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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.

Salaries between Collective Wage Agreements and Negotiating Skills© Yuri Arcurs - 123rf.com
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.

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.