the largest percentage of that group, 48%, come from those same general and corporate management who are satisfied with their jobs. Yet when they do get an increase, it’s slightly higher than the general average, coming in at 8.2%. That could be one reason for their higher satisfaction.

However, and this is a biggie, more than half of the respondents, 57% to be exact, received a bonus during the past 12 months and the average amount of the bonus was $17,500. That could be another reason why folks are happy even though they didn’t receive a pay increase. Salary is about three-fourths (77%) of the total compensation for respondents. The remaining 23% is composed of bonuses, insurance, pensions, etc.

“The incentives and bonuses for people haven’t changed much in the last year. The medical device industry in general is pretty stable. It’s not subject to the peaks and valleys of some of the other markets,” says Walker. “The marketing and sales guys are usually tied closer to performance and you’ll see higher salaries there.”

Mullings agrees, saying, “We’re finding that for the most part, bonuses have not been cut.”
Finally, the question everyone wants the answer to: What is your current annual salary? The highest percentage of people, 24%, are in the $100,000 to $124,999 range. After that, there’s no range that stands out, with no range garnering more than 12% ($90,000 to $99,999) of the respondents. At the top and bottom of the scale, 5% make more than $200,000 and 4% make less than $50,000.

Richard Nass is content director for medical device brands at UBM Canon.

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