Building a Career in the Biotech Industry

Industry Analysis BioTech

The COVID-19 outbreak has amplified the need for biotechnology products, such as vaccines, diagnostic tests, and drugs. As such, the global biotechnology market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.83% from 2021 to 2028. This progressive rate could mean more opportunities not only for businesses but also for new jobs.  So, if you’ve got your heart set on a career change, the biotech industry is worth considering. Keep on reading as we will discuss some tips to help you build a career in this field.

Understanding the Biotech Industry

Breaking into the biotech industry can sound intimidating. Where do you even begin? Are there courses or certifications you need to take? Should you start updating your resume? Yes, these are important. But before jumping in, we recommend taking the time to understand what the industry is. Doing so will allow you to make an informed decision whether biotech is something you would really like to pursue or not.

Biotechnology utilizes cellular and biomolecular processes to formulate breakthrough technologies and products. The goal is to combat rare diseases, reduce environmental footprint, use less and cleaner energy, and maximize the efficiency of industrial manufacturing processes. To put it simply, biotechnologists develop new products and improve processes in the fields like medicine and agriculture. As you probably know, one of the most recent highlights of the industry’s far-reaching impact is its therapeutic response to COVID-19.

Biotech is all about science, math, technology, investigating and solving problems, and developing meaningful products. If this sounds interesting to you, then a career in biotech might be a good option for you. To help you think thoroughly, here are some questions you can ask yourself.

  • Are you comfortable voicing out your opinion regardless of whose ox is being gored?
  • Can you see yourself working with teams to research, produce, and market a product?
  • Do you like challenging the status quo?
  • Are you prepared to adapt to frequent changes and perform under tight deadlines or inflexible research plans?
  • Do you enjoy bringing new ideas to life?
  • Are you passionate about contributing to the advancement in science and technology?

Career opportunities in Biotech

Job duties for biotech professionals can vary significantly by job and specialization. But in a general sense, they typically work in a laboratory setting to assist in various types of research and experiments. Their common duties include synthesizing chemicals, maintaining lab equipment, managing complex projects, and creating reports of findings. In some cases, biotechnologists may need to go out in the field to gather data and assess how products or processes work in a non-clinical environment.

While biotech commonly involves laboratory work, it is more than just a white coat laboratory drug developing job. Depending on your academic background and professional interests, you may opt to specialize in one of its main subfields. These can include medical, agricultural, industrial, marine, food, and environmental biotechnology. Here is a list of some of the top technical jobs you can explore in this industry.

  • Biochemist 
  • Microbiologist 
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Food Scientist
  • Biological Technician
  • Medical Scientist
  • Biotechnology Professor
  • Animal Scientist
  • Genetic Engineer
  • Clinical Trial Researcher

If you’re a non-scientist but keen to explore a career in biotech, don’t hold back. There are other job functions you can explore within the industry. Below are some of them.

  • Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Business Intelligence and Data Science
  • Intellectual Property
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Project Management

In terms of what the pay looks like, the average biotechnology salary is $86,725 per year, according to Glassdoor. However, salaries may still differ depending on the company, job title, location, and your candidate profile. We recommend doing your own diligence in identifying your worth to maximize your chances of getting the best offer possible.

What are the skills and credentials required?

Obtaining an in-depth knowledge of the field and staying on top of the latest research developments are important elements of a successful career in biotech. In addition to your technical skills, you would also need relevant soft skills to thrive in such a competitive professional arena and perform critical job functions effectively. Some of the key soft skills that would be beneficial for you include the following.

  • Complex problem solving and analytical skills to anticipate and solve problems that arise in practice
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills to document and articulate findings to diverse audiences
  • Teamwork and innovative thinking to collaborate and exchange ideas with other team members
  • Organizational skills to perform in a deadline-driven environment while maintaining keen attention to detail

Earning the necessary credentials is also crucial in starting a career in biotechnology. Most professionals interested in the field start their education with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in biology or biotechnology. However, a master’s degree and Ph.D. are needed in most cases to progress your career to a more senior role. Below is the list of top universities that offer biotech courses according to ExploreBiotech.

  • Harvard University
  • University of Cambridge
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Oxford
  • Cornell University
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • The University of Queensland Australia

It’s a different case if you’re looking into applying for a non-scientist or non-technical function. For instance, if you are interested in exploring a marketing or business development role, technical skills or a biotech degree won’t be crucial for your work. However, possessing the soft skills mentioned above can be advantageous for you.

Top Biotech Companies

When it comes to searching for a job in a new industry, researching employers is essential in finding the right job fit. It provides focus and can guide you in a new direction. Additionally, it will allow you to discover the best company that meets your personal interest and requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the top biotech companies that are worth considering.

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Roche
  • Pfizer
  • Abbot
  • AbbVie
  • Novartis
  • Merck & Co
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Novo Nordisk
  • AstraZeneca

The name of the companies we shared above is not meant for listing and storing. We highly recommend identifying and engaging with your top employers of choice. Doing so will allow you to get noticed and connect with decision-makers in the company, which will benefit your job search. Here’s how you can do that.

  • Follow your target companies’ social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Engage with the company’s posts by liking and commenting on them.
  • Connect and build a relationship with professionals who work in your target company.
  • Maintain consistency.

Biotechnology is considered one of the fastest-growing sectors with substantial opportunities. To maximize your chances of a successful career transition, you need to obtain appropriate academic background, technical knowledge, and soft skills. If you plan to move up the career ladder, additional education like a master’s degree or Ph.D. may be required.  If you’re passionate about contributing to advances in science and technology, you are more likely to feel at home in this industry.