Life Science Ranks Among Top 9 College Majors to Get a Job

Published: May 05, 2016

Life Science Ranks Among Top College Majors to Get a Job May 5, 2016
By Angela Rose for BioSpace.com

If you’re a soon-to-graduate college student worrying about more than just wrapping up classes and acing your finals, you’re not alone. According to the 2015 AfterCollege Career Insight Survey—which examines the job search process of college students and recent grads—it’s very likely you’re also spending time looking for your future employer. In fact, among 1,259 survey respondents, only 14 percent of college seniors, 13 percent of graduate students and 30 percent of recent graduates have jobs lined up pre-graduation. Instead, most (from 70 percent of undergrads to 84 percent of college seniors) are still actively seeking employment.

While those numbers may sound discouraging, there’s good news for life science majors. They comprise 15 percent of the seniors who have already landed positions with their future employers. Only tech majors (28 percent) and business majors (18 percent) do better. And a number of other majors (from math at 13 percent to social sciences at 8 percent) do worse.

Majors Most Likely to Secure Employment
RANK
MAJOR
PERCENTAGE
RELATED PROFESSION
1
Tech
28%
Systems Administrator
2
Business
18%
Business Development
3
Life Sciences
15%
Biologist
4
Math
13%
Biostatistician
5
Nursing
13%
Registered Nurse
6
Arts/Humanities
12%
Teacher
7
Allied Health
11%
Physician Assistant
8
Engineering
8%
Engineer I
9
Social Sciences
8%
Counselor

Other factors that appear to affect pre-graduation job offers are sex (18 percent are male while 11 percent are female), race (Caucasians account for 16 percent, Hispanics/Latinos for 13 percent, Asians/Pacific Islanders for 12 percent and African Americans for 10 percent), and grade point average. Seniors with a GPA of 3.6 or higher make up 15 percent of the survey respondents who’ve lined up post-graduation jobs. Those with GPAs of 3.0 or lower only account for 10 percent.

The survey also found that a majority of college job seekers find the process difficult (38 percent) or very difficult (24 percent) due in part to the number of steps required, from deciding to apply and preparing a resume and cover letter to interviewing and negotiating salary. Most are learning about job openings through email notifications (66 percent), job boards (50 percent) and employer websites (50 percent), though a few use their school’s career centers (32 percent) and social media (29 percent) as well.

If you’re a Freshman, Sophomore or Junior, take note
If you’re not yet a senior, there are a few things you can do—other than majoring in life science and earning a higher GPA—to improve your post-graduation job prospects. Consider the following:

Start interning early.
While internships don’t guarantee future employment, the hands-on job skills they provide do improve your prospects. According to AfterCollege’s survey, more than 50 percent of the seniors with pre-graduation offers have completed one or more internships. For 24 percent of these seniors, an internship resulted in a job offer. Many career advisors now recommend that students complete their first internship in their freshmen or sophomore year so they have time for a second or even third opportunity later on. Research and reach out to companies that have internship programs and get a head start on entering the workforce.

Example companies where you can find internships:
EXAMPLE
COMPANY
HQ LOCATION
INTERNSHIPS
1
Allergan
Parsippany, N.J.
Internship
2
AstraZeneca
London, U.K.
Internship
3
Genentech
South San Francisco, Calif.
Internship
4
Gilead Sciences
Foster City, Calif.
Internship
5
Johnson & Johnson
New Brunswick, N.J.
Internship
6
Medtronic
Minneapolis, Minn.
Internship
7
Novartis
Basel, Switz.
Internship
8
Novo Nordisk
Plainsboro, N.J.
Internship
9
Pfizer
New York, N.Y.
Internship
10
Sanofi
Paris, France
Internship

Your academic advisors, university’s life science department and career services center are all great resources when searching for internships and co-op, or cooperative education, programs. Life science internships may be part-time or full-time (and paid or unpaid) and usually last several months. If you’re concerned about interning while keeping up with your studies, consider organizations that offer nine- to 12-week summer internships. Co-op programs vary from as little as 45 hours to as many as 12 months and may include college credit.

Example schools/organizations where you can find internships:
EXAMPLE
SCHOOL
LOCATION
INTERNSHIPS
1
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah
Internship
2
Mass. Life Sciences Center
Waltham, MA.
Internship
3
UC San Diego
San Diego, Calif.
Internship

Build a network of mentors.
Not all employers source candidates online, so limiting yourself to job boards and social media is also limiting your prospects. Instead, develop relationships with professionals in your intended field while you’re completing your studies. Use the insight these mentors can provide to guide your choice of courses, specialties and internship opportunities as well as get the inside scoop on available life science jobs.

Professional organizations, volunteering, informational interviews, industry events and career fairs all represent real-world opportunities to meet and initiate relationships with life science professionals who already have the jobs you want to have at the companies that interest you. You may find BioSpace’s bi-annual Talent Connect events particularly useful. Held in every major life science hotbed, they bring together hundreds of professionals, recruiters and hiring managers in many different disciplines within the industry.

Another networking example: Female biotech job seekers in California can meet other women in the industry at the “Strategic Transitioning Methodical Job Hunting in Biotech” presentation at the Association for Women in Science meeting on May 10 in San Francisco.

Perfect your job search skills.
Employers are selective; no one is going to just hand you a job. While the application process can be difficult and is often frustrating, there are resources you can use to make it easier—from your advisors and professors to your school’s career services center. In fact, most college careers services centers can help you with everything from perfecting your resume and cover letter to practicing for interviews. You’ll also find a wealth of helpful information online—including on industry sites such as BioSpace.com.

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