Tips to Make a Career Switch to the Medical Devices and Diagnostics Industry  
11/17/2008 11:38:49 AM

Bioscience Career Review
Tips to Make a Career Switch to the Medical Devices and Diagnostics Industry
By John Chambers

While medical device and diagnostics (MD&D) jobs are sometimes passed over for other opportunities, industry growth shows few signs of slowing.

"Focused on the prospect of jobs at biotech and pharma companies, many life scientists overlook MD&D ...," one industry publication states. However, medical device and diagnostics initiatives are still strong, driven by advances in areas such as genomics, bioinformatics, nanotechnology and biomaterial.

Science, a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, offers tips to transition into MD&D:

  • Think about a second degree: "The increasing complexity of many devices, coupled with clinical and regulatory requirements, has created opportunities for scientists with graduate degrees."

  • Be comfortable with less basic research: "If you don't like doing applied research, then the device and diagnostics industry may not be for you."

  • Gain outside experience first: "Another thing to consider before jumping into MD&D is the notion that because the industry has a lower status than academia, pharma, or biotech," it may be easier to transition into device and diagnostics work from other bioscience areas than to enter those fields with only MD&D experience.

  • Weigh your options: "Right now, molecular biologists, immunologists, and quality control and assurance and regulatory scientists are in high demand, especially at diagnostic and biomaterials companies."

MD&D could expand as fast as pharmaceuticals over the next few years.

The medical device and diagnostics industry is expected to grow an annual 9% from the $240 billion, worldwide business it was in 2007, Science states.

Last year's investments were enough to create 2,000 new jobs, although these positions may have career trade-offs. "My salary is lower, but I enjoy doing applied research because there is a greater likelihood (than in pharma) that the products that I work on will make it to market," bioscience professional Louise Sigismondi told Science.

Abbott Labs, Zimmer and Johnson & Johnson are some of the top industry companies in the United States. Johnson & Johnson's device and diagnostics sales, alone, accounted for 35% of company totals in 2007. Its business plans include driving additional results through areas such as orthopedics, devices for cardiac care and technology to battle obesity. Increases are also seen in international companies such as Agappe Diagnostics Ltd., which forecasted 300% growth this year. The Indian company reported 100% growth last year.

However, rising healthcare costs and lower reimbursements from insurance companies may slow some advances, Science states.

Aging populations help foster industry expansion.

"Growth in the healthcare market, including the medical device and diagnostics sectors, is expected to outpace GDP growth in the emerging markets, due both to an expansion of personal income and rising prices as well as increased adoption of advanced medical technologies and aging of the population," Biomedical Business & Technology reported this year.

The industry magazine noted populations 65 and older will increase by 300% to 575% in China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam by 2050. The same group could increase by 147% in the United States.

"The increasing demand for healthcare services, coupled with growth in personal income, will drive strong expansion in the healthcare markets in Asia, as well as in the Middle East, creating ongoing opportunities for exports by medical device companies in the U.S. and Western Europe," Biomedical Business & Technology states.

New disciplines such as clinical research and regulatory affairs are also creating expansion.

The U.S. Department of Energy suggests state biotechnology organizations, trade journals and additional tools to find these and other jobs. is another outlet, offering posted positions, career Forums, industry articles and more for bioscience professionals.