Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

The 2nd Annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey

This year's survey paints a generally happy picture, with the majority of lab managers saying that they are satisfied with their salaries and the work they do.

by Patrice Galvin
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This year saw a 20% increase in the number of people who participated in the Lab Manager annual survey. In its second year, subscribers answered 17 questions relating to their industry, salary, and overall employee satisfaction.This year’s survey delved further into the job satisfaction aspect with questions regarding the lab work environment, as well as corporate culture, benefits, training and development, and supervisory relationships.

Here are some of the highlights.

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 Who’s running the lab?

Lab managers and those in management positions made up more than 68% of respondents. Others included scientists, chemists, faculty, and consultants. Of these, 45% had a bachelor’s degree, 26% had a master’s, and 17% had PhDs. This survey (though not a reflection of the overall percentages of men and women in science management positions) had 60.3% male respondents and 39.7% female. The majority of people responding to the survey have been with their current employer between 6-10 years (32%).


What’s in the paycheck?

The industries where people worked varied, but the settings were fairly evenly distributed among pharmaceutical, biotech, university, government, private/contract, and industrial labs. Sixty-nine percent reported working in a lab with between 1-25 people.

The salary ranges and responses are listed in Table 1.


 Results from this year’s survey included pharmaceutical, biotech, university, clinical research, government, private/contract, and industrial labs. See the “Dollar Page” to look at the salary breakdown by industry, degree, and other measures.


Whether or not the pay is comparable by degree, industry, or geographic location, the big question really

boils down to what is it you expect to earn? Agreement with the statement that lab managers are paid fairly was over 53%. (See Table 2)

 Taking the survey beyond just the paycheck, questions on benefits and other tangibles were also asked this year. Thirty-nine percent agreed with the statement, “Overall I’m satisfied with this organization’s benefits package.” That same number was fairly well reflected in the response to subsequent specifics on 401Ks, vacation time, health care benefits, dental plans, and others.


When work + fulfillment = happy scientists


In the 2006 General Social Survey, interviewers asked people how satisfied they were with their jobs. “The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others, and creative pursuits,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The survey is the most comprehensive of its kind to explore satisfaction and happiness among American workers.


Scientific endeavors generally meet the criteria for a satisfying job by contributing to the welfare of others along with the creativity involved in scientific discovery. And accordingly, the Lab Manager survey once again found that lab managers are a happy bunch. Ninety four percent agreed that they liked the work that they do, with 67% strongly agreeing. (See Table 3)


Indicators of commitment rounded out the survey findings on job satisfaction. Ninety one percent agreed with the statement “I am contributing to this organization’s mission,” and 94% agreed that they were “willing to contribute above and beyond what is expected of me.”


Where lab managers work


A new question in this year’s survey covered the physical lab space. The results indicated that the lab environment meets or exceeds lab managers’ expectations in terms of lighting, temperature, cleanliness, noise, and, most important, safety. In fact, 72% noted that “safety is a top priority” within their organization.


But no lab is an island. With few exceptions, a lab and its occupants operate as part of a larger organization. A series of questions on corporate culture, leadership, and planning offered perspectives on the lab managers’ interactions beyond the lab walls.


The survey responses to statements about leaderships’ openness to input, confidence in the organization’s leadership, and understanding of the long-term goals indicate that many companies are meeting employee needs to be part of the larger picture. (See Tables 4 and 5)


Most management experts agree that awareness and accord with organizational goals and objectives remain a critical factor in job satisfaction and success in the workplace. In his landmark book, Birth of the Chaordic Age, Dee Hock suggests that employees will stay with organizations based on their personal agreement with the stated purpose and values of the organization. They will continue to work in an organization that allows them to have a role in determining both the overall direction and the daily activities.


On the topic of training, 54% agreed and 46% were either neutral or disagreed with the statement “This organization provided as much initial training as I needed.” The numbers were almost identical to a question about ongoing training. Overall, responses to training and development issues, though still mostly over the 50% mark, were generally a little more lukewarm than responses to other topics in the survey.


Though not low, the response to a question on staffing levels showed a drop from many of the other positive numbers regarding the organization. (See Table 6)


We also asked the question, “Overall, how satisfied are you with this organization as an employer?” The results mirrored the responses to other key job satisfaction indicators. Over 79 percent indicated a positive attitude toward the organization they work for. This is good news for labs. Hiring and training staff is expensive, and leaders that pay attention to retention by clarifying the purpose and goals of the organization have the advantage.


Why does management matter?


As a manager, it’s not always easy to know how you and your management style work in relation to those you supervise. And as hard as it is for some to accept the responsibility, the manager’s influence on the people that work for them can often be the single most important factor in job performance and job satisfaction.


According to management professional Elaine Veralas of Keystone Partners in Boston, “Many organizations find it difficult to believe that managers have the most direct influence on employee happiness when, in fact, they are the most important link in the workplace chain.”


The Lab Manager survey addressed this important aspect of job satisfaction by asking lab managers about their relationship to their supervisor. In a series of nine statements, the majority of responses indicated a positive level of satisfaction with an immediate supervisor. The results included:


Results concerning the employee/supervisor relationship were not only positive but consistent. These numbers also correlate well to the percentages for satisfaction with the place of employment. As an indicator, the survey results show that management does make a difference.


How’s the future looking?


In response to the statement, “In the next five years I will still be working where I am at the same job,” 52.7% agreed. Almost 35 percent responded that they would be at the same organization but with a promotion.


A fairly resounding “no” was heard in answer to a question on entrepreneurial spirit. Over 65 percent disagreed with the statement, “In the next five years, I will have left my job to run my own business.” In terms of job mobility, responses included:




The results from this year’s survey show a significant level of overall satisfaction among lab managers. While the survey results do not reflect a comprehensive view of the industry, the responses are generally consistent with last year’s survey, and we look forward to charting and tracking these trends and others in the future.



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