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The 12th Annual Salary and Employee Satisfaction Survey

Career satisfaction remains strong among laboratory professionals

Lauren Everett

Lauren Everett is the managing editor for Lab Manager. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from SUNY New Paltz and has more than a decade of experience in news...

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For the 12th Annual Salary and Employee Satisfaction Survey, we’re taking a fresh look at recurring trends from recent years and discussing new observations this year to provide insight into the careers of laboratory professionals. After reviewing close to 1,000 responses, some of the key points we observed in this year’s survey results include slight changes in the types of labs where respondents work, the baby boomer generation still dominates much of the workforce, and employee loyalty remains strong.


As in years’ past, survey respondents continue to represent a diverse variety of industries, from agriculture and food to analytical chemistry, the environment, molecular biology, and others.

But unlike last year’s survey, which reported a 6 percent decrease in those working in clinical labs compared to the year prior, this year’s clinical professionals show a steady bounceback— representing 10.5 percent of all respondents. Similarly, a 2 percent increase was seen this year among those working within a hospital or medical center. Big data and computer science advances, coupled with novel precision medicine therapies and gene editing techniques, have enabled professionals in the medical field to become more informed about once-mysterious diseases in patients, which has also allowed clinical researchers in the lab to become more integrated with medical professionals working directly with patients.

The biotechnology sector continues to steadily grow as well, accounting for 6.4 percent of respondents, while a 2 percent decrease was noted among independent or private research labs.

The ratio of males to females working as lab professionals was split pretty evenly, similar to last year’s results. Female survey respondents encompass 46.2 percent of the total audience pool, while 51.9 percent were male.

Table 1: Areas of Research
Drug Discovery3.3%
Molecular Biology5.6%
Plant Science0.6%

The majority of the laboratory workforce still falls within the middle-aged range—about 45 percent of respondents are 45- to 60-years-old. But there was also a minor surge in those aged 60-64, who are still working— 14.1 percent this year compared to 11.9 percent last year. Those who fall into the age range on either side of the spectrum round out the rest of the survey respondents, with 6.5 percent being 65 or older and 6.2 percent being 29 or younger. So while millennials may be making a splash in the job market in other industries, the same cannot necessarily be said among lab professionals.

Education and experience

As expected, about 41 percent of our respondents have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering, which is consistent with last year’s report of 43 percent. Nearly 24 percent have a doctorate in science or engineering. Individuals holding a management position—including corporate, R&D, lab, engineering, core facility, technical/ operations, and project management—make up 57.5 percent of the survey audience, which is spot on with last year’s demographics. But it is still a decrease from our 10th Annual Survey in 2016 that reported management professionals accounted for 67.7 percent of total respondents.

Nearly half of respondents have worked either full- or part-time as a researcher for more than 20 years, indicating a strong passion for their respective scientific fields— a trend we have seen for years. There was also a noticeable increase in the number of respondents who have been with their current employer for at least 11 years.

Table 2: Job Title
Academic Department Head0.6%
Principal Investigator/Senior Scientist or Researcher5.9%
Research Scientist7.7%
Clinical Researcher0.3%
Post Doctorate Fellow1.6%
Graduate/Postgraduate/PhD Student1.1%
Technologist/Technician/Research Assistant6.5%
H&S Manager0.6%

Lab size and number of employees within organizations have also remained relatively unchanged. However, the number of organizations with more than 5,000 employees increased slightly, from about 25 percent of respondents last year to 29 percent this year. On the other hand, those with fewer than 25 employees make up just 7.4 percent of this year’s respondents, demonstrating that big industry players still significantly outnumber start-ups and smaller corporations.

The number of respondents who manage just one to two employees fell by about 5 percent since last year, from 31 percent to 26 percent, while those managing three to four employees bumped up from 18.5 percent to 19.1 percent. Those managing the largest number of individuals—10–24 employees—went up from 16.3 percent in 2017 to 19.6 percent this year. This increase could suggest that employees are taking on larger managerial roles across different labs and organizations.

Salary and benefits

Respondents represent a wide spectrum of income classes—from those reporting a salary of less than $25,000 to those earning more than $150,000. However, the average fell between $45,000–$75,000.

Table 3: Salaries
Less than $25,0006.8%
$25,000 - $34,9994.7%
$35,000 - $44,9997.8%
$45,000 - $54,99911.2%
$55,000 - $64,99912.8%
$65,000 - $74,99912.0%
$75,000 - $84,9999.6%
$85,000 - $94,9997.9%
$95,000 - $109,9999.7%
$110,000 - $124,9995.4%
$125,000 - $149,9995.7%
More than $150,0006.5%

Employer-provided benefits remain largely unchanged from previous years. Nearly all respondents (90.4 percent) receive some form of vacation or paid time off, and 86 percent are offered health insurance. Survey results show that half of respondents get a 401(k) employer match as well. Less common benefits provided to respondents by their employers include childcare assistance (5.9 percent), profit sharing (7 percent), and stock options (7.8 percent).

Satisfaction and loyalty

It remains clear that an employee’s corporate culture has a direct impact on his or her job satisfaction. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said corporate culture—defined as an organization’s goals, strategies, structure; and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community—was “very important” to their overall job satisfaction, while just 6 percent said it was not important. Thirty-four percent fell in the middle, claiming corporate culture was “somewhat” important.

Most respondents still seem to be content with their current employment situation. The vast majority believe that they will still be working at their current position and in the same organization in the next 12 months, as opposed to looking for new employment. The second most popular answer was that respondents hope to be within the same organization but earn a promotion within that 12-month time frame.

Most respondents also feel that their experience and skill set are adequate for their current position, and a small subset plan to return to school to obtain another degree.

The overall consensus was that employers provide both initial and ongoing training, which helps employees perform their jobs well. Many respondents also felt that they were equipped with all the information, technology, and resources necessary to adequately carry out their duties, but there were some data points that hinted at areas of potential improvement.

Within the section of the survey that asked respondents to select “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neutral,” “disagree,” or “strongly disagree” to a list of phrases, the one that received the most “strongly disagree” responses was: “This organization provides training or experiences to help me explore other opportunities within the company,” suggesting employees may need to seek out new opportunities on their own without much help from employers. Another phrase that received a high “strongly disagree” rating was: “This organization provides training or education to help me balance work and personal life.”

Once again, this year’s survey has confirmed trends that have remained consistent throughout the years, while also highlighting potential emerging trends and important changes.

Thank you to those who participated in the 12th Annual Salary and Employee Satisfaction Survey. Your responses contribute to invaluable insight into the field, and we look forward to revisiting this topic next year.