Top 10 Best Locations for Life Science Jobs in the World

Top 10 Best Locations

The biopharma industry is global, with the biggest companies often operating in dozens of countries. As a result, for those people with an interest in international living, the U.S. is only one option for careers in the life sciences.

Proclinical, a life sciences recruitment company, evaluated the worldwide life science industry, taking into account country revenue, how innovative the life science industry is in various countries, and the number of life science jobs available in both domestic and international life science companies. It created a Top 10 list of the best locations for life science jobs globally. Let’s take a look.

Top 10 Best Locations for Life Science Jobs in the World

United States
United Kingdom (UK)


Although there are biopharma companies all over the country, the two largest hubs for biotech companies are in Boston and San Francisco. The U.S. pharmaceutical market accounts for 45 percent of the global market.

1. United States

Perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. ranks at the top. Life science sales hit $450 billion last year and six of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in the U.S., including Pfizer, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. Those three companies alone account for more than 240,700 jobs worldwide.

2. Germany

In 2016, Germany’s pharmaceutical revenue hit $40.7 billion and is expected to grow to $65 billion by 2020. Bayer AG is the biggest pharma company in the country, and employs approximately 30,000 at 19 locations in Germany alone. Bayer has about 115,200 people worldwide. The country spends about $6 billion each year in research and development, with about 8 percent of life science jobs falling within R&D. 

Bayer is definitely a dominant player in the country, but other well-known companies such as BioTek Instruments, Roche, Merck KGaA, Abbott, CureVac, SanofiPfizer and GE Healthcare have a large presence there as well.

3. France

When most people think of France’s biopharma industry, the first thought is usually Sanofi. Other companies have bases there, including Takeda and Otsuka, both Japanese companies, as well as Bayer, Eli Lilly and Ipsen. The French pharma industry employs about 99,000 people directly, with about 20,000 of them working in R&D. In particular, France is noted for its leadership in vaccine development, employing another 23,000 people to manage more than 750 vaccine projects globally.

4. Singapore

This may be surprising, given the relatively small size of the country, but the biopharma industry employs about 6,000 people in Singapore, with another 9,000 in the medical technology sector. The country invested $16 billion between 2011 and 2015 to build its research and innovation in medical devices and pharma. Companies with a presence there include Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

5. Switzerland

Two of Switzerland’s dominant pharma employers are global powerhouses—Novartis and Roche. In 2015, the Swiss life sciences industry employed more than 40,000 people at over 240 companies. Total R&D expenditures in 2015 hit 22,059 CHF (Swiss francs). Other prominent companies with operations in Switzerland include Charles River Laboratories, Aptuit, Caris Life Sciences, CRISPR Therapeutics, Lonza, UBC and Alcon.

6. Japan

Proclinical claims that the rise of Japan’s pharmaceutical industry is related to an ageing population, but it’s a country that’s always been noted for technology development. In 2017, the pharmaceutical industry in Japan has projected 17 percent growth. The country’s pharmaceutical market is currently at about $70 billion and expected to increase to $72 billion by 2020. Just a few of the pharma companies in Japan include Takeda, Daiichi Sankyo, Chugai, and Mitsubishi Tanabe.

7. Italy

Noted for pharmaceutical manufacturing and strength in European exports, Italy employs around 62,000 people in the life sciences industry. Italy’s pharmaceutical market in 2016 was around $21.3 billion, up about 6 percent from the previous year. Proclinical writes, “The country is facing fierce competition from emerging markets such as Brazil and China, yet the strong presence of many top 10 global pharmas in Italy, such as Pfizer and AbbVie, will help to boost R&D.”

This year, GEN compared Italy’s biopharma output to other European countries, and ranked it second for published research, eight for patents, and ninth for number of life science companies with 290 biotechs.

8. United Kingdom (UK)

Two of the biggest global biopharmaceutical companies are in the UK, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. In 2015, biopharma and medical device industries generated 30.4 billion pounds for the UK economy. The industry employed about 73,000 people as of 2017, and the country’s market size is expected to grow from $28.6 billion in 2015 to $43 billion by 2020. However, the upcoming and still controversial “Brexit,” is complicating matters. Proclinical writes, “Since the country voted to leave the European Union in 2016, UK pharma faces uncertainty as deals are yet to be made over tariff-free access to European markets. To counteract the changing pharmaceutical landscape following Brexit, the government has increased investment into R&D by 2 billion pounds per year and is looking to create more opportunity within biotechnology and e-health industries.”

As of this writing, the UK is scheduled to leave the Europe Union (EU) on March 30, 2019. What makes this even more complicated for the UK and EU is that the headquarters for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU’s equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is in London. At this point the EMA and the European Commission are working to make sure that operations continue unaffected through the transition.

9. Spain

Homegrown biopharma companies include Genomica, Esteve, and Almirall, but Spain also has sites for Sanofi and Merck. The country has around 200,000 life science jobs, with about 37,000 being direct jobs. In 2015, the Spanish government invested 1.2 billion euros into life sciences, with about 40 percent of that going into research collaborations with hospitals and academic institutions. Approximately 4,000 people work in R&D, with about a 50/50 split between men and women. The country’s pharmaceutical industry is projected to increase from $23.7 billion in 2016 to $25.1 billion in 2021.

10. Canada

Per-capita pharmaceutical consumption and spending is high in Canada, the result of an ageing population. Sales are expected to hit $20.3 billion by 2020. Its domestic pharmaceutical and manufacturing market employs more than 26,000 people, with another 100,000 indirectly employed. The Ontario province itself has almost 2,000 life science companies that employ 60,000 people, with 28,000 of those people working within pharmaceutical companies. Canadian-built companies include Apotex and Colbalt, but Novartis and Pfizer, as well as other international companies, such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals, also have operations in Canada. Valeant’s global headquarters are located in Canada.


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