Record European demand for regulatory affairs specialists, GSK leads hunt

May 6, 2021 | Life Sciences, News

Hiring for regulatory affairs specialists in Europe has reached record levels in the first months of 2021, according to new labour market data from Cpl Life Sciences and Vacancysoft.

In a difficult year for global health, professional RA recruitment in life sciences in the EU27 initially fell by 9.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q2 2020 as the covid-19 virus emerged. This reflects a 15.6% drop compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

However, senior RA vacancies in later months rallied, finishing 4.9% higher year-on-year in Europe. In 2021 they continued rising, ending the first quarter 43.4% higher compared to Q1 2020. Hiring in February (254 vacancies) and March (310 vacancies) represents levels never before seen in the European pharmaceutical industry. 

Cpl Life Sciences CEO, Yvette Cleland, says: “With increasing demand for faster approval processes, the changing regulatory landscape and growth in emerging fields, it’s little surprise that recruitment for RA specialists is at record levels.”

“Investment in speciality therapies, orphan drugs, personalised medicines and companion diagnostics means hiring for these experts will continue rising — particularly in the UK, which is consistently the busiest recruiter in this space in continental Europe.”


Life sciences companies in the UK published 578 vacancies for RA specialists in 2020, a 6.4% year-on-year rise. In contrast, firms in Germany sought 283 professionals (-6.9% y/y) and Switzerland 196 professionals (-4.4% y/y).

Ireland (+71.7%) recorded highest annual growth, driven mainly by hiring levels in Dublin (+60.6%). London (+40.8%), Cambridge (+33.3%) and Warsaw (+26.7%) posted the most new roles, while recruitment in fourth-placed Basel fell by 5.1% year-on-year.

Cleland continues: “The UK science sector is going from strength to strength and ambitions are growing. But there’s also an increasing skills shortage in RA with larger companies doing very little in developing new talent. Overall, we need 130,000-plus new highly skilled workers in the sector. Firms urgently need to start investing.”


GSK published the highest number of RA vacancies in Europe last year (+38.9% y/y) — and remains in top spot in Q1 2021. Merck (+10.5% y/y) finished in second place, while AstraZeneca (+60.8%) recorded the highest growth in recruitment. Of the top 15 life sciences companies, recruitment for RA specialists at Pfizer (-38.7% y/y) was the worst hit. 

Vacancysoft CEO, James Chaplin, says: “Our labour market analytics provides a detailed picture of how the life sciences industry is developing, and shows already which firms are on course to easily surpass last year’s hiring levels for RA specialists. 

“As across most of the sector, professional recruitment is now buoyant. Recruiters will be jostling for candidates and looking for any edge. Following a relatively unpredictable previous year, I’m sure the consistency is something they will welcome.”

  • The data for this article is taken from a Vacancysoft and Cpl Life Sciences report on regulatory affairs scientists, available here
  • Need labour market data to enhance a story or report? Contact Vacancysoft’s Communications team on +44 (0) 207 193 8990.

[Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash]

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