Forum:Bio-informatics salary distribution versus Java salary distribution in the UK
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7.9 years ago
William ★ 5.1k

I spend some time looking at medior to senior level bio-informatics career opportunities in my own EU country and also the UK, where a lot of exciting bio-informatics work is being done.

The salaries in the UK are higher compared to mainland Europe but the cost of living also is, especially close to the technology hubs like Cambridge or London.

Another interesting thing I just found and would like to share is the bio-informatics salary distribution in the UK based on a limited number of jobs on a job listing website. I guess the distributions below are kind of similar for mainland EU.

This chart provides a salary histogram for IT jobs citing Bioinformatics over the last 3 months within the UK.

This distribution is based on a (very) limited number of jobs, but if I look a the the bio-informatics jobs listed at big employers in the UK ( for instance Sanger) it does seem kind of representative; most jobs, even so called senior bio-informatics jobs < 40K. I guess those 55K and 70K jobs are bio-informatics management jobs. There are almost no bio-informatics jobs in the middle of the distribution.

Compare this to the Java salary distribution which is based on a lot of jobs.

This chart provides a salary histogram for IT jobs citing Java over the last 3 months within the UK.

Or the data modeling salary distribution :

This chart provides a salary histogram for IT jobs citing Data Modelling over the last 3 months within the UK.

One could look up salary distributions for other software, data and statistics related job titles.

If bio-informatics had nothing to do with programming or data modeling this wouldn't be a problem. However most employers need and look for bio-informatics unicorns with PhD's, science and statistics skills and advanced programming and data modeling skills. And offer at the same time only lower to mid range salaries for the whole unicorn package including in demand programming and data modeling skills.

Working in an exciting field like bio-informatics for exciting employers / projects and doing work you like is of course also an important employment condition. It is enough for some people. But based on my experience and the above distributions I wouldn't be surprised if you would find a shortage of people with real programming and data modeling skills in bio-informatics and maybe even an enrichment of people without these skills. Because people with the skills don't even enter the field or just leave for better options , which is of course not a thing to be proud of as a research / engineering field with high ambitions.

If you are a bio-informaticion (or aspire to be one) with Java and data modeling skills and would like to work in bio-informatics I would advise to market yourself as just a programmer or data scientist instead of a bio-informatician (at least until you have a signed contract).

career • 7.8k views
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This "religious" aspects of academia has always bothered me. Devoting your entire life to science is seen as a virtue and researchers are expect to be "monks" of science. Are academic bioinformaticians the sweatshop industry of the bioinformatics field? We are trapped in our circumstance by this "sacrifice everything for science" ideology. And because of it, we are willing to get paid less for the same work.

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I think academia in general is a sweatshop.

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If this is not a tongue in cheek remark, but should be taken seriously (and I have heard this complaint at some parties frequented by academics), then I would say its wrong:

1. Sweat shop workers work under physically dangerous, miserable health conditions with monotnous manual labour and can barely support themselves or their families by the wage they earn
2. Western academia, which is for most a temporary state in their career to specialise their knowledge/skills etc..., learn to conduct independent research, get a degree, ... Interesting work, mostly self determined in the way to tackle problems, highly interactive with other people. Yes it's long work hours and low wage (and the bottom line might scratch minimum wage) but its very different from a sweat-shop.

I think academic self pity for their wage is most of the time not appropriate. However I always tell people to stay away from an academic career choice, not because of the low wage, but because of the low probability of being able to climb up the pyramid, which is very thick at the base, thin at the top and very few good exits in the middle.

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I don't think anyone takes the sweatshop comparison literally.

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Obviously the work situations are vastly different between real sweatshops and scientific work. I don't mean to undermine this real issue or make light of the plight of sweat shop workers. Perhaps I was being a bit sensationalist. I don't want to derail the conversation into a discussion on the political correctness of my analogy usage.

My main point is that young researchers are fed this ideology of what a good scientist is supposed to be like. Someone who works endlessly and devotes their entire lives to their research. This is further sensationalized in popular media with the portrayal of scientists working in their labs through the night devoid of a life outside. Is this ideology contributing to lower wages? Or is this ideology a product of a competitive environment caused by a lower budget for academia? Are we reassuring ourselves of our choice to stay in academia by furthering this ideology?

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Well, I came across some people complaining a lot of their low wage and how they are so exploited.

Is it really low?

The chart from the OP does not differentiate by position, experience or sector (academia, industry). Assads data shows that bioinfo is even better payed than many other professions (biology, but it looks like others also).

How does it look in Austria for monthly gross wage (we have a 14x payment sytem):

postdoc 3500E, senior postdoc 3800 (2014)

http://www.statistik.at/web_de/static/bruttomonatsverdienste_der_vollzeitbeschaeftigten_nach_wirtschaftstaetigke_020076.xlsx

general median fulltime: 2200E (2010)

general 75% quartile: 3000E (2010)

men earn generally more, but I would place it at least at 65%-75% of the gross salary distribution.

So I doubt that the initial premise of low wage in academia is actually true. About the ideology that sweeps through academia, we could talk a lot some other time, but now I have to work.

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Those look to be about what I would expect for the UK bioinformatics job market. Most of the bioinformatics jobs are in the academic sector, so salaries are often lower, and the majority of the demand is for candidates looking for hands-on posts, with fewer team leader positions, and often targeted at a relatively young target audience. Since the commercial part of the sector is competing with the academics their salary scales are generally in line with what the academics offer, and the more senior posts are commonly not advertised as bioinformatics posts but are instead handled as management posts.

Given the way UK salaries work you will also have to factor in the higher London salaries due to the "London allowance". In this data I suspect that this is contributing to the general IT jobs having higher salaries, since many of these will be in London. However, in my experience, most of the bioinformatics posts are outside of London and thus are not usually subject to the additional salary increase.

The other main factor at work here is that bioinformatics is not a particularly rich or large sector. For example the financial sector is far larger and more competitive. As a consequence the larger sectors tend to pay better in order to attract/steal and retain employees.

In my experience bioinformatics employers tend to be looking for people who have the relevant background and skills and have a particular interest in working in bioinformatics. More mercenary candidates tend to head for the higher salaries, which does lead to salary inflation in some sectors.

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Nice post, though it would be more informative if you'll put those charts in the same scale, preferably on same figure :) Also the histogram for Bioinformatics is really sparse due to low sample size..

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I just ran in to these charts by accident and the number of data points for bio-informatics is low. The interesting thing is that these charts are generated based on live queries and should change every month for the stats over the last 3 months. If somebody knows of a better (live) source that provides the distribution or can easily be parsed to a distribution I would gladly switch to that one.

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If any of those salaries come from the EBI, bear in mind that as part of EMBL we enjoy tax-free status, so you'll need to add 25-30% to all of those to get equivalency. Taking this into account, EBI (and all of EMBL) salaries are pretty nice, although they might not look like it from the job adverts.

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EMBL job adverts tend not to provide salary ranges but instead provide the salary grade, you have to inquire to get actual figures for these. So I suspect they do not appear in this data.

As you say EMBL salaries are pretty good as far as the industry goes, and the various additional benefits also make them more attractive as an employee.

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I'm not sure on this, but I think we're the biggest bioinformatics employer in the UK. If we're not included in the analysis, I think that's something of an oversight.

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Do you happen to know if the tax-free status applies only to EMBL employees in the UK or to those in mainland Europe as well?

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I think it's all EMBL Outstations. The people at EMBL Heidelberg laughed when I made a joke about not paying tax anyway.

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The EMBL tax situation is a little complex (for full details see the host nation agreements on EMBL's Legal Status), the short version is that EMBL employees pay an internal tax to EMBL, instead of paying income tax to the government of their host nation (France, Germany, Italy or UK). This internal taxation covers various benefits, such as health insurance, which ensure that all EMBL employees regardless of their host nation are on a even footing. One consequence of this is that it is a bit more difficult to compare EMBL salaries with those offered for similar posts in the various host nations.

As I understand it EMBL is not alone in having this kind of provision, CERN has something similar in its international agreements.

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From a salary point of view, our salaries are "pre-taxed" which means that our internal tax is taken off before we even see it and any quotes of salary are the actual money that appears in your bank account. Even though I pay this "internal tax", I have no idea how much it is or where it goes. All I know is how much money I actually receive. It's confusing.

The really difficult part is actually applying for mortgages or other loans. Some mortgage companies won't take your income into account at all as you're not a UK tax payer, others will treat your "pre-taxed" income like everybody else's income, even though your take-home pay is 25-30% higher.

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Good to know, thanks!

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Are those £25-35k jobs really labeled as "senior bioinformaticians"? I can't imagine even a freshly minted PhD working for that (I make significantly more as a freaking post-doc).

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I do also think that the payscale at the low end appears to be excessively low. In the US a $40K would most likely the minimum of the salary band not the most prevalent salary paid. ADD REPLY 0 Entering edit mode Good thing these salaries are more like$60k then.

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A little bit of off-topic, in Russia typical PhD salary is around $12k, while a java programmer at some commercial organization gets around$60k, so the gap is quite similar :)
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7.9 years ago
Asaf 8.9k

In Israel a survey published on June by "Ethosia - Human Resources" leads to the same conclusions. The survey is published here, the page is in Hebrew but the titles of the jobs are in English, the different columns is for years of experience (0-1, 2-4 etc.).

Lets look on the 5-8 years experience column, a bioinfomatician will earn 20-25 NIS a month which is $68K to$85K or 41K to 51K pounds annually. This is more than any other job in the biology section (other than medical advisory) and sometimes even double. However, if you'll compare it to other programming jobs or "High-tech" jobs (rather than Biotech) the salary is a bit low. For instance, a Python programmer will earn 23-28 and a JAVA 22-27.

I don't know what this survey is based on but they are a leading HR firm in Israel. As I see it, bioinformatics salaries are high in their field which is biotech but are lower than high-tech jobs which makes sense, at least here. This gap made a lot of my friends work in high-tech after completing B.Sc or M.Sc. in bioinformatics.

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To be clear: Specialized=Resident, Begins=Beginner and Ratz=Team leader, values are NIS/month