Biotech Is Place to Be for Top Salaries

Biotech Is Place to Be for Top Salaries

Celgene, the compensation leader, pays its typical worker more than $263,000

By Patrick Thomas via WSJ
May 9, 2019 9:32 a.m. ET
In biotechnology, the rank and file are well-to-do.

Many of the highest-paying employers in the health-care sector—and the entire S&P 500—were biotech companies, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of annual disclosures for hundreds of big U.S. companies as provided by MyLogIQ.

New Jersey-based Celgene Corp. CELG -0.25% , which sells a treatment of multiple myeloma, had the highest-paid median employee in the sector and S&P 500 at $263,237. Celgene was followed by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., VRTX 0.53% which makes treatments for cystic fibrosis and infectious diseases, paying its typical worker $232,178.

Vertex has roughly 2,300 employees, most of whom are based in the U.S., and Celgene has about 7,000 workers. Vertex declined to comment beyond its proxy. Celgene didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Wilmington, Del., drugmaker Incyte Corp. INCY -1.00% , which has about 1,400 employees, said its median worker made $228,006. An Incyte spokeswoman said most of its employees work in research and development. The company doesn’t have any manufacturing employees, who tend to have lower salaries, she said.

Incyte’s median employee has a bachelor’s degree and more than three years of experience, the spokeswoman said. The employee’s compensation is made up of salary, yearly bonus, stock awards and benefits, she said.

Gilead Sciences Inc., which had one of the largest employee populations of the highest-paying biotech firms, with 10,500 workers, reported that its median employee was paid $163,963. Gilead Sciences declined to comment.

Health-care equipment and services companies typically had lower-paid median workers compared with their biotech peers. CVS Health Corp. , which sells health insurance and medical software in addition to operating its pharmacy chain, had one of the lowest-paid median workers, at $35,529. A spokesman for the company said unlike health-care companies that report a higher median compensation, CVS operates a large retail business that employs many part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

The company has roughly 230,000 employees and 9,900 retail stores, according to its latest proxy filing.

Other health-care companies with lower-paid median workers typically had more employees based overseas in manufacturing roles.

Medical-device maker Align Technology Inc. had the lowest median pay in the sector at $13,180. While the company has 11,700 employees, only 1,400 are in the U.S., according to its latest proxy filing. The company identified its median employee as an associate engineer in a manufacturing facility in Mexico.

A spokeswoman for Align said 60% of its employees have manufacturing jobs in such lower-wage regions as Latin America and China. She added that the company believes its overall compensation is competitive within each region.

Most publicly traded U.S. firms are disclosing their median employee pay for a second straight year, along with compensation for top executives. Firms must include part-time and temporary workers, but not contractors, and have the option of annualizing pay for some midyear hires and excluding midyear acquisitions.

Companies may exclude up to 5% of their global workforce, but only non-U.S. workers, and may use sampling techniques to identify the median employee.

The Journal analysis, based on data from MyLogIQ for more than 1,300 companies, focused on the health-care sector as defined by S&P Global. The sector includes industry groups encompassing pharmaceutical, biotechnology, life-science and health-care equipment and services companies.