Senior regulatory professionals focused on medical devices are paid less than their peers that work on prescription drugs and biologics, according to a survey of more than 2,300 people conducted by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS).
The survey found manager-level professionals in the medical device sector take home a little more than half as much as money as their counterparts in the pharmaceutical industry.
Medical device-focused directors and vice presidents receive notably smaller pay packets, too, but the differences are far smaller among workers on lower rungs of the career ladder.
If you are a regulatory affairs professional and choose to focus on medical devices over drugs, you will forgo considerable sums of money as you rise through the ranks.
The differences between the industries is most pronounced among managers, a group RAPS defines as having around 18 years of professional experience and overseeing two staff. In the pharmaceutical sector, the median total compensation for regulatory managers is $175,000. Medical device professionals at the same level receive $99,500. A lot of the difference comes from bonuses, which account for 15% of total compensation in the drug industry but just 4% in the device sector.
Medical device vice presidents and directors, who on average have 27 and 24 years of experience, respectively, take home less money than their peers, too. At these levels, total compensation in the device industry is around four-fifths of that in the drug and biotech sectors.
These inter-industry differences in pay are largely absent among lower-level workers who supervise one or fewer full-time employees. Median compensation for project managers in the medical device and drug industries is identical, and the pay packets of specialists and associates are within a few percentage points of each other. The sample size of professionals working on in-vitro diagnostics is far smaller but the available data suggest their compensation is in line with that of their counterparts in the medical device industry.
RAPS has run compensation surveys since 1990 but the latest report is the first to separate out the pay data on people in different industries. That makes it hard to know if the inter-industry pay gap has changed over time.
There are reasons to think the gap does not affect all parts of the medical device industry, though. An annual survey of medical sales representatives by MedReps.com has consistently reported high levels of compensation for people who promote certain types of device. Sellers of health software took home the most money in 2017, while reps handling surgical devices and durable medical equipment were the second and third best-paid groups this year. Drug reps languish further down the pay chart.
One explanation for the divergence in the sales rep data is that people are paid more for promoting complex products, such as surgical devices. That reasoning could explain why biotech reps take home far more money than their peers who promote small molecule pharmaceuticals.
It is questionable whether that explanation applies to regulatory professionals, though. Overseeing the regulation of medical devices is a challenging task. In the U.S., where three-quarters of respondents to the RAPS survey are based, staff working on medical devices must contend with high barriers to market access, multiple evolving regulatory pathways and mounting post-market surveillance requirements.