Top 10 Biotech Careers Ranked

Top 10 Biotech Careers Ranked

November 26, 2014
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

It’s been a booming year for biotech, as the capital markets have continued their climb to record levels and more biotechs have had initial public offerings—or exited for the tune of billions—than even a decade ago. But as the sector continues to evolve, what are the best bets for your career?

BioSpace parsed both data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the 11th Annual Report and Survey of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Capacity and Production from BioPlan Associates, a global analysis of 238 biomanufacturers and 178 suppliers in 31 countries.

The respondents to the report are certainly in a position to know; 88 percent had titles of vice president, director or president/CEO. Almost 36 percent of those were VPs or directors of manufacturing, production and operations, while directors and managers primarily involved in process development made up 35.9 percent. The largest numbers of respondents, nearly 50 percent, were from organizations with greater than 5,000 employees.

So what do all these companies want? The answers were clear—the top 10 biotech careers are listed below, so take a look and decide how you want to plan your career to catch the next big biotech wave. The list below is ranked by how much demand for the job is projected to grow by 2022 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Biomedical Engineers
Biomedical engineers analyze and design solutions to problems in biology and medicine, with the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of patient care. The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,960 in May 2012. Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

2. Medical and Clinical Technicians or Technologists
Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances. The median annual wage for medical laboratory technologists was $57,580 in May 2012. The median annual wage for medical laboratory technicians was $37,240 in May 2012. Employment of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022. “An increase in the aging population will lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures,” projects the BLS.

3. Biophysicists and Biochemists
Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, and heredity. The median annual wage for biochemists and biophysicists was $81,480 in May 2012. Employment of biochemists and biophysicists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022.

“There are estimated to be over 10,000 therapeutics in R&D, both drugs (chemical substance pharmaceuticals) and biopharmaceuticals (biotechnology-derived pharmaceuticals), with nearly 40,000 ongoing (or recently reported) clinical trials. Among these, an estimated 40 percent or likely over 4,000-5,000 candidate products in R&D are biopharmaceuticals,” showed the data.

4. Medical Scientists
Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings. Medical scientists typically need a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science, from an accredited postsecondary institution. Some also have a medical degree. The median annual wage for medical scientists except epidemiologists was $76,980 in May 2012. Employment of medical scientists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022.

“An increased reliance on pharmaceuticals, greater affluence that allows for more spending on medicine—along with a larger and aging population, and a greater understanding of biological processes are all factors that are expected to increase demand for medical scientists,” estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

5. Epidemiologists
Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. Some do fieldwork to conduct interviews and collect samples for analyses. Fieldwork may bring epidemiologists into contact with infectious disease, but they very rarely get sick or suffer contagion. Epidemiologists need at least a master’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution. Most epidemiologists have a master’s in public health (MPH) or a related field, and some have a doctoral training in epidemiology. The median annual wage for epidemiologists was $65,270 in May 2012. Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

6. Bio Technicians
Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments. Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. It is important for prospective biological technicians to gain laboratory experience while in school. The median annual wage for biological technicians was $39,750 in May 2012. Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022.

7. Microbiologists
Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They usually work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct scientific experiments and analyze the results. The median annual wage for microbiologists was $66,260 in May 2012. Employment of microbiologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

8. Process Development and R&D Scientists
Research and development scientists are usually supervise the manufacturing process in a company or organization’s lab. Overseeing lab technicians, they usually are team leaders who use well-honed communication and organizational skills to shepherd projects from fruition to completion. Pay grades can vary depending on areas of expertise but start at $74,292 and up.

“This year, as in 2013 and prior years, survey results show that companies are spending and investing more in their R&D, new technologies, bioprocessing capacity, staff and other infrastructure,” said the survey. “Companies, particularly larger and more established ones, are continuing to aggressively look for opportunities to cut costs and increase efficiency, with this continuing to benefit contract manufacturing and research organizations (CMOs and CROs).”

9. Regulatory QA/QC Biomanufacturing Specialists
Regulatory QA/QC biomanufacturing specialist have a lot of responsibilities and their salaries reflect that—median income is $84,652. Companies or organizations entrust them with guaranteeing that all criteria and requirements are met as the manufacturing process is conducted. They need to have a thorough knowledge of manufacturing, data collection, import/export and product registration and safety rules. Now more than ever these specialists need to have a global focus.

“The world market for biopharmaceuticals is now about $190 billion; growing at roughly 15 percent annually, definitely a very healthy rate,” said the BioPlan report. “New products and new markets, particularly internationally, continue to support market growth. The world market for recombinant protein therapeutics is now around $115 billion.”

10. Bioproduction Operators
Bioproduction operators are the last stop for a product before it hits the public’s stores and homes. They oversee the manufacturing, packaging and shipping of products and they ensure that anything leaving a company with its brand on it meets all quality standards is in pristine condition. Median income is $81,480.

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