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Science 2006 Survey Finds Salary Only One Factor in Job Satisfaction
While salaries matter, job satisfaction is determined by several other more important factors, according to a 2006 Science salary and job survey published in the journal's 3 November issue.
The survey found that full-time academic life scientists received an average wage increase of 5.4% from 2005 to 2006, post-doctoral fellows an 8.1% increase, and scientists in industry 10%. While life scientists at all levels gained significant salary increases, the average mark for job satisfaction was a 3.7 out of a five-point scale - a result similar to two previous surveys.
Sent to 41,000 AAAS members, 12,000 free registrants on the Science website, and 12,000 employees of Kelly Scientific, the online survey featured 75 questions on a wide range of topics including salaries, work hours, job security, and promotion opportunities.
Gary Heebner of Cell Associates, the survey's administrator, received about 4,500 responses from a diverse set of scientists. About 62% of the respondents were employed in academia, with 35% in industry, government, or the nonprofit sector, and 3% self-employed. In addition, approximately 43% of the respondents are women, 75% hold doctoral-level degrees, and 22% are people from racial minority groups.
Several follow up interviews with the respondents were conducted by Jim Austin, editor of ScienceCareers.org.
"This survey provides a glimpse of what U.S. life scientists are anxious about and what helps them thrive--not just in our survey numbers but, in some cases, in their own words," said Austin. "Want to hire good scientists and keep them happy and productive? This survey provides a roadmap."
The full-text news article about the 2006 AAAS salary and job survey is available on the ScienceCareers website. Some of its highlights include:
Salaries jumped. Life scientists at all levels received salary gains, with full-time academic life scientists reporting a mean salary of $78,000, an increase of 5.4% since last year. For scientists in industry, a 10% increase in salary since last year gave them an average salary of $116,000. More than doubling the inflation rate of 3.4%, academic post doctoral fellows received an average increase of 8.1%, giving them a mean salary of $40,000.
Job satisfaction not strongly linked to salary. Although salaries have gone up, overall job satisfaction has remained steady. The survey found that scientists on average rated their job satisfaction as 3.7 on a five-point scale, or between "good" and "very good." This was similar to findings in the previous two surveys. Surprisingly, scientists who earned $150,000 or more were only slightly more satisfied than those earning barely one-fifth as much.
Other factors lead to satisfaction. The respondents listed several factors affecting their job satisfaction including promotion opportunities, job security, and intellectual challenge. The survey noted that respondents who rate their promotion potential as "very poor" were seven times more likely than average to offer a low job satisfaction assessment. In follow up interviews, several scientists cited their institution's prestige as an important factor in satisfaction - specifically, institutions held in high esteem tend to put scientists in a better position to receive outside grants and publication.
Older scientists are more satisfied. The survey found that older scientists tend to find their work more satisfying, which might correspond with an increase in salary and reputation within their discipline. In subsequent interviews, many younger scientists listed mentoring and guidance among the most important factors in their job satisfaction. Also important to younger scientists was collaboration potential and of the presence of good colleagues.
The survey included workers from Kelly Scientific, a scientific staffing agency, in an effort to increase the representation of B.S. and M.S.-level scientists in the respondent pool.
In a related editorial, Science Editor in Chief Donald Kennedy called the salary survey good news for life scientists, but quickly pointed out that not all in the scientific community have benefited equally.
"We should be worrying about the rewards and satisfactions of our scientific colleagues, but we should also be concerned about the people who clean their labs, run the cafeteria, and work in the accounting office," Kennedy wrote.
Kennedy concluded that "a more equitable income distribution" will offer benefits ensuring the remarkable progress in science will continue.
3 November 2006