Top 5 Best U.S. Cities for Life Science Research Associate Jobs

Published: Oct 07, 2016

Top 5 Best U.S. Cities for Life Science Research Associate JobsOctober 6, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

There are many ways of deciding which city or region is best for you—nearby family, weather, traffic, housing prices and, of course, jobs. Life science grads looking for research associate jobs in the U.S. may take into account all of those or only some.

“Research Associate” is a fairly broad term, and can refer to anyone involved in research in some sort of life sciences. That would include universities, biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, contract research organizations (CROs), among others.

Regardless of the company type, be it at a biotech startup or as a clinical research associate at a CRO, a research associate position is often a good entry point into the life sciences industry for a recent grad.

Degree levels for research associate also range widely from associate, bachelor, PhD and MD. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) lumps them into life, physical and social science occupations. Research associates with associate’s degrees working as agricultural and food science technicians earned a 2015 median pay of $36,480 while biochemists and biophysicists with doctoral or professional degrees earned a 2015 median pay of $82,150.

Jobs

Research associate jobs generally are located in strong regions for life sciences jobs overall.

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News recently pulled together five variables from a number of sources to create a list of the “Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters.” Those variables include NIH funding, laboratory space, venture capital funding, patents and jobs.

For 30 years, BioSpace has developed its Hotbed campaigns, which highlight thriving clusters in the life science industry. In a comparison of the two, there are significant overlaps, which we will discuss in finding the Top 5 Best U.S. Cities for Life Science Research Associate Jobs. Here’s a look.

First up, BioSpace wanted to isolate the number of actual life science jobs in the various regions from some of the other factors. For the most part, data on jobs was culled from JLL, a financial and professional services firm that specializes in commercial real estate services and investment management, which published a report, “United States Life Sciences Outlook – 2015.” At times, JLL’s figures didn’t quite match up with the jobs figures provided by other regional sources.

So, that said, the top 5 cities in the U.S. for life science jobs are:

RANK
LOCATION
NUMBER OF JOBS
SOURCE
1
New York/New Jersey
127,651
JLL
2
Los Angeles/Orange County, CA
117,284
JLL
99,049
CLSA
3
Boston/Cambridge, MA
82,075
JLL
60,459
MassBio
4
San Diego, CA
63,700
JLL
34,000+
San Diego Regional EDC
38,061
CLSA
5
San Francisco Bay Area
63,158
JLL
63,907
CLSA

A couple points are worth considering. First, three of these sectors are in California, with a combined 244,142 life science jobs by JLL’s count. Second, there isn’t a lot of granularity in terms of exactly what types of jobs these are, but it’s likely that the New York/New Jersey jobs tend to be more in big pharma, whereas the California and Boston jobs are more in the biotech area.

And third, notice the overlap with BioSpace’s HotBeds:

RANK
LOCATION
HOTBED
EXAMPLE COMPANY
1
New York/New Jersey
Pharm Country
Johnson & Johnson
2
Los Angeles/Orange County
Biotech Beach
Amgen
3
Boston/Cambridge
Genetown
Biogen
4
San Diego
Biotech Beach
Dart NeuroScience
5
San Francisco Bay
Biotech Bay
Gilead

For a little more information on the Hotbeds:

Pharm Country is in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Well known life science employers in Pharm Country include Novartis, Regeneron, Amicus Therapeutics, and academic institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Cornell University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Biotech Beach focuses on San Diego and Southern California, and covers two of the top five regions, San Diego and Los Angeles. This region includes companies such as Amgen, the Lilly Biotechnology Center, the Southern California Biotechnology Center and Genea Biocells, as well as academic institutions such as UCLA, USC, UC Irvine and The Salk Institute.

Genetown is primarily Massachusetts, especially in the Boston and Cambridge area, very much a hotbed of biotech. Big names include AstraZeneca, Amgen, Moderna, Momenta, Biogen, Sanofi, Merck Research Laboratories and others. Academic institutions include Brigham and Women's Hospital, UMass Amherst, Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard.

Biotech Bay is in San Francisco and Northern California. Big names in this region include Roche/Genentech, Gilead, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, Jazz Pharma and many startups. Academic institutions include San Francisco State University, Stanford, UC Berkeley and the University of California San Francisco.

Money, Grants, Patents and Funding

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News also took into account the amount of NIH funding in each city, the square footage of laboratory space, the number of deals and total of venture capital funding and the number of patents granted.

NIH Funding (Source: NIH RePORT database)
RANK
LOCATION
NUMBER OF AWARDS
NIH
1
Boston/Cambridge
981
$591M
2
New York/New Jersey
826
$366M
3
San Francisco Bay Area
366
$230M
4
Maryland/DC Metro
457
$221M
5
Seattle
219
$218M

The Maryland/DC Metro is in the BioCapital Hotbed.

Companies in the BioCapital Hotbed include MedImmune, VirginiaBio, and institutions include the FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), George Washington University, Virginia Tech and Johns Hopkins University.

Seattle falls inside the BioForest Hotbed. The BioForest Hotbed includes Gilead, Dynavax, Bend Research, Full Spectrum, as well as the University of Washington and the Oregon Health Sciences University, to just name a few.

Laboratory Space

Laboratory Space is something of a moving target (as is the number of jobs), due to biotech startups looking for space, and companies and institutions adding space, and real estate developers specializing in the life sciences building new hosting facilities. The top five are:

(Source: JLL)
RANK
LOCATION
SQUARE FEET
1
Boston/Cambridge
16.77MMSF
2
San Francisco Bay Area
16.36MMSF
3
New York/New Jersey
16.36MMSF
4
Greater Philadelphia
11.01MMSF
5
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
9.92MMSF


Venture Capital

Venture capital is a reflection of biotech startups, for the most part. Data from VC funding was pulled from 2015 data published by MoneyTree Report.

RANK
LOCATION
VC FUNDING
NUMBER OF DEALS
1
San Francisco Bay Area
$2.67B
118
2
Boston/Cambridge
$2.03B
103
3
San Diego
$552M
32
4
New York/New Jersey
$340.09M
25
5
Maryland/DC Metro
$362M
19

Patents

The source for patent information was based on patents that contained the word “biotechnology” awarded since 1976 in the cities and/or suburbs where companies are located.

RANK
LOCATION
NUMBER OF PATENTS
1
San Francisco Bay Area
9,559
2
Boston/Cambridge
5,634
3
Maryland/DC Metro
3,959
4
San Diego
3,922
5
New York/New Jersey
3,522


Top 5 Cities for Research Associate Jobs

Traditionally, Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area are viewed as the two biggest hotspots for biopharma. The proximity to top talent, world-class research institutions and venture capital has made those two areas on opposite sides of the country the most dominant clusters for companies big and small. Although it’s not completely clear how Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News weighted the various factors, Boston/Cambridge and the Bay Area still top the lists. Here are the top 5 cities where you can expect to find the highest concentration of research associate jobs:

RANK
LOCATION
RESEARCH ASSOCIATE JOBS
1
Boston/Cambridge
Jobs
2
San Francisco Bay Area
Jobs
3
New York/New Jersey
Jobs
4
Maryland/DC Metro
Jobs
5
San Diego
Jobs

Boston/Cambridge ranked No. 1 in both NIH Funding and Lab Space, No. 2 for both Venture Capital Funding and Patents and No. 3 for total number of Jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Area ranked No. 3 for NIH Funding, No. 2 for Lab Space, No. 1 for both Venture Capital and Patents and No. 5 for Jobs.

New York/New Jersey ranked No. 2 for NIH Funding, No. 3 for Laboratory Space, No. 4 for Venture Capital spending, No. 5 for Patents and No. 1 for most number of life science Jobs.

The Maryland/DC Metro Area ranked No. 4 for NIH Funding, No. 6 for Laboratory Space, No. 5 for Venture Capital deals, No. 3 for Patents and No. 8 for Jobs.

San Diego ranked No. 9 for NIH Funding, No. 7 for Lab Space, No. 3 for Venture Capital deals, No. 4 for Patents and No. 4 for most life science Jobs.

Rounding out the list were Greater Philadelphia at (No. 6), Seattle (7), Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina (8), Los Angeles/Orange County, California (9) and Chicago (10).

What this data most strongly indicates is that the U.S. continues to have a vibrant, robust life science employment market with a broad range of available jobs in most regions around the country. Recent grads looking for research associate jobs will have to weigh numerous factors—family, weather, traffic, housing prices and more—to see what city is best for them.

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