The life sciences belong to the most prosperous industries in Germany. What earning opportunities are to be expected in the life sciences and what prospects are there? An overview.
Salaries in the life sciences: the chemical industry pays best
BY HEIKE FRIEDRICHSEN
Medical compounds found in the sea, cloned sheep and bathtubs that no longer need to be cleaned: the life sciences are a broad field. Depending on their interests, students can specialize in technological aspects, the molecular field or IT-supported data evaluation. All academics earn a good salary - provided they go into industry.
At the start of their career, life sciences and biotechnology graduates are faced with the question: academia or industry? When it comes to money, then the choice is clear: industry generally pays far higher salaries than those offered by research or higher education institutions.
According to an analysis conducted by salary consultants PersonalMarkt, career starters in industry can expect an annual salary of a good 54,000 euros, whereas at research institutes they earn an average of just 42,000 euros a year, and at higher education institutions a mere 39,000 euros.
The industry and position dictate pay
Those who choose the right industry in their search for a job may be able to negotiate an even higher salary. Bioscientists at chemical companies earn average starting salaries of almost 57,000 euros a year, for example; the top earners may even gain an income of almost 66,000 euros.
In the chemical industry, the highest salaries are paid in the life sciences: chemists earn an average of almost 63,000 euros a year. The spread is wide however: while a quarter of all chemists and process technicians whose data were analysed earned less than 54,000 euros a year, top earners made over 70,000 euros.
The job itself also plays a part in determining salaries: the highest starting salaries in the field of life sciences are paid in quality assurance. Graduates earn an average of 53,320 euros a year. By way of comparison: in research and development departments, the average salary is 50,000 euros a year. A whole range of jobs, most of which do not require a doctoral title, are available in sales, marketing and at management consultancies. There's good money to be made here too: in sales, for example, the starting salary is an average of approximately 51,000 euros.
Professional experience and postgraduate degrees pay off
Age and experience are further factors in determining salary levels. With three to six years of professional experience, the average annual income already lies at 55,000 euros. More than ten years of experience are remunerated with an average salary of around 76,000 euros.
The differences in salary between industry and research change little with increasing professional experience however: while the salaries of top earners in companies in the chemical industry or medical engineering lie at around 100,000 euros or more, a quarter of all employees at research institutes and higher education institutions earn less than 40,000 euros a year.
And then there's the doctoral title: a successful post-doctoral qualification not only yields enhanced career opportunities, but also to significantly more money. Doctorates are rewarded with an annual salary averaging almost 68,000 euros.
Personnel responsibilities pay off
The assumption of personnel responsibilities also has a positive impact of the salary. While employees without any personnel responsibilities earn an average of 55,000 euros a year, the salaries of management executives with personnel responsibilities are around 35,000 euros higher, lying at 90,000 euros. The salaries of the industry's top earners are higher still: according to a data analysis conducted by PersonalMarkt, one quarter of all managers in the life sciences earn in excess of 110,000 euros a year.
The size of a life sciences company - in terms of its workforce - also has an impact on the salary. The rule of thumb is: corporations and large companies pay higher salaries than mid-market businesses and, in turn, these pay better than small companies or start-ups. Career starters at companies with over 1,000 employees earn almost 53,000 euros on average; while at companies with fewer than 100 employees, this figure is almost 12,000 euros lower at around 41,000 euros.
INFO-BOX: Salaries in the life sciences
While pay is an important motivator, it is by no means always decisive. Other factors such as the responsibilities you have, creative scope, perspectives, exciting tasks, and work environment should also be taken into account.
Salaries between collective wage agreements and negotiating skills
BY JULIA BECKER
Excellent salary prospects await specialists in the life sciences. According to the German Life Sciences Association (Verband für Biologie, Biowissenschaften und Biomedizin, VBIO), entry-level salaries for academics range from 38,000 to 50,000 euros a year before taxes. The exact salary level depends on qualifications, current collective wage agreements and individual ability to negotiate.
When it comes to salary, anyone aiming for a career in the life sciences should first enquire as to whether there is a collective wage agreement for his or her intended area of work. In many fields of employment this is not unusual. For example, the entire pharmaceutical and biochemistry industries are affiliated with the chemical industry, so in these fields the collective wage agreements negotiated with the German Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IG BCE) apply.
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Pharmaceuticals and biochemistry industry: salaries of over 52,000 euros are possible
Collective wage agreements allow applicants to see precisely what salary they can expect under which circumstances. The pay scales of the IG BCE for example are divided into pay grades E1 to E13, where E13 is the highest level of salary. A normal graduate from a university of applied sciences will generally start at pay grade E11, which specifies a starting salary before taxes of approximately 35,000 euros a year, depending on the federal state. After six working years this salary will already have increased to approximately 47,000 euros.
Academics with higher degrees, professional experience and additional qualifications fall into pay grades E12 and E13, where the average starting salary is approximately 37,000 euros annually before taxes; after six years, salaries rise to approximately 49,000 or 52,000 euros a year. All these figures do not yet include holiday pay, Christmas bonuses or any other supplements.
Academics with outstanding qualifications or a doctorate are often paid above the pay scale
Separate pay scales for pharmacists in public pharmacies A separate collective wage agreement applies to pharmacists employed in public pharmacies. It is negotiated between the German Pharmacy Employers Association (Arbeitgeberverband Deutscher Apotheken, ADA) and the pharmacists' union ADEXA, and stipulates that licensed pharmacists in the first years of their career earn an annual salary before taxes of approximately 28,000 euros, plus holiday pay, Christmas bonus and special supplements. This salary increases only marginally over the course of several years in the job.
Specific collective wage agreement for the public sector
Specialists in the public sector are remunerated according to the collective wage agreement for public service (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst, TVöD), which specifies pay grades from 1 to 15. Salaries increase after one, three, six, ten and fifteen years of service respectively.
Academics with a Bachelor's degree or a degree from a university of applied sciences usually fall into pay grades 9 to 12, where the monthly starting salary is between 2,264 euros and 2,756 euros before taxes. After six years, they may already earn monthly salaries of between 2,981 euros and 3,861 euros. Academics with a scientific or Master's degree usually fall into pay grades 13 to 15. In these cases the monthly starting salary is between 3,075 euros and 3,683 euros before taxes; after six years, salaries may rise to between 3,947 euros and 4,773 euros, added to which are special payments such as Christmas bonuses or holiday pay.
No collective wage agreement? Then it's down to negotiating skills
In those areas of the life sciences where there are no collective wage agreements, individual salaries are frequently a matter of negotiation. The individual salary on which job candidate and employer ultimately agree often depends on various factors such as the candidate's professional experience and specialist qualifications, the company's geographical location, its area of work and its size. The type of degree a candidate holds also affects the level of salary. A survey by IW Consult, a subsidiary of the German Institute for Economic Research (Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, IW), found that in 52 percent of cases graduates with Bachelor degrees earned less in entry-level positions than Diplom scientists in the same subject. In the remaining cases, salaries were equal.
In 12 percent of cases, graduates with Master's degrees from universities of applied sciences earned more in entry-level positions than their colleagues holding Diplom degrees from universities of applied sciences; in 80 percent of cases their wages were equal. A scientist with a Master's degree from a university is also likely to earn more at entry level than a scientist with a university Diplom. However, the differences in salary diminish significantly with more years spent working in one's chosen career. In general, scientists with a PhD are paid far better than research personnel without a PhD.
Anyone entering into salary negotiations should be aware of these factors and bear them in mind when preparing for the conversation. This includes evaluating one's individual strengths and qualifications and selling them well. In addition, applicants should familiarise themselves in advance with the individual situation of the company and the current market situation.
academics - January 2014
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