Pay Raises Up Only Slightly

For Md. Bioscience Workers

A report on salary and benefits for Maryland bioscience workers is hitting the desks of human resource executives, and the results show the money isn't flowing all that freely.

The study found raises, not including bonuses, are expected to average 3.5 percent this year. That's up from 3 percent last year, but down substantially from 5.2 percent raises in 2001, as documented by a previous report. The survey of 45 companies was prepared by Watson Wyatt Worldwide for MdBio, a statewide organization that promotes biotech.

Human resource executives said the restrained raises reflect lingering effects from the economic downturn, as well as stock prices that haven't bounced all the way back. Development-stage companies are also hoarding cash to pay for costly human trials.

But the overall raise figures don't tell the whole story.

Average pay for many key biotech jobs is up substantially from 2002. Project managers have seen their base salary climb to $77,191 from $69,076. Quality assurance specialists are up to $52,412 from $47,631. Marketing specialists are up to $60,462 from $54,166.

Susan Bateson McKay, senior vice president for human resources at Human Genome Sciences Inc. of Rockville, said those salaries reflect demand for workers who can help get products to market for dozens of the region's development-stage companies.

"It's a much more competitive recruitment market," she said. "More companies are moving into more space regionally, and as our people become more skilled they also become more attractive."

That may be small consolation for the biotech workers who aren't sharing in the big money.

"It's a business reality," McKay said. "It's another one of the costs we have to control in order to fund drug development. It's always a hard message, especially when employees are working so hard."

-- Michael S. Rosenwald