Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

The Seventh Annual Salary & Employee Satisfaction Survey

This year’s survey indicates new growth in the lower ranks of organizations

by Pamela Ahlberg

As in our previous Salary & Employee Satisfaction surveys, the results this year paint a picture of stable and, for the most part, satisfied laboratory professionals. Salaries and benefits have remained fairly constant, and despite some minor grumblings concerning benefits, most of this year’s 831 respondents had no plans to leave their chosen professions.

Overview of participants

The majority of this year’s survey respondents— 73%—work in either industrial, clinical, or academic research facilities, with the balance employed by government, private, or contract labs. [Table 1] The largest groups of respondents are lab managers (56%) and researchers/technologists (30%), with a smaller number in academia and corporate and project management. [Table 2] Across all organizations, the primary fields of research are biology and chemistry, with the balance involved in environmental, clinical, agriculture/food, neuroscience, and drug discovery. [Table 3]

Table 1: Research Organization
Clinical Research Lab/Hospital/Medical Lab 26%
Industrial Research Lab 24%
Academic Research Lab 23%
Government Research Lab 13%
Private Research Institution 5%
Contract Lab 2%
Other 7%

Table 2: Job Function
Lab Management 56%
Research Scientist 20%
Technologist/Research Assistant 10%
Corporate Management 2%
Professor/Graduate/Postgraduate/PhD Student 4%
Project Manager 2%
Other 6%

Table 3: Field of Research 
Biology 37%
Chemistry 25%
Environmental 8%
Clinical 7%
Agriculture/Food 4%
Neuroscience 3%
Drug Discovery 2%
Other 14%

Longevity and Loyalty

Regarding how long researchers and managers have worked in their chosen professions, there were only minor changes from last year. Those who have worked less than one year remained at 2%, and those with more than 20 years on the job stayed at 48%. There was a slight increase this year for those who have worked one to 10 years (29% vs. 22%) and a decrease for those working 11 to 20 years (22% vs. 28%). This suggests that the ranks of more recent entrants to the research profession are increasing slightly, as those in the 10- to 20-year window decrease.

As for the number of years with their current employers, the changes were likewise fairly insignificant. In 2013, 3% more respondents said they had been with their organizations less than one year (7% vs. 4%) and between one and two years (11% vs. 8%). Two percent fewer told us they’d been with their current employers three to five years (18% vs. 20%) and six to 10 years (23% vs. 25%). For those working for their current employers 11 to 20 years, the percentage remained exactly the same at 21%. Two percent fewer respondents said they had worked for their current employers more than 20 years (20% vs. 22%). These numbers also echo the trend toward growth in the lower ranks and a minor decrease in the upper ranks. As has consistently been the case, the majority of respondents are employed full time—up slightly this year from 91.9% to 93%, which, though small, is a good sign.

One interesting bit of information to emerge this year is the size of the organizations where respondents work. Last year 55% said they worked for companies with 750 or fewer employees. This year that number dropped by 10 percentage points. At the other end, 10% more respondents said they worked for organizations with 751 to 5,000 employees. This suggests greater consolidation of existing research organizations and fewer smaller start-up labs.

Technology (use of mobile apps)

Not surprisingly, when asked whether they had accessed career or employee recruiting information via mobile applications on a smart device (iPhone, Black- Berry, Android), 37% of the 831 respondents said they had. Within each age group, those percentages were:

29 & Under 53.8%

30 - 44 44.2%

45 - 59 35.9%

60 & over 17.7%

We should expect the use of these devices to increase significantly across the board over the next year or so.

Who's the Boss?

Another interesting fact to emerge from this year’s survey is how many and what types of employees respondents manage. Seven percent more manage no one (21% vs. 14%), 5% fewer manage researchers only (39% vs. 44%), and 3% fewer manage both researchers and nonresearchers (32% vs. 35%). But for those who do manage others, 5% fewer manage one to two people, while the percentage of those managing larger teams has grown slightly across the board. One could make the case that these numbers support other data concerning an increase in younger researchers who might not yet be seasoned enough to manage others.

Show Me the Money

Compared with 2012, there has been essentially no change in compensation. With only minor ups and downs, those making below $75,000 remained the same as last year at 60%, and those making more than $75,000 was also the same at 40%. However, it was noteworthy that there was a 2% increase this year in those making below $55,000 and a 1% decrease in those making $95,000 or more, reinforcing what we’ve seen throughout the survey— that new employees making less money and managing fewer people are, albeit very slightly, increasing.

Table 4: Annual salary, not including bonuses
  2013 2012
Less than $25,000 6% 5%
$25,000 - $34,999 6% 5%
$35,000 - $44,999 10% 8%
$55,000 - $64,999 14% 15%
$65,000 - $74,999 12% 12%
$75,000 - $84,999 11% 13%
$85,000 - $94,999 9% 7%
$95,000 - $109,000 9% 8%
$110,000 - $124,999 5% 5%
$125,000 - $149,999 4% 5%
More than $150,000 2% 3%


While 19% of this year’s respondents said there had been significant changes to their benefits within the past year, this was three percentage points less than last year. When asked to explain those changes, the vast majority complained of reduced benefits, higher deductibles, higher prescription copays, lower employer contributions to 401(k)s, no raises, fewer bonuses, less tuition reimbursement, and so on. This was somewhat remarkable compared with last year, when 22% reported as many positive as negative comments regarding those changes.

Despite the complaints, the remaining 81% reported as many improvements to their benefits as they did reductions. For example, 2% more (91% vs. 89%) said they were now getting vacation and paid time off. Another 2% more (73% vs. 71%) said they now had dental insurance, and 5% more (66% vs. 61%) said that life insurance was now part of their benefits package. However, unlike last year when there was a 10% increase in 401(k) matching programs, this year that percentage dropped 3 points to 46%. The other relatively significant declines were for those receiving stock options (7% vs. 10%) and profit sharing (7% vs. 11%).

Job Satisfaction

There was virtually no change this year in answers to questions concerning job satisfaction, with that same 74% as last year saying that within the next 12 months they would still be working at the same company in the same position. Only slightly different was the 2% fewer who said they agreed or strongly agreed they would have a job promotion within the next year. [Table 6]

Table 5: Within the next 12 months I will still be working at the same company with the same position
  2013 2012
Strongly Agree 47% 48%
Agree 27% 27%
Neutral 10% 11%
Disagree 7% 4%
Strongly Disagree 5% 6%
Don't Know 4% 4%

Table 6: Within the next 12 months I will still be working at the same company with a job promotion.
  2013 2012
Strongly Agree 6% 7%
Agree 11% 12%
Neutral 22% 22%
Disagree 19% 22%
Strongly Disagree 29% 27%
Don't Know 13% 10%

Table 7: Within the next 12 months I will working somewhere else in the same profession
  2013 2012
Strongly Agree 4% 5%
Agree 9% 9%
Neutral 17% 20%
Disagree 27% 25%
Strongly Disagree 30% 31%
Don't Know 13% 10%

Professional Development

One noteworthy bit of information to come from the survey has to do with professional development. Last year 93% of respondents felt that their experience and skills were adequate for their current positions. This year, 3% fewer felt that way—a message reinforced by answers to the question regarding training, with 5% more respondents (43% vs. 38%) saying they required and desired more on-the-job training. However, a somewhat contradictory 3% more respondents (64% vs. 61%) said they were ready and prepared for their next position.

When asked about training opportunities within their organizations, respondents indicated slight improvement in four out of the five categories. When asked about the initial training they received, nearly 50% said it was as much as they needed, up 2 points from last year. The same 2% improvement was reported concerning ongoing training, with 47% saying it was sufficient. There was another 2% improvement (28% vs. 26%) when respondents were asked whether their organization provided training or the chance to explore new opportunities within their companies. To the question about whether their organization provided training or education to help them balance their work and personal lives, 4% more said they agreed or strongly agreed (34% vs. 30%). The one downturn concerned whether organizations provided the information, equipment, and resources respondents needed to do their jobs well, to which 2% fewer agreed or strongly agreed (59% vs. 61%).

Last year we noted that labs, for the most part, remained populated with more middle-aged and older employees, rather than 20- and 30-somethings, which remains true this year. However, as shown in a good amount of the data, there looks to be new growth in the lower ranks of organizations—a trend that cannot help but continue as more and more baby boomers retire.

If you participated in this year’s Salary & Employee Satisfaction Survey, thank you. We look forward to returning to this important topic a year from now and will be counting on your participation once more.

For complete survey results go to: