Smart Biotech Careers for Job Seekers With No PhD

Published: Jun 09, 2017

Smart Biotech Careers for Job Seekers with No PhD June 8, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

There is often an assumption that to work in a biopharmaceutical company, you need to have a PhD. There’s some truth to that. If your desire is to run a research section at a biotech or pharmaceutical company, odds are you’re going to need a PhD and potentially post-doctoral experience.

However, it’s not true that there are no science jobs for people with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in biopharma. It’s a very large industry with biotech companies employing a handful of people to large international biopharmaceutical companies that employ over 100,000 people worldwide.

One strong area for people with bachelor’s or master’s degrees—and in some cases even high school diplomas—is in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Philip Mericantante, Life Science Executive Recruiter for Adante Staffing, told BioSpace, “In general, there are a lot of manufacturing jobs at different levels, on your smaller scale as well as your commercial manufacturing conditions.”

He breaks pharma manufacturing into two broad levels. “You have, during manufacturing, in clinical manufacturing, a development piece. This is engineering, where you’re optimizing the process. Once you get to a certain level, off the research level and into development, this is where you go from a petri dish to a small biogenerator. Maybe one liter to 15 liters, not big massive 55-gallon drums.”

Those jobs can include engineers with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees as well as technicians and manufacturing associates.

Darren Dasburg, Boulder Manufacturing Center Site Director of AstraZeneca , told BioSpace, “Entry level positions include manufacturing operators and quality control analysts. Higher level positions requiring experience include senior quality control and quality assurance analysts, specialists, investigators, scientists, principal scientists, program managers, manufacturing specialists, process and facility engineers.”

And those jobs often require a bachelor’s degree. Common degrees are Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering, Life Sciences, and Technical Sciences.

And these are good-paying jobs. Mericantante said, “Research and development really is geared toward the master’s and PhD level, whereas manufacturing is more high school, associates, bachelor’s. If you have a biotechnology certificate, a high school degree or a bachelor’s degree and you’re on the manufacturing side, you can do really well. You can move up to a management, supervisor or manager level and make into the $100,000s. They do well.”

Other Positions

BioSpace currently lists
899 biopharma jobs requiring only a bachelor’s degree. Let’s take a look at just a few of them.

1. Biomedical Policy Analyst (or Business Systems Analyst).

An analyst identifies technology business needs, analyzes current enterprise solutions, and aligns the data with an integrated business model. They help in staging and planning project phases, assist in monitoring milestones, and provide strategy and solutions for a mix of business and technology goals. Glassdoor indicates that the national average annual salary for Business Systems Analysts is $66,282, with a low around $57,000 and a high around $105,000.

An example is Senior Business Systems Analyst (NCI) for Leidos Biomedical Research in Rockville, Maryland. The job calls for a bachelor’s degree, two years of progressively responsible management and technical experience, and strong communication and analytical skills.

2. Medical Affairs Specialist (or Regulatory Affairs Specialist).

The pharmaceutical industry is, as most people know, heavily regulated by the U.S. government and any other country’s government where they do business. Individuals with an interest in this can find plenty of job opportunities in biopharma writing, managing and preparing regulatory filings and ensuring that the company keeps to required regulatory procedures. PayScale indicates the median annual pay for Medical Affairs Specialist is $63,753, with a low of around $46,000 and a high around $91,076.

An example is Regulatory Affairs Specialist with Apex Life Sciences in Signal Hill, Calif.This position calls for a bachelor’s degree and four or more years of Regulatory Affairs experience preparing technical files, and a working knowledge of the European Union regulations.

3. Biochemist.

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies still hire plenty of people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees to work on the bench—to conduct assays, work with laboratory animals, and perform experiments under the direction of PhD and MD research leaders. And biochemistry is only one area—any science degree, such as biology, chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, pharmacology, toxicology and immunology would apply.

These types of jobs vary quite a bit depending on whether the positions are in industry as opposed to academia, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing the annual mean salary is $62,070, although some lows are around $45,000 and some highs go up to $158,410.

An example includes Protein Biochemist at Eli Lilly and Company in San Diego, Calif. The position requires a bachelor’s degree with two years of experience or a master’s degree in Immunology, Pharmacology, Biochemistry or similar area. They need hands-on experience in development, optimization, validation and execution of immunoassays, data collection, data analysis and presentation.

4. Biomedical Engineer.

Biomedical engineers design various equipment and devices used in biopharma or medical devices themselves. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the
median annual pay for biomedical engineers in 2016 was $85,620 with a job outlook from 2014 to 2024 of 23 percent growth, much faster than average.

An example of a position is Biomedical/Imaging Engineer for Avelas BioSciences in La Jolla, Calif. The position calls for a bachelor’s degree Engineering, Physics or related discipline with three or more years of experience. The company is looking for a Research Bioengineer to “support development of fluorescence imaging systems for research and clinical use.”

5. Research Associate (non-PhD).

And in a position related to that described for Biochemist, there are a number of non-PhD level research associates. They fall somewhere in-between the research leader and a technician, being more actively involved in data analysis and experiment design. Glassdoor reports national average annual salaries of $51,818 with a minimum around $37,000 and a high around $106,000.

An example is Senior Research Associate, Flow Cytometry (non-PhD) for Pfizer in Pearl River, N.Y.This position calls for a bachelor of science degree or related field with six or more years of experience or a master’s degree with five or more years of experience, with specific experience in flow cytometry with modern multi-laser flow cytometers and demonstrated expertise in polychromatic flow cytometry. The position states, “Incumbent will be responsible for the development and qualification of novel, multi-color flow cytometry assays in support of various Pfizer vaccine programs from vaccine discovery through clinical development.”

Job Outlook

Biopharma business is booming. Some of it is simply driven by advances in drug development—molecular genetics, high-throughput screening, big data analytics, precision medicine—as well as an aging population that requires more drugs.

published a study at the end of 2014 that was based on field market research, and 2015 economic projections and market trends. At that time, there were about 14,000 pharma job openings in the U.S., with “an average ratio of 14 candidates per job opening.”

A little more recently, the numbers haven’t changed much. Dasburg 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.”

And that means jobs.

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