The 2019 MSL Salary & Compensation survey was recently published in December, 2019 and it was the 6th annual global survey conducted by the MSL Society. Like previous years, the primary purpose of the survey was to gain insights into current global MSL salary and compensation levels across pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices, and other healthcare companies that employ MSLs. The MSL Society was the first organization to ever conduct a global MSL salary and conducted the first survey in 2014.
Salary and compensation is clearly one of the most important factors in successfully recruiting and retaining the best MSL talent. It’s crucial for companies to ensure the compensation they offer is competitive by benchmarking against others in their industry and region. Although the 2019 edition of the MSL Salary & Compensation survey included 1,978 MSL professionals from 71 countries, making it the largest database of MSL salaries in the world, all the data is self-reported. An important consideration and question regarding the survey must be “Is self-reported MSL salary data credible or valuable?” Furthermore, can the data be utilized by MSL leaders, HR and others as credible salary benchmarking data?
Establishing Credibility and Value of Self-Reported Data
One criteria to evaluate the credibility and value of the MSL Society’s Global Salary & Compensation Survey is through its utilization as benchmarking data amongst Manager / Directors of MSL teams. One of the questions asked of MSL directors and managers in the 2019 survey was “Do you utilize the MSL Society’s Global MSL Salary & Compensation Survey as your primary salary benchmark data?”. It was the first time this question was asked to MSL leaders. The table below displays the results from the USA report which reveals that the majority of Managers / Directors of MSLs based in the USA use the report as their primary salary benchmark data.
Do you utilize the MSL Society’s Global MSL Salary & Compensation Survey as your primary salary benchmark data?
This is an important validation that the data is considered both credible and valuable. Presumably if the majority of U.S. based MSL managers thought otherwise, they would not use the data as their primary salary benchmarking data. It might also be interesting to understand what type of companies these U.S. based MSL managers or directors represent.
The table below displays the breakdown of four company types: large, medium, and small pharma as well as biotechnology, for U.S. based Managers or Directors of MSL teams.
Interestingly, when evaluated by company type, the majority of all U.S. based MSL managers or directors from both large and small pharmaceutical companies reported they utilize the data as their primary salary benchmark data. (see figure above). Even globally, 42% of Managers / Directors of MSLs report utilizing the MSL Salary & Compensation Survey as their primary salary benchmark data (see figure below).
Do you utilize the MSL Society’s Global MSL Salary & Compensation Survey as your primary salary benchmark data? – Global Data
A further analysis of this global survey data found that 56% of Global Managers / Directors at Small Pharmaceutical companies report utilizing the Global MSL Salary & Compensation Survey as their primary salary benchmark data (See Figure Below).
An MSL Leaders’ Perspective
One MSL hiring manager and leader, Cherie Hyder, PharmD, Medical Excellence & Operations Leadership Medical Affairs at Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, shared her thoughts on the credibility of the MSL Salary and Compensation Survey Data: “After more than 18 years in MSL and MSL leadership roles at large and small pharmaceutical companies, I have always found the MSL Society Annual Salary Survey to be spot on with regard to the average pay categories. Knowing how reliable this data is, I have used it to go to bat for MSLs on my team to obtain appropriate starting pay when hiring staff and pay adjustments when necessary to assure fair pay and good retention of staff. I also utilize the salary data for my own career path to gauge whether I am fairly compensated and when looking at a new position. I look forward to the annual survey to understand what changes are happening in the marketplace. While the salary data is based on self reported values, the anonymous nature of self reporting and desire for a true read on current salaries from professional scientists who value integrity and truthful data make the survey a very useful tool to rely upon. The survey data has been consistently verified and validated by many who recruit and hire MSLs and leaders to attest to the reliability of the data overall. I value and rely upon the annual salary survey information.”
MSL Recruiters Perspectives
Another way to evaluate the credibility of the MSL Salary survey data is to review how the results compare with executive recruiters who are actually placing MSLs at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Two prominent U.S. based MSL recruiters addressed the issue of credibility and reliability of the data.
Mary C. Morton, Director of Recruiting and Business Development, SEMbio, stated “salary surveys as a whole are a really hot topic lately. I have a number of clients that are looking to me for validation of their current pay bands or to understand where they fit in the marketplace. To that end, I have found the MSL Society’s survey to be a beneficial tool. What we see in our day to day on salaries is fairly consistent with what the MSL Society survey reflects. Occasionally, we see some salaries that are a bit higher than the general average; in my opinion, that variation is more than likely because we primarily partner with small to medium client companies, most of which are either in immunology/autoimmune disease and in rare and orphan diseases. But that is where I really appreciate that the MSL Society also breaks it down by therapeutic area.”
Tom Carvela, a medical affairs and MSL recruiter for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech Industry, Managing Partner, Carolan Group, uses the MSL Society’s salary survey as a valuable resource. He stated the survey “provides a great snapshot of the current salary bands for different levels of MSLs. While we are finding that MSL compensation continues to trend on the higher side and increases annually, the MSL Society Survey has been a very accurate assessment of the increasing market averages – based on a strong sample of the MSL population. We encourage both our clients and MSL candidates to consider these numbers when determining a fair compensation package that aligns with the competitiveness of the current MSL marketplace.”
A Credible and Valuable Report
The fact that a majority of U.S. based MSL Managers / Directors are utilizing the MSL Society’s Global Salary & Compensation Survey as their primary salary benchmark data and that leading MSL recruiters confirm the accuracy of the report’s data compared to the salaries offered to individuals they have placed in MSL roles confirms the data is both credible and valuable.