2007 Salary Survey



Volume 22
Issue 3

Staff editor Brian Johnson takes a look at this year's salaries and trends in employment for spectroscopists.

Despite continuing conflict overseas, the economy on the homefront is doing rather well, and fortunately, scientists in industries across the board are reveling in these financial salad days with increases in their average base salaries. As of this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is well over 12,000, and rapidly approaching 13,000. The 2007 Spectroscopy Salary and Employment Survey reveals that, for the most part, the wealth has been spread to scientists, but still stress is up, and the gender salary gap is widening.

This year, 840 scientists took part in the survey — 75.6% male and 24.4% female, with 24.4% in the age range of 50–55. Based upon their responses, the average annual salary for 2007 is $79,605, up $1625 from last year. Not quite the sizeable leap from 2005 to 2006, when there was a difference of just over $5000, but still another big stride for an ever-growing industry. Out of the respondents, 91.1% are employed full-time. The percentage of unemployed respondents this year is roughly the same as 2006, at 1.6%. However, this is still down from 2005, when unemployment was at 2.4%. The private industry is by far the largest employer of scientists, with 65.4% working in that sector, earning $84,131, followed by academia (16.7%), earning $61,189, and government/national labs (15%), earning $74,853, a distant second and third, respectively (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Salary summary by job sector, 2005–2007.

Only 0.2% of respondents report an income of less than $25,000, less than the 0.8% who report that they earn over $175,000. This is a steep drop from 2005, when 2.9% of respondents claimed that they made less than $25,000. The highest income percentage (17.5%) claims to make between $100,000 and $125,000, which is also what 22.8% of scientists with 21–35 years of experience make. Despite rising salaries, 50.4% of scientists choose to supplement their income in some way. Out of these respondents, 14.2% say their supplemental income is between $1000 and $5000 per year.

Women Still Earning Less

Female respondents still have yet to catch up to the salaries of their male counterparts, and the divide seems to be growing even wider. This year, male scientists will earn an average of $82,706, while females earn far less, at $68,488, an average difference of $14,218. This gap is up from $12,000 in 2006, which was consistently up from $10,000 in 2005 (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Salary summary by gender, 2005–2007.

Not only does the salary divide between genders remain wide, but females garnered a significantly smaller raise in pay. Females saw their average salary jump from $68,300 last year to $68,488 this year, an increase of just $188. Male scientists, on the other hand, saw their pay go from $80,660 to $82,706, an improvement of $2046, nearly 11 times more of a salary increase than females.

However, perhaps the answer for the gender divide can be found at the level of education. When asked what was the highest degree they had obtained, 43.5% of men held a Ph.D., while only 27% of women did. Because scientists with a Ph.D. earn considerably more than those with associates, bachelor's, or master's degrees, that could be one factor in the gender salary gap. Experience could be another factor, but of course, research didn't give us these numbers!

Education Pays

As with most careers, the salary survey indicated that scientists who have obtained higher levels of education receive much higher levels of compensation. This year, respondents with a Ph.D. will earn $92,600, up $750 from last year. The employment area with the highest salaries for Ph.D.s is pharmaceutical science, where scientists will earn an average of $102,075 in 2007.

Those with master's degrees do not earn quite as much as their Ph.D. counterparts, but were no doubt pleased to see their salaries increase as well, from $75,050 to $77,980, a raise of $2930, although not quite the leap from 2005 to 2006, which saw a pay increase of $3600.

Scientists with bachelor's degrees breathed another sigh of relief this year. From 2004 to 2005, they saw their pay actually decrease $3100 to $59,030, only to make up for it in spades last year, with an average of $64,560. This year, the news is even better, as bachelor's degree holders saw their salaries increase by a large amount yet again, to $68,292, an upswing of $3732. Meanwhile, scientists with associate's degrees will earn an average of $50,875 in 2007.

Comparing the numbers between master's and bachelor's degrees, the salary gap between the two education levels appears to be drawing closer. Will this trend continue, and if so, will obtaining an M.S. be worth it? David W. Ball, associate professor of chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio, says, "My guess is that obtaining an M.S. will still be worth it because of job perquisites other than salary: promotion potential, other professional opportunities, etc. It's good that B.S. salaries are increasing, but hopefully a salary inversion situation won't present itself."

CEOs at the Top of the Ladder

Not surprisingly, when broken down by job title, CEOs/presidents take the top spot, making a mean annual base salary of $144,900. Full professors (3.6% of respondents) come in second, earning a base salary of $101,125. The position with the highest percentage of respondents, senior scientists/researchers/research fellows (16.3%), earn an average of $91,041.

In descending order of average base salary, the other job titles surveyed include technical directors ($93,000), laboratory directors/managers ($86,832), staff scientists/researchers/research fellows ($79,638), other ($75,561), associate professors ($71,222), process engineers ($70,200), chemists/spectroscopists ($67,845), analysts ($60,650), research assistants/associates ($56,661), laboratory technicians/technologists ($55,894), assistant professors ($52,667), and process chemists ($45,000).

As for job specialties, the highest percentage of respondents specialize in applied research/ development (25.1%), and earn an average of $87,363. The top-earning specialty, corporate management, employs just 1.7% of respondents, who earn an average of $139,000.

There's Money in the Southwest

On this year's salary survey, the United States was divided into five regions: the Southwest, Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Midwest, a slight departure from previous surveys. In 2006, the Pacific/Pacific Northwest region was the top-earning area, with an average salary of $78,590. This year, the Southwest (CA, HI, AZ, NM, NV, CO, UT, OK, TX) topped the other regions, with its citizens (22.9% of respondents) earning an average of $89,735, while the Northwest (OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, AK) came in last (5.3% of respondents), with $67,306 in average annual income (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Salary summary by region, 2007.

The largest percentage of respondents came from the Midwest (28%), but they came in fourth in average income, with $71,820. The Northeast (24.4% of respondents) had the second-highest average income, with $82,040, while the Southeast came in third, with $79,700 in average salary.

Age Just a Number?

Once again in 2007, salaries seemingly continued to rise as spectroscopists got older, with those aged 60–65 having a mean salary of $98,319 (see Figure 4). This raises the question, does it pay to retire, or will more scientists hang on to their jobs in their golden years? Ball believes that it depends upon the individual situation. "I think it depends on what benefits will be available upon retirement. For example, if I were to retire, my health care insurance payments would skyrocket," Ball says. "Given the fact that the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age, my feeling is that as long as your job is fulfilling, you should stick with it!" Respondents are likely to see Ball's point of view, as just 51.3% say that their company offers a 401(k), while only 32.9% offer some sort of retirement plan.

Figure 4: Salary summary by age, 2005–2007.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the eight respondents aged 20–25 earn an average of $46,188, a severe departure from last year's survey, in which those aged 21–25 claimed to earn $63,300. Looking a bit further on in years, 36.4% of respondents aged 36–45 earn between $85,000 and $100,000, up from 30% in 2006.

Stress Factors

Despite an overall increase in salary this year, scientists are feeling more stressed at work than ever, with 52.4% reporting that their stress level at work has increased in the last year, while 40.7% say that their stress has remained the same, and only 4.6% declared that their stress has actually decreased. When asked why they felt that their stress level at work has increased, most respondents (18.8%) blamed staff management uncertainty. Another 16.2% placed fault on negative workplace attitudes. Additionally, despite the notion that new technology is only supposed to make work easier, 4% of respondents replied that they cannot keep up with technological advances.

On the other side of the coin, 12.5% of respondents who say that their stress level has decreased in the past year attribute it to new technology that has increased their productivity and quality. Improved workplace attitudes were cited by 34.4% of less-stressful respondents.

Is there a correlation between stress and workplace satisfaction? When asked to rate their satisfaction with their current position, 33.1% of respondents claimed to be "very satisfied," compared to just 4.2% who were dissatisfied, while 36.7% were simply "satisfied" (see Figure 5). So it seems that satisfaction does not factor into workplace stress. Curiously enough, those respondents who said they were dissatisfied earn an average of $85,999, while those who claim to be very satisfied earn $4444 less, at $81,555.

Figure 5: Satisfaction levels, 2007.

Stress at work may not be enough of an issue to switch jobs, as 54.7% of respondents said that they are not considering a job change within the next year. Of the 20.8% who are considering a job change in the next year, 56.8% would prefer to work in the private industry — which just happens to be the largest employer of scientists.

The data presented in this article are a small sampling of the spectroscopy community as a whole. If you would like to share your thoughts on this article and its data, and how it relates to your career, please e-mail us at: spectroscopyedit@advanstar.com