Recruitment and Pay in UK Research, 2006-9
MrWeb's first detailed job and salary stats for three years show an industry interrupted in the midst of growth; client side numbers falling but salaries staying strong; struggles for SREs; and rude awakenings for Directors - but not yet ADs.
It's about three years since we published statistics for mean salaries - with the exception of the live-updated tables for current jobs, on our news emails. Obviously a lot has happened in the last three years - at least the gap has the advantage that whereas salaries have gone down since 2008, they should compare OK with 2006 so we hope it won't make depressing reading :)
Please use these stats carefully - they only reflect advertised salaries, which gives them some shortcomings. However, they are superior to other stats you'll see for the MR industry for two reasons, 1. The huge number of jobs on which they are based, which dwarfs other salary survey info, and 2. The individual attention given to every job included - outriders and misleading records are removed, ranges interpreted with care and codes for job level (ie seniority) based on a scrupulous assessment of the whole ad, not just on the job title. Using just JTs makes a nonsense of some other published means.
At the entry level, there has been little change, good or bad, over the past 4 years. Which in itself is bad, because up until last year, salaries should really have been rising. Entry level salaries (often titled JRE or Trainee Research Executive, sometimes just RE) saw a significant rise in the first half of the decade and agencies may have decided that was enough for now. The slight rise in the last 6 months - against the trend for other levels - may just reflect the fact that big employers are taking on very few grads at present, and the mean is therefore boosted by recruitment among the more prosperous of our medium-sized agencies, who are generally better payers (as opposed to the old refrain 'Never mind the salary, you'll have Big ResearchCo on your CV lad, so you'll be well set for the future…').
Research Execs (generally people with 1-3 years' experience) have seen a rise of about £1,000 or 4% over the past four years - respectable in these times if not great, and continuing the trend from 2000-5 at a similar level. Like the next level up, those with a bit of experience are sometimes hard to find and tempt.
Senior Research Execs:
Senior Research Execs - usually people with between 2 and 4 years' MR experience - did at last have some joy between 2006 and 2008, having endured a miserable five years previously when salaries were all but stagnant: incredibly, as few deny that along with Project Managers (the next level up) these are the 'engine room' of a good research company, and among the hardest people to find. Pay them a bit more then! Let's hope the dip back to 29-thousand-and-something is just a temporary, recession-led thing as mean SRE salaries were close to 28k in 2000, and we hope few would argue with our belief that a 5% increase in ten years is pathetic.
The group we define as 'Project Manager level' by contrast have fared well throughout the decade. Fast-rising researchers with three years' experience, and those with 4-6 years, can expect to see the pay cheques getting bigger at last. There's a definite reason why the mean for this group has continued to rise in 2009 - it's the number of roles crossing the divide with Associate Director level. In tough times, agency employers are asking staff to step up and take more responsibility, and at this level they seem to trust them to do it.
We've always thought that another reason why agency salaries rise suddenly after about 3-4 years is the need to compete with the lure of client side work, as a new kind of role opens up to researchers, that of Research Manager, commissioning, briefing and managing agencies. For the same reason we separate roles out at this level (more junior jobs are coded the same whether client or agency side), and the client side 'Research Manager' level is another that's seen a good rise this century, particularly in the last six years or so. It tends to fluctuate more than the agency side, reflecting the variety of industries out there and, it might be said, the cushioned nature of the MR sector (the phrase 'recession-proof' seems to have gone rapidly out of fashion in 2009). Overall, it's well up and it's merely levelled off in the last year, rather than falling - in this case it's the number of positions that has tailed off more rapidly than on the agency side. The message is, if companies are still recruiting RMs at all, they're companies who recognise the value of research in a downturn, and they're looking to attract the best.
Salaries for Associate Directors have soared since 2000 and continued to do so up until last year. Partly, this reflects a change in role - ADs are increasingly required to get involved in business development. Partly, it reflects the huge gap that existed between them and the Directors previously, especially in larger, more formal company structures. Partly, it's another consequence of the rise of the bullish medium-sized agencies - and particularly the leading edge practitioners, who are keenly aware of the need to attract and hang onto dynamic, acuminous, client-focused high-fliers.
Our highest level is a catch-all for Directors and all those above plain Director level, ie MDs, Chairmen, Divisional Directors et al - and it's therefore less useful to look at the mean salary in isolation, but it's just as informative to look at the trend, and the last few years make highly interesting reading. Top salaries rocketed in 2007 and peaked late, in the second half of 2008. In part this reflects a lot of very senior moves, with pressure on top execs to perform or to prepare companies for the looming downturn - but it also reflects the 'phoney war' feeling of the first half of last year, when economic crisis was much talked about but often dismissed in our 'recession-proof' sector. Only in late 2008 and early 2009 did many companies begin at last to tighten belts. Sure enough, the mean is down £6k so far. It may tumble a little further, but if it retreats to 2005 levels we'd be very surprised.
The tables also show bases, which represent a fairly steady fraction of all jobs posted on MrWeb and as our ads represent a fairly consistent and very high proportion of all advertised positions in the sector, the bases are a good barometer of recruitment activity. Note that an increasing proportion of ads are not included in mean calculations as we try to fine tune the latter and remove more possible elements of bias - however, the increase is gradual.
The last five half years show a very marked trend. The number of engine room roles (SRE and PM) fell sharply in the second half of 2007 but since then has held up better than the levels around. More junior ads have halved in the last year, while SRE/PM roles are down less than a third, as are AD positions. Client side RM roles peaked in early 2008 but have also halved since then. Director (plus) roles were still multiplying a year ago with a peak in H1 2008, but numbers have shrunk fast since then as reality bites. Comparing overall numbers with a year ago and mixing in a few other bits of evidence, we'd say recruitment is down by 35-40%. Bad - but still a lot of jobs out there for well-qualified and experienced candidates.
What do we expect in the second half of this year? To be honest, we'd expect it to be pretty much like the first half, 'though 2010 could still be very good. There's no long-term problem with the market research industry, broadly defined - employees and employers should just hunker down for a bit (longer), keep those skill sets up-to-date with the many emerging areas and technologies, and prepare for much better times, not too far off.
MrWeb's HRchive is relaunched this month with online resources for those working in people and skills areas of MR, and includes feature articles, general and regional statistics and commentary, discussion areas, and question and answer sessions. To be kept informed about the relaunch, please email your name, job title and company to firstname.lastname@example.org including 'HRchive' in the title.
Still to come: US salaries; comments on UK field, IT & DP, analyst and other roles.
UK Market Research Salaries 2005-9, half-yearly means
|Entry Level RE:
|| £27,600 (765)
|| £36,000 (592)
|| £64,500 (269)