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Last Updated Thursday, October 8 2015

5th Annual R&D Salary Survey

Our fifth annual look into the wallets and the minds of those who formulate today's finished coatings and raw materials.

Published November 14, 2006
Welcome to the fifth annual R&D salary survey conducted by Coatings World. Once again we were very pleased with the industry's response. Each year our survey is attracting more and more participants. As more of the industry's chemists are voicing their opinions and providing data to our survey we are able to offer a better snapshot of what working conditions are really like out there in the coatings formulation trenches.

As we have every year for this survey, we polled a portion of our readers-research and development personnel involved in the formulation of paint and coatings from both the manufacturer and supplier sides of the business-to determine their attitudes toward their jobs, their salaries and what their biggest challenges are at work. This examination presents a quick state of the industry report from the men and women on the frontlines of coatings formulation. Chemists are the heart and soul of this industry. They are the ones who drive the formulations further, improve performance, deal with regulatory constraints and work on what could be the next big leap in performance or aesthetics, or both.

Part of the reason why we conduct our survey is to gauge the temperament of the R&D workers in the coatings industry. We ask respondents to tell us about things such as satisfaction with their salary level, how confident they feel in their current position and what frustrates them most at work. We also polled our readers on the state of their facilities, if they use modern research methods such as high throughput screening, and what they feel could be done to improve their work environment.

Thank you to all who participated. If there is something specific you want us to poll our readers for next year, let us know. We look forward to hearing from you and publishing the results next year.


Our respondents come from all sectors of the industry, with the majority (59.6%) of respondents working for paint manufacturers. Suppliers of raw material and equipment accounted for 22.2%. The remainder came from "other," which included those employed by equipment suppliers, adhesives/sealant makers or ink manufacturers, those working in academic settings or those employed by end users of coatings.

On a gender basis, 79.8% of our respondents were male, up from 78.2% last year. Women accounted for 20.2%, down from 21.8% in 2005.

The average age of our respondents, male and female, was 42. The average age of our male respondents was 43.3 with the oldest male being an 87-year old man with 65 years of experience, who is currently working as a consultant. The average age of females who took part in our poll was 37.1 with the oldest being two women aged 58. One is a R&D director with 25 years experience, the other a chemist whose been at the same company for 36 years.   

In terms of education, overall, 53.2% of our respondents have a bachelor's degree, 25.8% earned a master's degree and 10.2% obtained a doctorate level degree (10.8% responded with "other").

There were differences in education levels based on gender. For female respondents, 9.9% had obtained a doctorate compared to 10.3% of men, 22.8% of females reported they had a master's as compared to 26.6% of men, and 58.4% of females had bachelor's degrees as compared to 51.9% of their male counterparts.

In the following pages, you will find information on compensation levels as well as other salary issues (such as bonuses) for R&D/technical directors, lab/technical/R&D managers, senior chemists, chemists and technician/lab support functions.  Since currency fluctuations and differences in job titles vary around the world, we include regional breakdowns of compensation (when available) to give you a better chance to measure your compensation packaging with other colleagues.


For this  survey, we asked for total compensation, including bonuses, stock options and profit sharing, and asked respondents to record their compensation in U.S. dollars.  Also, we asked respondents to provide exact salary figures, rather than a range.

R&D Directors

Leading research and development efforts, R&D directors play a critical role guiding a company's product performance and environmental compliance, while keeping an eye on performance and innovation.

For R&D directors, the median compensation for all regions of the world was $98,000.

In the U.S., the median compensation for R&D directors was $98,000. The median years of total experience was 23.6 and the median years at their current post was 9.25 years. Three-quarters of U.S. R&D directors said they receive an annual bonus.

In Europe, the median compensation for an R&D director was $90,000. The median years of total experience was 21 and the median years at their current post was 6.8. Of European R&D directors in our survey, 80% said they receive a bonus.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the median compensation for an R&D director was $65,000. The median years of total experience for an R&D director was 17.8 and the median years at their current post was seven. More than 75% said they receive an annual bonus.

In South America, Latin America and Mexico, the R&D director's median compensation was $96,500. The median years total experience was 23 and the median years at their current post was 12. Fifty percent reported receiving an annual bonus.

In the Middle East/Africa, the median compensation was $52,250. The median years of total experience for R&D directors was 12.8 and the median years at their current post was 4.8. Seventy-five percent of these respondents said they receive an annual bonus.

Lab/Technical/R&D Managers

Traditionally the second in command, lab, technical and R&D managers are involved more closely in the day-to-day R&D efforts of companies in our industry, all while overseeing staff.

Worldwide, the median compensation for lab/technical/R&D managers was $67,500.

In the U.S., the median compensation reported was $83,500 and years of total experience was 22.5. These managers had a median of 10 years at their current post. According to our data, 72.5% of U.S. R&D/lab managers said they receive a bonus.

In Europe, the median compensation for a lab manager was $55,000.  The median years at their current post was 10.7 and their median years of total experience was 20.6. Approximately 70% said they receive an annual bonus.

Senior Chemists

The worldwide median compensation for a senior chemist was recorded at $78,000.

In the U.S., the median compensation was $82,000. Workers in this post reported a median number of years at their current post of nine and a median total experience of 23 years. According to our data 63% of U.S. senior chemists receive an annual bonus.

In Europe, the median compensation for senior chemist was $60,000. The median years of total experience was 19 and the median years at their current post was 10.7 Seventy-five percent of our respondents in this category reported that they receive an annual bonus.


On a global basis, the median compensation for chemists was $50,500.

In the U.S., the median compensation for a chemist was $60,000. The median years of total experience was 12.3 and the median years at their current post was 6.7 Regarding bonuses, approximately 70% receive this additional money from their employer.

The median compensation for chemists in Europe was $38,000. The median years at their current post was 4.4 and the median years of total experience was 8.8. In our survey, 50% of chemists in Europe receive a bonus.

Lab Technicians and Support

Worldwide median compensation for the lab technician/support position was $35,000.

In the U.S. the median compensation for technicians/lab support was $43,000.  The median years experience at their current post was five and the median years of total experience was 15.  According to our data, 50% of technicians in the U.S. do not receive a bonus.

Job Issues

A significant portion of the Coatings World R&D Salary Survey focuses on issues other than money, which in many cases is a major determining factor in an employee's happiness level at his or her post.

Each year, we have asked our respondents to tell us their most frustrating aspect of their job. Once again "internal politics," the perennial favorite, has been cited as the most frustrating aspect of the workplace. This year 26% of all respondents picked this as their top source of frustration (see chart at right). This is down from 29% last year, which was down from 31% the previous year.

Using our survey, we put our hands on the pulse of R&D directors  around the world. In the U.S. they are most frustrated by internal politics, as they were last. Inadequate project funding is also becoming more of an issue for them as well. In Mexico, South America and Latin America, regulatory compliance issues topped the list. In Canada, internal politics was the biggest issue. In Europe, R&D directors were split between internal politics and inadequate/aging facilities. With the Asia-Pacific region being a hotbed for coatings activity, it is interesting to note that R&D directors there are most frustrated by regulatory compliance issues.


R&D staffers in the paint and coatings industry work in places that differ dramatically from cramped and old facilities to state-of-the-art highly automated spaces.

 We polled our readers on the current space in which they work, factoring in issues such as equipment, environment and safety. Overall, 39.1% of respondents ranked their facility as standard, 27% reported workspace that was above average and 22.5% ranked their workspace as below average. Just 3.6% said their facility was outdated or unsafe while another 7.8% operated in state-of-the-art facilities.

In terms of manpower in the workspace, our respondents, 56% said their facility or department was not adequately staffed, up from 52.3% last year, while 44% said it was. When asked what needed to be done first to improve their workspace or department, the  largest percentage of all respondents (36%) said it is critical to add more staff. This figure is up from 32.2% last year.



The majority of R&D staffers (59.1%) travel to one to three events a year. While last year 37.4% of respondents did not attend any trade show, industry meetings or conferences, this year the number is down to 30.3%. Some 59.4% of all respondents said that the number of events they would attend this year would equal last year; almost 19% said it was less, while 21.7% said it was more.

At the same time 68.6% said they want to attend more industry forums, however budget restrictions, management decision and time were again the usual suspects when it comes to why they don't get out more often. Five percent said there was nothing new to see or learn at these events, up from three percent last year.


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