Thursday, January 14, 2021

Want to see some recent starting salaries?

From a recently hired entry-level PhD organic chemist (let's call them HQN), this helpful information: 

Small/med pharma - med chem, SF: was quoted at 110-120k typical base pay, plus relocation (amount unknown)

Small pharma Boston, med chem and process: 90-100k (medium confidence on this one, this is thru the grapevine for previous hires within past few years, but nothing current right now)

Large pharma companies, med chem or process positions, Boston, Philly, Bay Area, Chicago: 115-120k base for very competitive applicants. Offers also typically included some type of sign-on bonus (10k+), as well as relo. I know a few people that fell into this category, and they were really lucky because they had multiple offers in hand and let companies actively ‘bid’ against one another.

Before receiving offers, these individuals were quoted at “97-115k” for typical base salaries.

CMO, [redacted], process: (90k?)-100k base, plus very generous relocation. (100k base was my offer, but i got stuck in the “whoever goes first, loses” camp. I did get to name my price and they met it. Glassdoor said that the range was more like 80-90k, so I thought my ask was decent. Probably could have gotten more but alas… idk how much more I could have actually gotten anyway, and without another offer immediately in hand, I kinda felt I didn't have good leverage to ask for more now. I am assuming that 90k is actual low end of the range here, but not confident on that. 

Small pharma NJ, med chem: ~92k base, 5k signing bonus in lieu of relocation.

For context, I would suggest that those who are entertaining offers really consider relocation vs signing bonus (ideally, one could negotaite for both, but if foregoing relo, think VERY hard about the actual relocation costs associated). I've heard general murmurings that sometimes companies will forego relocation packages (something to do with setting a precedent for them? idk), in lieu of a sign on bonus. I had originally thought that the NJ offer was decent, but i turned it down just because it wasnt the right company for me. In hindsight, my current relo is lavish, and the 'signing bonus' from other company would have basically ONLY covered my lease break and nothing else. 

CMO, Boston suburbs, salary range quoted was around ~80-85k iirc. I had originally asked HR for 100-110, and they said that salary would be for someone 1-2 levels above entry level PhD - their rationale was “we’re in the suburbs so CoL is different” but that still struck me as low for the greater Boston metro area.

Thanks to HQN for their kind contribution! Readers, would you like to contribute? You can add in the comments, or e-mail me at chemjobber@gmail.com 

13 comments:

  1. It's sobering to see some of these numbers. I'm in Canada, where the salaries are a fair bit lower.

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    1. Close relative working for pharmaceutical clinical trials company in Montreal. Starting salary $125k CDN in 2018 with unknown relocation expenses, and a bonus every year thus far (including 2021, projected).

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    2. And sorry eh, should have specified that that's following a 2-year post-doc.

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  2. What I've learned is that getting a pharma job out of a PhD/postdoc is like getting into the NBA - hundreds/thousands of applicants, and your odds are extremely slim. I have applied to thousands of pharma jobs for PhD chemists and continue to get rejected on a daily basis.

    First job out of PhD: Small management consulting company in Southern CA, specializing in chemicals/O&G. Started at $50K, stayed for 1.5 years by which time they bumped me up to $68K. (Before anyone asks, it wasn't really out of choice - that was the only offer I had at the time :/).

    My next (and current) job is Inside Sales for a chemicals CMO in Southern CA. Started at $85K, and after looking at my pay statements, last year's salary came to $95K.

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    1. Hang in there. Get to a big chemical company that does B2B where accounts can range in the $million/year. I've seen my sales coworkers do very well for themselves, especially if you make it to a sales management role where you have P&L responsibility. It can be a lot of travel though.

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    2. Thank you! My career path has been extremely rough, moreso than normal for most PhD's (I was unemployed for 3 years post-PhD). While my current position is excellent (I'm hourly so zero complaints about work-life balance and no complains about pay), I'm not sure if I want to do sales for a career. I'm currently taking a Project Management course, so let's see...

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  3. I'm a bit past entry age, and a biologist, but my gut (and a recent hiring at a large biopharma) tell me that Glassdoor is reasonably accurate for larger companies.

    The relo vs. signing question is interesting. The totals that I've seen on my relo packages have been eye-watering, as in "wow, how are they spending that much money?," and I would not have expected them to have gone anywhere near that for signing bonuses. However, in the US, relo packages get the company specific tax benefits; in addition, the repayment terms that come with that act as a retention mechanism. Both of those have definite value to an employer, especially if they're in a high-poaching neighborhood (Cambridge, MA; SF, CA).

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  4. I've worked in pharma in the midwest for 6 years now and I've never heard of a non-management salary over 6 figures.

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    1. Are you working somewhere other than Eli Lilly or AbbVie? A PhD chemist beyond an entry level hire is certainly making over 100k and the expectation is that you will manage more than just BS/MS associates and a lab as you progress up the scientific hierarchy. You also have to pay PhD chemists reasonably well here to offset the risk of living in Indianapolis or Chicago - there is virtually nowhere else for a chemist to work. Pfizer virtually destroyed the Midwest as a viable place for a chemist.

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  5. CJ - maybe you or others should look into building a database like levels.fyi for pharma/chemicals

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  6. I would add that in the greater Boston area for a PhD chemist in polymers/plastics with 2-5 years of experience in a non-pharma role you can expect $95-110k depending on the suburb you are in (Nashua, NH vs Cambridge).

    I had an old co-worker in Kentucky with 10 years of experience making ~110-120k in polymers/plastics and I have known some others at about $95-120k for similar experience in Indiana and Ohio. If you can handle living in the Midwest the salaries can be really quite good if you can get into one of the bigger companies.

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    1. Agreed on salaries in the Midwest. I think companies in the Midwest have found that in order to attract talent, they need to offer very high salaries - I have randomly interviewed for positions in the Midwest and they have agreed to salary numbers that would ordinary get me laughed at in other locations.

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  7. I would also add bonuses typically range from 5-15% of total salary for polymers/plastics R&D roles, but contingent on sales hitting targets. Dow/DuPont/Huntsman might pay above the ranges I am citing which appear to be the average. There are companies that specialize in collecting this information and making sure companies are paying at market rates (median) and above/below where that median is as well.

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20