Recently, Genetic Engineering News published a list of what they believe will be the top 10 biotech jobs most in demand over the next decade.
For those looking for moving beyond the bench, starting their science career, or just looking for a change, the list proposes where the likeliest landing spots are located. I’ve provided a little taste of what such positions do, so that you can do an initial assessment on whether it might be of interest.
#6 – Zoologists and wildlife biologists
These professions study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. The article states there will be an increase in the number of positions in the near future. Before changing your career path to a furry or fuzzy one, it is important to know that the total number of positions is modest compared with many other fields.
Also, the compensation is modest – in part because industry positions are minimal. Most employers are zoological parks and wildlife reserves. It would be a good strategy to take some business/finance courses along with either a science background or degree. There is more upward mobility and financial opportunity if you understand a little about what is required to operate such an organization. This is a type of position for which networking with others in the field is especially important – again somewhat because of the paucity of positions and how much zoologists are interdependent on one another. (For example, knowing how to exchange/trade when you have too many of one type of animal and someone else has an over-supply of something you need.
#5 – Biochemists and Biophysicists
These folks study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease. The median salary is very high for this field.
One factor is the wide range of companies needing such professionals. It used to be that pure chemical companies such as Dow had a disproportionate share of the workforce. Such companies remain major players. More recently, sectors such as energy (e.g., oil and gas), pharmaceutical, and contract research are adding to the need. It isn’t just medical equipment that needs to be kept free of contaminating critters. So does pipe that carries oil. Employers from medical device companies to NASA needs biophysicists.
If interested in these fields, it would be wise considering graduate degrees. The higher salaries and greater upward mobility mentioned earlier are largely confined to those with additional education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree. Still, talk to others in the field before applying to graduate school so you know how much additional education and training will suffice. Oh, and one more word: internship. If still an undergrad, pursue one with the fervor of a hungry dog.
#4 – Biological Technician
People doing this are the epitome of the word “tech.” They are the ground troops in the scientific army. They are the Robin to the lab director’s Batman. They are the Watson to the primary investigator’s Sherlock Holmes. They are the highly skilled side-kick – often with hands that can do wondrous experiments. (I once had a technician that had a “green thumb” with cells; they could grow anything.) As with chemical technicians, these folks work with special instrumentation and methods.
As with chemical technicians, if you like to expand your comfort zone, it is likely you’ll need to regularly request additional tasks or responsibilities. You will be in great demand – but your earning potential and learning potential can be limited. Consider taking a certification course in Program Management.
Having this additional training and additional letters after your name provides the possibility of leading a project and garnering supervisory skills. Leading an effort – rather than simply being part of the team – helps with raises and promotions. Managing staff – rather than simply doing what other’s tell you – shows your employer you can perform beyond your job description.
These positions tend to be more entry-level positions – again, employers need more troops than generals. However, they can be solid career choices, especially for those who want to maintain more of a work-life balance.