Cross-Functional Skills the Key to Weathering an Uncertain Pharmaceutical Industry Job Market, Survey Finds

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Pharmaceutical workers without cross-disciplinary skills and training are vulnerable; women, minorities, younger workers note disparity in earnings.

According to a new survey conducted by Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine, there is an increasing split between pharmaceutical workers who have cross-functional skills that make them highly marketable in today’s industry and those who lack transferable skills and are vulnerable to the current wave of industry job cuts. The survey, published in the magazine’s March issue and available online at, polled some 500 pharmaceutical industry manufacturing professionals.

Savvy, multifaceted workers definitely have the upper hand in the current market, says AstraZeneca’s U.S. recruiting director Jeff Harvey, commenting on the survey findings. “Pharmaceutical employees are expecting more from their employers than they ever have,” he says. “If they’re not getting what they expect, they’re moving on.”

Still, a majority of pharmaceutical employees are anxious about their fates. More than 55% of the respondents to the survey said that they are concerned about job security, up from 44% last year. “I full expect to be laid off by this time next year,” one survey respondent said.

The survey of some 500 pharmaceutical manufacturing professionals produced other surprising results:

  • Despite strong starting salaries, 64% of twenty-somethings in the industry feel that they are not adequately compensated.
  • More than 65% of women in the industry feel that they are not compensated as well as male counterparts with similar skills and experiences. Only 35% of men believe that this is the case.
  • Eight out of 10 African Americans surveyed feel that they are not compensated fairly in relation to white workers. A mere 11% of white employees, however, believe that salary discrimination exists.

Experts who provided commentary on the survey say that the clear lesson is that there are no guarantees for the pharmaceutical worker. The industry’s job market is in a state of constant flux, and the only real job security is one's ability to market oneself convincingly to potential future employers. Having a broad skill set, including soft skills such as communication, is essential.

For more information on Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s 2006 Job Satisfaction and Salary survey, visit


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