Research Managers’ Salaries Rise Lisa Tocci


Average reported salaries for laboratory, R&D and technical managers at U.S. lubricant manufacturing companies are 6 percent higher than they were two years ago, according to new research from Lubes’n’Greases magazine. For the tech-savvy leader who can oversee a budget, manage a staff, juggle time and resources, communicate with other departments, create a steady flow of products, and be a steward for quality and the environment,, industry sources report that opportunities are quite strong.

The good news is that many R&D and laboratory chiefs are well rewarded in the lubricants industry. Such managers report making an average $114,000 a year, according to Lubes’n’Greases‘ 2008 Lubricants Industry Salary Survey. That’s right in line with the national average of $113,700 for all managers in the natural sciences area, per the U.S. Department of Labor. And it’s almost $7,000 more than respondents said they made in 2006, the last time the survey was conducted.

A wide range of salaries were seen in the current survey’s results, which included confidential responses from 92 laboratory, R&D and technical managers at lubricant manufacturing companies. The highest paid lab/R&D manager reported making $266,400 a year; the lowest-paid pocketed $40,000.

Ken Pelczarski of Pelichem Associates, an executive search firm in Downers Grove, Ill., specializes in matching lubricant firms and professionals. Despite today’s shaky economic picture, Pelczarski last month said his firm had seen no drop in the number of job openings for technical and laboratory directors. “Many companies are following up on their plans to spend on hiring, and we’re not seeing problems at this point with them pulling back due to concern about the credit crunch.”

On the other hand, fewer candidates are able or willing to relocate now, he added, especially to high cost of living areas. The poor housing market is also limiting relocation, and tying many executives to their current positions. “In a situation where the prospective hire may need to relocate, there is some reluctance,” Pelczarski has found, “as it is more difficult for them to sell their homes to move away.”

As in prior years, the 2008 Salary Survey explored how demographics, geography, size of staff supervised and other factors may affect salaries. The pool of respondents to the exclusive survey varies each time the survey is conducted, making straight comparisons risky, but some trends could be discerned.

The average laboratory/R&D manager is just under 50 years old, the survey found, and has 22 years of experience, including seven in this job. Eighty-six percent of the survey respondents were men, and 14 percent were women.

Survey respondents say they supervise an average of five people (median: two employees), and pay climbs steeply for those who have larger numbers of employees under their eye. Ten percent of the respondents have more than 12 people reporting to them, and they make an average $158,000 a year. At the other end of the scale, those with lighter staffing loads (five employees or fewer) report average pay of $106,000.

Geography also plays a strong role in how well managers are paid. Respondents in the U.S. Southwest reported the strongest average salaries, at $157,000; median salaries for the region was $144,000. Next highest pay went to respondents in the Northeast, who average $125,000 (median: $110,000). And almost 30 percent of the respondents hailed from the Northcentral region, where salaries average only $99,000, and have a median of $91,000.

Is gender another factor? Women lab/R&D managers who responded to the survey report somewhat lower average salaries, at $93,300, than the men who responded ($117,500). But there are a number of differences — such as age, experience and company size — that may account for that gap.

Looking at other compensation, 88 percent of laboratory, technical and R&D managers said they received a raise in the past 12 months, and 65 percent were expecting to see a bonus this year. Others said they expect stock (17 percent) and profit sharing (28 percent) for their efforts, but only 2 percent earned a commission as part of their compensation.

That’s in keeping with the trends seen by Pelczarski of Pelichem. “More perks, special benefits, relocation help we’re seeing all of these offered for the right candidates,” he said. “And we’re also seeing some companies going outside their normal compensation scale, to offer sign on bonuses, temporary living allowances and very generous relocation packages.”

This is the sixth time Lubes’n’Greases has surveyed lubricant industry professionals regarding their salaries. Along with laboratory/R&D managers, the 2008 Lubricants Industry Salary Survey also covers lube plant managers and sales/marketing executives.

The complete 48-page Lubricant Industry Salary Survey Report, including detailed salary data for all three job categories for 2008 and 2006, is now available for $75 per copy. To order, visit

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