Life Science Career Transitions – From Government to Private Healthcare

Career change

As a life science professional, what industry would you prefer to work in? While the vast majority of science professionals are employed in biotech, pharmaceuticals, research, and with universities, there are other options in the public sector. Government municipalities, in addition to public and private healthcare systems can be viable options that provide stability for many employees. To find out more about career transitions within the life sciences, we interviewed Modu Feyisitan, MPH. Modu provided insight regarding her move from a role as an Epidemiologist within county government into private healthcare. She shares what motivated her to make a job change.

1. Can you tell us why you decided to study a field in life sciences?

I took an Epidemiology elective in undegrad school that was taught by a volunteer from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It was the first time I heard of this field existing. It was like a light bulb went off; it was exactly what I wanted to do.

2. How did you decide to work in government health?

To be completely honest, I came out of graduate school at the tail end of the recession. My options were limited, many hiring freezes (were in effect). So, I cannot say I chose government, it chose me.

3. What did you enjoy about being an Epidemiologist?

I really enjoy infectious diseases. No two cases are the same, so I it kept me engaged. When new diseases, like Ebola or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), emerge or re-emerge, I was right in the middle of it. Of course, I don't want to see outbreaks, but I did enjoy working through them to find the root cause and put an end to it.

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4. Why did you decide to transition out of government health? How was that transition / job search?

I wanted to learn new things. I was starting to feel stagnant and like I wasn't growing anymore. Government may be stable work, but the pay is far from the best. The job search made me a bit anxious. I was ready to move on but having only been in government, I did not know the market for my knowledge and skills in the private sector. So, I had to do quite a bit of research before jumping in. The transition into the new role has been painless thus far. There’s a bit of a learning curve as one may expect, but there’s been a lot of support at my new organization. I'm much happier than I was just a few months ago.

5. How does your current role as an Infection Preventionist relate to your previous role as an Epidemiologist?

Infection prevention is the basis of my work. It was a natural move, in that sense. Instead of working within a community, I am now working within a healthcare system, same work, different environment.

6. What general advice would you give to life science professionals thinking about transitioning out of government health?

You are likely being underpaid in government, do your research about industry standards before accepting an offer. Keep lists or examples of the work tools, templates, articles etc., you've completed while in your old role, it may come in handy in the new one. This is also helpful during the interview process; it’s easy to forget all you've accomplished.

Life science professionals can work in a variety of environments including academia, the private sector, and within public government. Each setting has benefits and drawbacks associated. While you would probably enjoy the job stability of working in government, the compensation might be considerably less than your counterparts in other industries. When considering a job transition, it’s a good idea to research the industry you’re interested in to examine the differences in compensation and environment. Working on your interviewing techniques can also help you demonstrate your transferable skills and the impact you could make on a new organization. What positive change could you bring to a new industry?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

Modu Feyisitan, MPH is an Infection Preventionist. Previously, she worked as an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist at local health departments in metro Atlanta. Modu enjoys SEC football (Go Dawgs!), hiking and traveling.

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