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How Have Layoffs and Job Cutbacks Affected Research Consultant Positions?

12/16/2009 5:32:00 PM

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research jobs in the biotech industry are less likely to be cut during recessions than jobs in other occupations because most research consultants hold long-term research projects. In times of recessions or economic downturns, research consultants may not feel the crunch right away; however, when it comes to obtaining an extension on current projects or renewal of contracts, money plays a big role. In other words, if there is less funding for projects, there is less work for clinical consultants, too.

Non-Extension of Projects

As some companies start to suffer during the recession due to lack of sales, some research consultants may see their projects put on the back burner. However, some companies prefer to retain consultants rather than permanent employees because consultants don't carry the added cost of benefits (health insurance and matching retirement contributions) that permanent employees might. Upon completion of projects, the companies can easily let consultants go because there are no commitments beyond the initial agreements. Companies that cannot obtain project extensions may no longer need the services of research consultants. An economic downturn could limit the possibility of extension or renewal of existing projects, especially the more risky or innovative ones. As an example of how funding affects research projects, from 2004 through 2008, flat funding from the National Institutes of Health left Washington University and Saint Louis University scrambling to fill financial gaps with other funding sources to keep biomedical research projects going.

Non-Renewal of Contracts

In times when rampant lay-offs and massive job cutbacks abound, contract positions come and go. Since some research consultants get their income from project-based funding, they are able to stay only until the project matures. When the projects do not finish on time or the funding does not come, research consultants do not get their contracts renewed.

Part-Time Opportunities

In recessions, industrial companies are often the hardest hit. If they cannot afford to hire full-time researchers to complete their projects, they may post for part-time contract and consultant positions. For research consultants who know how to play their cards right, these situations can provide excellent opportunities to hold part-time positions in different companies. This can benefit them not only financially, but also in terms of experiences they can accumulate. In addition, full-time research employees who lost their jobs may turn to consulting until the economy improves.

Job Competition

According to, biotech companies like BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and Biogen Idec are still actively hiring despite the economic slowdown. The same report also states that people should expect more competition for research jobs because these firms have plenty of skilled researchers. However, even with steep competition, candidates with a solid background doing research consultation would have preference over new graduates.

References Biotech and Pharmaceutical News & Jobs
Job Outlook for Biotech Researchers
Article on NIH's slowdown in funding

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