Careers in Pharma and Biotechnology
Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies provide opportunities for life science PhDs seeking work outside academia but wanting to stay close to the science. With various roles at the bench and beyond, scientists have a lot of options in industry.
What are the jobs in BioPharma?
An area familiar to graduate students and postdocs, many scientists enter companies working in basic research, typically starting at the bench and eventually moving into management as team leaders and then directors. To learn more about management roles in industry, see this Science Careers article Tooling Up: The Project Management Career Track.
Scientists are also needed in clinical research to oversee and coordinate clinical trials and provide information to regulatory agencies, among other responsibilities. Certification in clinical research can be helpful for making a transition although not necessary. Find more information through the professional associations ACRP and SoCRA.
Regulatory affairs employ scientists to serve as the liaison between industry, government, and business in order to bring a drug to market. To learn more about this position, check out these two articles at Science Careers: Tooling Up: All in the Details: Careers in Regulatory Science and The Regulatory Affairs Career Track.
For a great explanation on the drug development process and careers in these three areas, watch this eBriefing Careers for Scientists in Pharma: Basic Research, Clinical, and Regulatory Roles presented by Science Alliance. The article Mythbusting for Academics: Considering a Job in Biotech/Pharma at Science Careers is also worth a look for dispelling some of the myths about working in industry versus academia.
Beyond the Bench
If you develop a patentable technology during your research and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you could consider starting a biotech company. You can also help other scientists bring their ideas to market. For more information, check out this Science Alliance eBriefing Start Me Up: Building a Business from Academic Research.
Other positions scientists have found in industry include communicating important drug information to clinicians as a medical science liaison and working in the intellectual property office. You can find other non-bench options here Careers in Biotech and Pharma: Changing Courses at Science Careers.
The book Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development by Toby Freedman offers a comprensive view of over 100 careers in biopharma.
How does a PhD break into Industry?
In addition to a proven track record of success in the lab, it is important to demonstrate good interpersonal and communications skills, good time-management skills, and be team-oriented. A postdoc is desired but not always necessary, and some companies offer industry postdocs; a good resource on this is Industrial Postdocs: The Road Less Traveled over at Science Careers. For tips on what to expect when making the transition from an academic environment see Science Alliance's report Inside Industry Regulation: What to Expect and Why.
Below are some additional resources that you may find useful in exploring BioPharma Careers.