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ABRF Compensation Survey Finds Highest Pay in Mass Spec, Bioinformatics Core Facilities

NEW YORK — Salaries among core lab facility workers differ between specialties, with the highest compensation in mass spectrometry and bioinformatics facilities, according to a new member survey of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities.

The survey results also suggested that there is increased competition for lab talent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which was conducted by Vault Consulting between September and December 2022 on behalf of ABRF, collected fiscal year 2021 compensation data from 55 member institutions, the vast majority of which were academic though 11 percent were corporations and 2 percent government institutions. In all, participants provided data on 174 individual core facilities, almost all located in the US. Most of the facilities surveyed — 92 percent — had fewer than 10 full-time equivalent (FTEs) employees.

Interestingly, compensation varied by technology or research specialty. A quarter of the facilities captured by the survey said their primary research area was genomics, while 22 percent focused on imaging. Nine percent were flow cytometry labs and 7 percent specialized in bioinformatics.

Workers in mass spectrometry core facilities had the highest annual median compensation of $102,981, followed by those in bioinformatics facilities at a median $95,706. Flow cytometry and animal model facilities had the lowest median salaries at $66,560 and $67,250, respectively. Genomics-focused core lab members, meanwhile, had a median compensation of $75,745.

Unsurprisingly, those with more senior positions within the core lab had higher pay. Compensation ranged from a median $52,012 for entry-level staff research professionals to a median $137,208 for laboratory research operations directors.

Assistant directors had the second-highest median pay at $105,220, followed by senior staff scientists with a median $98,571 salary and bioinformaticians with a median $96,142. Core managers and administrators received a median $92,147 and $80,913, respectively.

People working at core labs in the region covered by ABRF's MAD SSCi chapter — which encompasses Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — had the highest compensation, a median of $101,280. The survey report noted, though, that there was a low number of respondents from this region — 16 employees from five facilities — which could have skewed the results. Likewise, the seemingly low pay of international core labs, a median $61,670, could also be due to the low number of international respondents.

The ABRF chapter from the region with the highest number of respondents, NERLSCD, which encompasses the Northeast, reported a median pay of $88,400 and the next largest, MWACD, representing much of the Midwest, reported a median $80,000.

The survey further highlighted an increase in competition for talent following the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-two percent of the respondents said that the market is much more or somewhat more competitive than it was before the pandemic hit. A slightly higher percentage, 80 percent, thought that the number of employees at their core facility would either grow or at least stay the same during the next year.