by Karamarie Fecho
If there’s one thing that all medical writers have in common, it’s the need to earn a living. We may be passionate about our writing, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. The much-anticipated results of the 2011 AMWA Salary Survey were released Thursday afternoon during a presentation by Susan Bairnsfather at the annual AMWA meeting.
After listening to the presentation, I have to say that, quite frankly, AMWA’s members appear to be weathering the economic downturn very well and, dare I say, even thriving. Both traditional business employees and freelancers, part-time and full-time, showed an increase in their annual income from 2007 (the last year the salary survey was administered) to 2011. The increase in employee income was ahead of the inflation rate—12.9% vs. 1.3%.
While US government–reported inflation rates are admittedly low and do not reflect true purchasing power (a point raised by a participant at the presentation), the reported increase in salary was large enough that one could infer that, at the very least, medical writers are faring well in these tough economic times. Interestingly, however, the feeling among many who listened to the presentation was one of caution regarding interpretation of the survey results. Several people pointed out that the survey response rate was down by 10% and that the survey itself did not “capture” unemployed (or even underemployed) medical writers.
Whether these concerns are warranted or the result of an internalization of the economic situation is unclear. It is true, however, that the survey, like most surveys, had limitations, including the low response rate and a lack of survey participation by employees whose employers (primarily pharmaceutical companies) prohibited them from responding to the survey. Regardless of these (admittedly valid) concerns, this presentation left me feeling a renewed sense of validation for my profession and my profession’s economic worth.