The 5 Most In-Demand Life Science Jobs for 2017

Published: Dec 20, 2016

The 5 Most In-Demand Life Science Jobs for 2017 December 15, 2016
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Although in general there are plenty of jobs in the life sciences, certain areas seem to be trending upward. Paul Strouts, global managing director of Hays Life Sciences, a worldwide recruiting firm, recently selected five areas that deserve special notice.

The 5 Most In-Demand Life Science Jobs for 2017
Research Technician (Immunology)
$52,645 to $103,159
Senior Researcher (Genomics/Genetics)
$38,987 to $141,031
Clinical Project Manager (CPM)
$55,464 to $126,383
Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)
$85,284 to $268,744
Specialists in Biotechnology
$55,140 to $391,095

1. Research Technician (Immunology)

In this case, the argument here is for growth in vaccine sales. Vaccine sales revenues worldwide grew 11 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. What Strouts doesn’t point out, though, is that immuno-oncology is an enormous area now. Immuno-oncology is typically two-fold, utilizing molecules called checkpoint inhibitors that prevent tumors’ ability to hide from the immune system, and engineering immune cells to more easily and strongly identify and attack cancer cells.

Strouts writes, “Applicants for research roles in immunology should ideally have a degree in a biomedical-related subject and laboratory experience, with good communication skills to support a collaborative working environment.”

Pay range: According to Glassdoor, the national average salary of a Life Sciences Research Assistant is $52,645. That number seems to be more closely associated with university-based research jobs. The Scientist’s 2015 Life Sciences Salary Report provided jobs in Immunology as having an average salary of $103,159. That likely applies to PhD-level positions. In terms of “Research Technician” as a title, typically with a bachelors or master’s degree, the average salary is $55,140.

2. Senior Researcher (Genomics/Genetics)

Increasingly, aside from, perhaps, some level of chemistry or biochemistry, advances in the life sciences lean heavily on genetics and genomics. Genomics is a broader term encompassing the entire genome of an organism. Genetics focuses more on single genes and their specific roles. It’s not accurate to use the two words interchangeably, but it’s not completely accurate to think that they are separate, either. They overlap—a lot—and the training for both is essentially the same.

Strouts writes, “Senior research positions may require a degree in one of these disciplines and/or computer science. A PhD qualification and post-doctoral experience in the application of genomics would confer a distinct advantage.”

Pay range: The Scientist’s 2015 survey gives genetics an average salary of $97,815, and Genomics $119,994. Payscale lists geneticist as having an average salary of $74,199 per year, although the range is $38,987 to $141,031.

3. Clinical Project Manager (CPM)

A clinical Project Manager plans and manages clinical trials. Strouts notes that, with regulations expanding worldwide, this is a high-demand job. They tend to have backgrounds as Applied Immune Technologies with at least a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Strouts writes, “Existing clinical team managers or clinical operations leaders transition well into the CPM role, but outsiders with the right combination of scientific knowledge, business acumen and communication skills may also be successful.”

Pay range: says that the range for CPMs in the U.S. starts at $55,464 and goes up to $126,383, with a median of $88,820.

4. Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)

A Chief Scientific Officer is a high-level executive position. This individual manages the scientific research and operations of an entire organization, implementing policies and strategies that are both scientific and business-related. Strout notes, “The CSO plays a crucial role in positioning the operation to promote efficiency, profitability, public relations and competitive viability. Successful candidates typically hold a masters or doctoral degree, along with extensive industry, research and management experience.”

A look through existing CSO job postings indicate the typical need for a PhD, DVM or MD degree and extensive C-level senior management experience. Part of that management experience may include fundraising via financing, grants, or contracts, as well as regulatory experience, and strong scientific background similar to the focus of the individual company.

According to, the average annual CSO salary in the U.S. is $163,078, with a reported range of $85,284 to $268,744.

5. Specialists in Biotechnology

This is less specific. Strout notes that biotech companies are growing, with global spending projected to exceed $220 billion by 2017. He also points out that there are changes within the industry, with math and IT expertise growing.

That is consistent with a recent BioSpace article that noted that digital technology was one of the biggest areas of job growth in biopharma, especially data science and bioanalytics. Jared Kaleck, senior director at executive search company Klein Hersh International, told BioSpace, “It’s a very hot area of science right now. And extremely competitive marketplace. And there certainly are a tremendous amount of opportunities for, not just people that have a lot of experience in pharma biotech, but for people who are coming out of academic research labs that are well respected, in research organizations like Broad Institute or Dana-Farber, places like that.”

And it perhaps goes without saying that there are always going to be specialty areas within different niches of the industry, whether microbiology, biotechnology, pharmacology, toxicology, biomedical engineering, tissue banking and others. Biopharma and life sciences are very broad industries. One example is biopharma manufacturing jobs. Darren Dasburg, Boulder Manufacturing Center Site Director of AstraZeneca , told BioSpace, “One study I’ve seen shows the industry of manufacturing professionals growing from 15,000 people today to 30,000 by 2023 due largely to the pipeline of new biologics products on the horizon. That is reinforced by the more than $19 billion in biotech plants currently under construction around the world.”

Pay range: Because these aren’t terribly specific, it’s hard to provide a range. According to The Scientist’s 2015 Life Sciences Salary Report, average salaries ranged from $55,140 for Research Technician to $129,007 for Senior Researcher in nonacademic positions. For industry positions, excluding chief executive officers, the average annual salary of a senior researcher was $132,672 and the average annual salary of a vice president was $391,095.

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a data scientist is $113,436. Those positions are not exclusive to life science companies. In a 2014 article written by Matt Asay for Readwrite titled, “Why Data Scientists Get Paid So Much,” writes, “It’s not surprising that data scientists get paid so much. After all, they’re extraordinarily hard to find, given the combination of skills necessary to do data science well.”

Whatever the area of interest, jobs in the life sciences appear to be booming.

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