Who cares what the boss earns, what do your peers earn?

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drug safety, Clinical trial

clinical research salaries CK Group
Articles comparing CEO salaries are ten-a-penny at outsourcing publications these days as they use readily available data, are quick to compile and – to be frank – generate the strong web traffic that advertisers love.

But other than financial analysts, marketeers and investors who really cares what top level execs earn?

The vast majority of people who work in contract drug development are not going to end up running the company - sorry if that comes as a shock - so for most this type of salary information is - at best - entertainment akin to gossip about how much a Hollywood A-lister earned for the latest blockbuster movie or how many billions Bill Gates has in the bank.

Regional parity

With this premise in mind Outsourcing-pharma.com decided to take a different tack and ask UK-based recruitment firm CK Clinical how much the people who run trials day-to-day – the CRAs, the clinical project managers and QA staff – are paid for the work they do.

Senior consultant Jim Gleeson told us that – with the exception of Asia and some emerging markets – salaries for key clinical trial roles (Table 1) are increasingly similar irrespective of location as wage levels in former low-cost destinations continue to climb.

Rates are pretty consistent across Europe, though higher in Switzerland and the Nordic countries. APAC and Latin America are cheaper, though not by a huge margin​” he said, adding that “there is still no parity in Asia but definitely getting parity in Eastern Europe, hence why CROs-Pharma companies are looking at emerging markets such as Brazil, SA, Korea to conduct trials.

“It’s a matter of time before workers in those regions start to push for wage increases – that said it will still be quite a while before they get anywhere near UK-Western Europe salaries.”

Clinical salaries

Range £

Range $ converted

Clinical trial assistant

£25k - £35k

$38k - $54K

Clinical research associate

£30k - £40k

$46K - $62k

Senior clinical research associate

£35k - £45k

$45k - $70k

Clinical project manager

£40k - £55k

$62k - $85k

Senior clinical project manager

£45k - £65k

$70k - $101k

Clinical QA auditor

£30k - £45k

$46k - $70k

Clinical QA manager

£45K - £70k

$70k - $108k

Business development manager

£50k - £80k

$77k - $124k

Table 1

Gleeson also suggested that trial roles are increasingly sought after in emerging markets.

One thing that makes clinical trials roles so attractive in developing countries is that salaries tend to be much higher than for other roles available. I know of a CEE surgeon who performs neurosurgery in the mornings and works as a CRA in the afternoons in order to boost his salary.”

Biometrics fluidity

The average salaries for clinical biometrics roles (Table 2) are lower than for clinical staff according to Gleeson who said that project-based fluctuations in demand determine wages, adding that “it really depends on what projects they [CROs] win before they recruit heavily in biometrics​.”

Biostats Salaries

Range £

Range $ converted

Clinical data analyst II

£25K - £27k

$38k - $41k

Senior clinical data analyst

£28k - £32K

$43k - $50k

Statistical programmer

£30k - £35k

$46k - $54k

Senior statistical programmer

£35k - £40k

$54k - $62k


£30k - £35k

$46k - $54k

Senior statistician

£40k - £45k

$62k - $70k

Table 2

Regulatory demand

The last group we asked about was professionals involved in drug safety - demand for whom is likely to increase according to Hendre Moolman, Senior Consultant at CK Clinical.

Recruitment [of drug safety professionals] will probably be pushed this year due to regulatory changes and more reporting being required on adverse events​,” he said.

Safety Salaries

Range £

Range $ converted

Drug safety associate

£20K - £23K

$31k - $35k

Drug safety officer

£23K - £28K

$35k - $43k

Senior drug safety officer

£30K - £38K

$46k - $59k

Table 3. All data provided by CKGroup

The increase has to do with the change in legislation that will impact drug safety audits and inspections. This means regular audits of company’s drug safety systems after which, depending on the findings, corrective actions need to be taken​.

"If the companies have audits done before July 12 then they might not have to do that much work right away in comparison to companies that are audited after. After July-12, inspectors, could potentially ask for evidence of planning relating to new legislation, for example new processes, training, IT System Validation and audit findings.​" 

Whether this increased workload will mean drug safety professionals will be able to ask for more for their services remains to be seen.

It is difficult to say whether salaries would increase. Thus far I’ve not seen much evidence of it. I think at the moment the companies are getting ready, checking what other companies are doing, getting budget approval for potential increase in headcount, putting plans in place and determining the staff requirements for whatever may come​.”

So in conclusion we should expect to see clinical research salaries continue to converge, the availability of biostatistics jobs continue to fluctuate and demand for drug safety expertise increase. Execs will also continue to be paid lots of money.

Outsourcing-pharma.com reserves the right to run future articles on CEO salaries – as I said they generate a lot of traffic and we've been doing them for years​ already. ;)

Related topics: Clinical Development, Phase III-IV

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