If you’re passionate about science but are unsure about what you want to do professionally, a career in life sciences could be a great fit for you. Whether you are a recent grad or a new college student still deciding what to major in, there are many types of careers in life sciences that you should consider.
For those still in school and who are having trouble choosing between two majors, you could be in luck, as life science careers offer a range of fields that need people who have studied multiple life science subjects. For example, if you have interests in biology and chemistry, you could major in both to give you a firm footing in the field of biochemistry. This dual major could open up other coursework and broaden your scientific knowledge, while also preparing you for post-graduate work or a specialized professional position.
You have a wide variety of majors that you can mix and match in the field of life science. Similarly, you will also be able to work in a variety of careers. Going into life science doesn’t mean that you will be stuck in a lab all day — although you certainly can work in a medical or clinical laboratory if you wish. Some career options include being a forester, a botanist or an environmental biologist, to name only a few.
As someone who is preparing to enter the job market or who is currently looking for a job, you should strongly consider the life sciences as a possible career path. You will make a difference, stay current with new industries, be involved in a supportive and mentally stimulating work environment and have a wide range of opportunities to pursue within the field.
1. Make a Difference
Do you want a job that feels like you are having an impact on the world around you? If so, then life sciences has a career path for you.
Whether you want to work as a research scientist or go into advertising for a life science company, you will provide great value to the future of humanity and the world by improving human health, conserving the environment, deepening understanding of science and exploring fundamental questions concerning our existence.
Improve Human Health
Life science has a variety of applications to human health, such as better insight into disease, the design of new medical devices and the development of therapeutics and drugs to treat health issues. Through this field, you may even come to cure a terminal disease or treat a condition that was thought to be hopeless.
If you are particularly fascinated by the ways you can positively affect human life, then you will find life science and biotechnology careers very rewarding. In 2018 alone, major breakthroughs occurred in the life sciences, including discovering an enzyme in the human gut that is 30 times more efficient than previously studied enzymes at converting blood Types A and B into Type O, along with progress in the study of Alzheimer’s and engineering synthetic T cells that can help fight infections and cancer cells.
Conserving the Environment
Along with improving our species, you may also be in a field that tries to understand our environment better. With that knowledge, governments, private companies and even individuals can assist in conservation efforts to save our planet. In this field, you will attempt to solve environmental issues that the earth is facing like pollution and climate change.
As an environmental chemist, you could study which chemicals are doing the most harm to our environment, while an environmental biologist could focus on the preservation of animals and plants. If you are a persuasive writer or interested in politics, a position as an environmental scientist could have you crafting new legislation or reform. If you’re interested in renewable energy, perhaps an environmental technology job is for you. These careers are only a few of the many environmental science careers within the broader fields of life science.
As a researcher or academic, you can contribute to the ever-growing knowledge base that surrounds life science. Even if discoveries aren’t immediately practical to the improvement of the world, they may be one day. Besides, even “useless” studies help people understand life a little bit more, with the practice of study and academic vigor a praisable pursuit in itself.
Explore Fundamental Questions
The life sciences help to make practical changes in the world and explore purely scientific questions, and they also let human beings attempt to answer questions fundamental to our existence. How did we come to exist? What makes us up? Why do we act the way that we do? How does our planet function? The answers to these questions can be found in the life sciences, providing immeasurable value to our existence.
2. Work Closely With New Industries
The life science industry is an ever-growing field that is continuously innovating and working with other sectors to develop medical treatments and new drugs, use technology and create innovative machines. Some of the major industries that life science works with include artificial intelligence, information technology and healthcare.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As the tech industry continues to develop, artificial intelligence (AI), plays an increasingly important role in the advancement of life sciences. In a recent survey, 44% of life science professionals state that they were either using or experimenting with deep learning and AI. Additionally, over 94% say that they expect machine learning to play a more significant role in the next two years.
This increased interest and engagement with AI is not unwarranted. Through AI, scientists can identify, diagnose and cure diseases much faster. The effectiveness of AI makes the life sciences industry much more valuable, but it also rapidly accelerates drug development and helps reduce the pharmaceutical industry’s 95% failure rate in research and development.
Along with providing faster drug development and making it easier to cure diseases, we can use AI to aid in the research and creation of products. Examples of this can be found in the ability to extract information from large amounts of research to look for blind spots where new drugs or tools are needed. Scientists are also using learning algorithms to mine data to help identify new diseases and find ways to develop more effective preclinical experiments. These are only a few of the applications of AI in the life sciences, as it offers almost countless ways to interact with it through a life science lens.
Along with working closely with AI, those in life science can also have broad overlap with information technology (IT). Some fields of study that combine both industries include computational biology and systems biology, which work to improve human health. The ability to store genome data, use deep learning to interpret and fine-tune various areas of study with computational models and automate time-consuming tasks are all ways that information technology influences the life sciences. With the importance of information technology on the rise, those who are interested in IT and science can find a life science IT job to have the best of both worlds.
One specific example of this multidisciplinary work can be found in systems biology, where scientists use computational methods to help solve biological challenges. With the new data types they can generate through advancements in computers, they can analyze the body like a network down to the molecular and genetic level. This sort of analysis produces more understanding of the human body and more precise medical care.
As experts attempt to find new ways to deliver medicines to patients other than through pill form, they work closely with the health care industry and the tech industry. For example, wearable smart insulin delivery systems have made diabetes management easier. Advances like these have to rely on interdisciplinary communication between multiple industries.
Along with creating new ways to deliver medicines, those in the life science industry are working closely with the health care industry to personalize medicine for patients. Since patients may experience different effects from a disease, it’s crucial to have a variety of treatments and medication to treat their individual needs. In addition, personalizing drugs can help to reduce the adverse effects of a disease mutating, causing older drugs to be ineffective. One way scientists are making progress in this filed is through the study of the patient’s genome.
3. Excellent Work Environment
One of the best parts of pursuing a career in life sciences is that many employers, whether they be in the private or public sector, offer excellent work environments where employees can flourish.
One of the best perks of working in the life science field is the engaging work that you will be doing. Many life science companies and institutions offer the chance to help patients, research fascinating subject matter and create solutions to difficult problems. The ability to feel fulfilled from one’s work is especially prevalent in the life sciences as workers produce meaningful and, at times, life-saving treatments or products. On top of the engaging work you will do, you can also work with multiple industries, staying on top of the most advanced technologies and trends.
Good Pay and Benefits
Life science professionals generally are provided with good pay and benefits because of the important and specialized work they do. Due to professionals’ high level educational and professional backgrounds, many life science companies recognize that they should be rewarded financially. Additionally, life science recruitment and staffing agencies are always on the look for top talent and want to place professionals in companies that will match their skill set and professional goals best.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2016 to 2026, life, physical and social science employment will rise by 10%. This industry growth is faster than the average of all U.S. occupations and represents an opportunity for professional growth. Since so many different industries intersect with life sciences, employees can expand their skill set and knowledge base, making them more valuable. Recognizing the value of their employees, many life science companies have started providing growth opportunities like mentorships and training to staff members, while also making internal promotions more accessible to their workforce.
Excellent Work-Life Balance and Flexibility Options
To keep their employees happy at work, life science employers encourage a healthy work-life balance. Working from home and flexible scheduling are becoming a staple in the most effective companies.
For example, Takeda, a pharmaceutical company, has made it a goal to foster a corporate culture that makes employees feel like they can do good work without having to sacrifice their home life. Other life science companies like Incyte offer benefits including maternity and paternity leave, a free concierge service to help employees with errands or taking their dog out for a walk and covering all of an employee’s medical insurance. The fact that these companies are doing so much to better the work-life balance of their employees speaks well for the industry.
At the best life science companies, a positive culture begins at the top with management ensuring that open communication and transparency is a mainstay on their teams. In addition, the collaborative nature of many of the positions helps create a culture of mutual respect, trust and intellectual stimulation.
Biocon, a biopharmaceutical company, creates a positive culture by embracing diversity. The company recognizes that human beings are not one note, and should have avenues to do their scientific work while also expressing themselves creatively. One way they foster this culture is a company-wide talent show that has an 80% employee participation rate. Companies like Biocon are setting the standard for company culture in the life science industry with others sure to follow.
4. Wide Range of Opportunities
You can work in purely academic or medical settings, but the life science industry also offers career paths in areas that you may not have considered. Below are multiple career paths available in life sciences:
Product Testing and Development
If you want a career in the scientific, preclinical side, then product testing and development may be the field for you. This side of the industry primarily works with creating drugs and developing treatments. In this type of job, you would be first developing new drugs or products and then testing them before they reach clinical trials.
The barrier to entry is relatively high in this area, as you will need a strong academic background and often an upper-level degree in a life science field like pharmacology or microbiology. Due to the technical aspects of this area, you will need to be comfortable with developing and testing drugs from the beginning.
If you have a more strategic, broader position in mind, project management may be a great area for you. A project manager oversees the entire life cycle of a new product or drug from the initial product ideas to its development, regulatory approval and marketing processes, among other steps. In a project management role, you will be expected to keep costs within budget, the project on schedule and the new project in compliance with various rules and regulations.
Between 2010 and 2020, the life science industry is expected to have project management roles grow by 30%. As such, there may be space for those without research or scientific background in the life sciences to fill some of the open positions. Someone who knows how to handle complex projects and is comfortable with uncertainty will excel in a project management position.
Rather than going into a highly scientific life science position, business development could appeal to those who are more business-minded but still interested in science. These roles will typically have you maintaining relationships with customers by providing them product support and finding ways to improve the product based on their feedback. Your clientele could range from universities to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and public sector labs. It will be your responsibility to communicate to your technical and lab staff the needs of these customers, so having a background in science will significantly help.
Along with working closely with customers, you may formulate new strategies, ensure that sales targets are being met and communicate with other business-minded parties in the company about key accounts. This position will be best for you if you have strong interpersonal skills and are business-minded.
Another customer-oriented area of life science, technical support positions typically help customers after they have bought a product or drug. In these roles, you will likely be required to have a doctorate as well as the knowledge of lab procedures, techniques and best practices. If you have prior research experience and have developed a specialty, you may end up working with a specialized product or customer.
For technical support roles, you’ll need to have scientific know-how as well as customer service skills, problem-solving abilities and a patient demeanor. You will be even more marketable in this field if you are multi-lingual as customers will be based all over the world. As in business development roles, you will be communicating customer criticisms to the lab so they can improve the product.
If you don’t want to be a part of the more technical or scientific parts of life science careers, but also aren’t interested in business development or project management, marketing might be the perfect place for you. In a marketing position, your creativity can shine as you come up with innovative ways to advertise a product. On any given day, you might be speaking with influencers in the industry about why you have the superior product, or you might be working behind the scenes to come up with a targeted social media post.
Though this position is not heavy on science, companies are more likely to hire those with past research or graduate level academic experience along with commercial experience. Understanding the science behind the products and drugs you are advertising will help you educate customers and make them aware of your content. As customers are highly knowledgeable, a science background will help you produce content that you know they would appreciate and not come across as an outsider.
Your Future Career in Life Sciences
As you can see, there are many opportunities for a rewarding career in life sciences. You will make an impact in the world while exploring intersecting industries, enjoying an intellectually stimulating academic environment and engaging with multiple career paths that life science offers.
If you’re in the market for a new job in the life sciences, TCM can help find the right opportunity for you. We have a long history helping staff Fortune 500/1000 companies across the entire United States and 40 years of experience. Whether you’re looking for a science laboratory technology job, a life science logistics career or anything in between, we can find you the perfect fit.
Contact us today to learn about all of the staffing solutions and services that we offer to companies looking for staff or individuals who are looking for a job. We’re more than happy to take the time to speak with you and see how we can help.