Is Another Degree Necessary After Your PhD?

Posted in Career Advice

There was an interesting article in Science Careers Magazine this week entitled “Should you consider another degree after your PhD.” The article traces the journey of several people who earned PhD degrees in science-related fields who transitioned into new careers including law, regulatory affairs, business development and science writing.

The gist of the article is that if you can afford the costs of earning another degree, it may be worth it for persons with PhD degrees who want to get “out of the lab.” However, based on my own experiences and those of the persons mentioned in the article, most graduate students and postdocs lack the financial resources to enroll in professional degree or certificate programs after completing their PhD programs. Consequently, most of the people showcased in the article were able to leverage unpaid internships and volunteer work into new jobs that paid for additional training or professional degree programs.

I have long posited that obtaining another degree after a PhD degree may not be in a  best interest of PhD degree holders for a variety of reasons. First, as mentioned above, the financial obligations of a degree or certificate program may be too onerous  or unrealistic for graduate students who worked for minimum wage for many years to obtain their PhD degrees; the funds simply are not available. Second, by the time a PhD degree is award and postdoctoral training is completed, most science PhD degree holders are in their mid 30s to early 40s and ,in many cases have families,which may not be conducive to going back to school full time. Also, who wants to be a student for most of their adult lives? Finally, the mere exhaustion and stress associated with spending close to 10 years in a laboratory may discourage even most ambitious individuals from pursuing another degree or certificate. Put simply, there may not be “enough gas left in the tank” to obtain another degree in the hopes of possibly a changing a career trajectory.

Based on my experience as an instructor in a program offered to PhD students and postdocs who had already decided that a research career was not for them, internships, volunteer work and an unrelenting pursuit of an alternate career is probably the best way to navigate a career change. What I observed about all of the students in this program (over 70% of them obtained non-research jobs after completing their PhD degrees with no postdoctoral training) was that they were highly motivated and did whatever was necessary to network and leverage the resources offered to them by the program (which included mixers, invitations to professional meetings, and guest speakers outside of the research world including pharmaceutical executives, venture capitalist, medical writers and clinical study managers) to get “where they wanted to go”.  For example, one student, who was interested in regulatory affairs, went to the dean of her medical school to get the funds necessary to go to a national regulatory affairs meeting rather than attending an annual society meeting to present her research findings. Today, she is a director of regulatory affairs at a major biotechnology company. Another student, wrote reviews for an online financial services company regarding the technology behind various private and publicly traded biotechnology companies as a graduate student, now works for a financial service company as an analyst. Finally, another student who was interested in technology transfer was able to leverage an unpaid internship in his university’s technology transfer office into a full time job (he is now a director of the office).

The bottom line: while obtaining another degree or certificate may better position you for a possible career change, it may not be emotionally or financially possible or likely. That said, rather than fantasizing about what may have been if you simply chose law or medicine or business over a graduate career in science, you best shot at changing the direction of your career may be to identify alternative career options and obtaining the necessary skillsets, qualifications and real life experience to make it a reality, Once you have identified those things, the next step is to devise a financially-viable plan to obtain them and then spend the majority of your waking hours successfully implementing the plan. It won’t be easy but as the old adage goes “if there is a will then there is a way.”

Until next time……

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Tales and Musings From A Life Sciences Job Seeker: The PhD Industry Career Gap

Posted in Career Advice

Ryan Raver, PhD author of the Grad Student Way blog and formerly of the University of Wisconsin_Madison (my alma mater) posted a piece on his blog about his personal discoveries and revelations about searching for an industrial life sciences jobs.  In my opinion, Ryan’s piece is one of the best that I have read to date that provides a reality-based road map for recently-minted PhDs who want to eschew a postdoc and enter the life sciences industry (he is now working for Sigma in St. Louis, MO)

Ryan has allowed me to reproduce his brilliant piece on BioJobBlog.  Also, I recommend that you visit his blog which is choc full of great ideas and strategies for graduate students considering careers outside of academia.

5 Ways to Gain Valuable Skills Outside of Your Academic Training

November 14, 2013 by 

The PhD Industry Career Gap

We already know that the PhD Market is saturated, and articles that “promote awareness” or point out the PhD-Industry Gap are a dime a dozen. What’s missing from the equation are the solutions.  The reality is that the first job that you obtain directly out of graduate school is the most crucial. It is also the most difficult. Therefore you need to be aware of all of your possible options.

The odds are against you. You look like a science person. You want to go into industry but they look at you as an academic with only one marketable skill: bench science.

The doom and gloom articles aren’t going to help you get anywhere. And frankly, I think we are all just tired of reading them.  Many experienced working professionals are aware of what the market looks like, but as long as they are employed, who wants to think about what they could have faced?

The newly minted PhD is experiencing the hardships right now and searching for answers. The reality is that many just don’t know how to provide real practical solutions and the attitude is that “hard work” will get you to where you need to be. And it’s “good luck” to you because you are entirely on your own.

If you could rewind and go back a few years maybe you wish you knew all this sooner rather than later. Maybe you finally decided to join the 85% club and face reality (only 15% will land a tenure-track position within 5 years). But you need to put the past behind you and move on.

The bottom line is that if you have the right personality, drive, leadership, and strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well in a team environment, then breaking into a field of your choice is very feasible. You just need the know-how. This ‘right personality’ will be valuable as you work in a team and develop your needed skill set(s) that will carry with you into your future career. Although there is a glut of capable job seekers, do not let this discourage you.

Before we dive deeper, you need to understand that there is no set career path, and everyone’s career path is UNIQUE. Many working professionals stumble into their current career path by accident, chance, change of interests/goals, life situation, or series of occurrences. But hopefully with the advice given, you will find your calling.

If you ask, let’s say an experienced manager in industry, how they got to where they are today-many will tell you that they did not plan on jumping into their field directly from their PhD. That’s because the majority of PhDs don’t really do any career planning. You’ll jump into the postdoc only to leave after you spent X amount of years figuring out what you truly want to do. During graduate school, the focus is on getting the PhD and the attitude is that things will just unfold and work themselves out. This can continue throughout the postdoc position(s).

There is a sense of entitlement among PhD’s. Their ego takes ahold of them. “I worked this hard, therefore I deserve this position or X amount of salary.”  Guess what? You have to pay your dues just like everyone else.  The PhD doesn’t guarantee you the job, and although you may have published a Nature paper, it doesn’t add any value to a company or client (and when you hand your business card to a customer, they see your name, company, your position title, letters next to your name, and nothing else). The real question is can you work well in a team? Can you communicate effectively without putting yourself above others? Once you realize there is a bigger picture than just YOU and how you are just a piece of the puzzle, than you will finally start to see the benefits.  Be someone who under-promises and over-delivers.

There is also a backwards strategy that many PhDs take on during their career search. They focus on the position and match that up to the company. The problem with this is that it takes the focus off how you can add value to a company. It becomes more about you. The point is that if the position that you obtain within the company will add the most value based on your strengths and contributions, then it is the best fit. Therefore, when doing your job searchfocus on the company first, how you can add value, then backtrack to find the correct position. This means you should have multiple roles in mind that play on your strengths and not just one. If you haven’t figured this out yet, here is what you missed earlier.

When it comes to a resume or cover letter, there is too much emphasis placed on these two items. They are simply a tool to get you an interview and nothing else. Once you reach that interview stage, you need to get over what is written on your resume and focus on the value that you can add to a company. Not brag about what you did with your thesis work. No one really cares to hear about your thesis anymore.  A PhD is a training program to help you develop as a scientist and launch your career.

If you are banging your head against the wall that’s probably because you aren’t doing it right. Or you just lack the marketable skills to crossover (which is discussed later in this article). Or it could be a combination of both.

To quote Donald Asher who is author of Cracking the Hidden Job Market, “You get a job by talking to people: You don’t get a job by having a great resume, a good interview look, a firm handshake, or a solid education. You get a job because you get in front of somebody and they decide to add you to the payroll. Most job seekers look for jobs by talking to computer software. It’s faster to talk to people. People are more likely to pass you along than computers are. Computers are picky. People are helpful.”

You can beat the odds. Frankly, you have to beat the odds.

“The United States quit creating jobs more than a decade ago. Then the Great Recession hit, which I date from September 14, 2008, when Lehman Brothers failed. This smacked down workers even more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1999 and 2009 the U.S. economy created only 121,000 new jobs, a growth rate of .01 percent/year. A decade to create 121,000 net new jobs! It takes 125,000 new jobs per month  to keep up with the population growth alone. It will take considerable time to create enough jobs to absorb the 30 million people who are unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged and off the market.”

The economy is exacerbating anxieties. A survey done in 2012 in Nature shows the concerns of many scientists around the world as the global recession squeezes research budgets. The shortfall in grant funding is nothing new, but many will soon realize that industry offers many attractive ‘alternative’ career options.  On the bright side, the unemployment rate for PhD’s is below 4%. But getting a PhD doesn’t mean that you are immune to economic hardships or the struggles of finding a job.

Half of PhD candidates in the life science and engineering field still requireseven years or more to complete their degree. If you have invested all this time and have decided to finish, don’t you want to see a return on your investment without ‘giving up’ even more years of your life? In other words, if you don’t plan on staying in academia, why are you spending 5+ years as a postdoc?

So the question becomes, how can you beat the odds? What can you do NOW as a PhD student or postdoc that will give you the marketable skills to crossover? And when you gain these marketable skills, how can you couple this with NETWORKING so that you are tapping into the “hidden job market”?

Solutions to Beat The Odds

Now that you are aware of the problems and what you will be faced with or are going through, there needs to be solutions that give you an edge.

If you haven’t already, make sure you read the article: “The missing piece to changing the university culture.” The biggest challenge that we are faced with today as PhD students is a culture change:

70% of life science PhDs pursue a postdoc after graduation (based on 2010 data) which means that PhDs are unsure of their careers and/or unequipped for a nonacademic career. 40% of graduate students are indifferent or unsatisfied with their graduate school experience. Current PhD programs will continue to train primarily for an academic career. But this is a ‘false hope,’ and you may be in your mid-30’s until you’ve come to realize this and decided to make a change. It is time that Universities, faculty, and professors stop looking the other way when it comes to fixing the problem.

The Biotechnology and Life Science Advising (BALSA) group was founded in 2010 by a group of dissatisfied postdocs and graduate students. The result is that through their collaborative efforts, they have developed a model where post-docs and graduate students work with startups in the form of 6 to 8 week consulting projects. The result? BALSA has worked with 37 companies and 53 projects. Graduate students and postdocs are coming out with real world business experience.

Even researchers with NO prior business knowledge are making valuable contributions to both early and late stage companies. As a PhD student or postdoc, you are trained to analyze and think critically. The best part is that BALSA’s partnership with Washington University in Saint Louis and the Office of Technology Management has provided Universities and Principal Investigators as a means to commercialize their work.

Although BALSA’s efforts look promising, we are still left with the question as to whether these efforts can be expanded on a national level. Also, are they sustainable? Will Universities and Professors push more for the adoption of these efforts? Only time will tell.

The bottom line is that you aren’t going to sit around and wait for BALSA to come along to your University. So in the meantime, you have to go create these opportunities on your own. BALSA may give you hands-on experience (via projects) with industry challenges, business concepts, competitive intelligence and market analysis, technology due diligence, regulatory affairs, project management, and licensing/business plan development. Does this sound like a checklist of wishful thinking? Well, there is nothing stopping you from gaining some or a combination of these skills and experience during your time as a graduate student/postdoc.

So here are the top 5 solutions to gain valuable skills outside of your academic training and beat the odds once you get your PhD:

1)      Consider Consulting

There are many consulting opportunities available for scientists. These many options span freelance work, working for a consulting firm or even starting your own consulting company. Whichever that may be, I would highly recommend doing freelance consulting work during your PhD. This could shuttle you into a management consulting position upon graduation.

Find a unique skill set that you are good at and offer your services to a company. If you need an example, check out how a graphic illustrator/scientific visual communicator went freelance during and out of graduate school.

Another example is self-taught SEO or social media marketing consulting. Many companies (including start-ups) are blogging and doing digital marketing, and learning the ropes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. If you are already running a professional blog (all PhD students should!), you have already learned how to effectively run social media and marketing campaigns, and chances are you could do part-time work offering your services. You are also developing your technical writing skills in addition to sharing scientific ideas and making worldwide network contacts.

**Management consulting can be an excellent way to put your analytical and scientific training to use while you develop your business expertise. If you have the passion to innovate, drive change, and help companies be more successful, it might be the career choice for you. You will learn how to lead teams, manage people, and take on challenging and interesting problems. The connections that you make with top business professionals will also open doors to future career opportunities. And, your hard work and efforts could also have a huge impact on the future direction of the company.

Further Reading:

http://www.branchingpoints.com/one-branch-ahead/phd-to-consulting/

http://www.phdcareerguide.com/consulting.html

http://www.phd2consulting.com/

2)      Consider doing a summer internship during your PhD studies or during your postdoc

As mentioned in a previous article, the most practical solution for many is to obtain a paid internship (ideally) during your time in graduate school. Internships are CRUCIAL and I cannot stress enough that graduate students and post-docs should take a summer off (or balance the internship 50% and graduate school 50%) and obtain industry experience. That way you will come out with real-world industry experience and some marketable skills. You need to negotiate and leverage this in any way that you can.

A lot of companies are willing to try you out for a short 3 months. That initial spark will come from their interest in you via informational interviews (see below). Chances are if they like you at the end of the internship, you might also have an offer waiting for you upon graduation at that same company.

The first step to land an internship position is to do informational interviews and start networking. You can read more about informational interviews here. Read: How To Network and Add Value to Yourself and Others to get a good starting point. Just because internship positions aren’t posted doesn’t mean they can’t be created or they don’t exist. Ask around and you’ll be surprised what you will find.

Internships also boost Postdocs’ skills and really add to their marketability. The challenge as any might imagine, is getting your PI to agree.

3)      Consider auditing or taking business classes, participating in workshops, or leading/organizing business events on campus.

If you are a science person, then take a business class and start networking with business professors and MBA students. If not business, find a secondary interest and step out of your comfort zone. Get involved in patent law, tech transfer, computer programming, or entrepreneurial classes. This will come down solely to you and your interests. Many business professors will allow you to sit in their class even if you aren’t taking the class for credit. Entrepreneurial management classes for example, will expose you to writing business plans and doing SWOT analysis, and growing local starts-ups via group projects.

4)      Start a side business, professional blog, develop a product, or find like-minded individuals preferably with an entrepreneurial mindset or business drive.

5)      Network every week. Then network some more.

Step 1: Network to obtain an internship and gain the marketable skills that you need

Step 2: Network to obtain a job post-PhD

Did you catch that? You need to network to create opportunities. Then you network to create more opportunities beyond that. During or after PhD, it doesn’t matter. If you lack marketable skills, you’ll need to network to obtain them or find out what those specific skills are. Even with internship experience under you belt, you will need to network beyond the PhD to land an industry position. Obviously, it is MUCH easier to use the power of networking when you already have the marketable skills to find an industry job versus networking from scratch (i.e. skipping Step 1 and jumping right into Step 2). But whatever stage you are in, it is never too late to start. There is no stopping when it comes to networking and the truth is that it is a lifelong process and requires continual effort.

PhD graduate students and postdocs simply don’t network enough. How can you understand the needs of a company if you don’t speak to people? How can you know the industry, the market, and the customer? Chances are a startup company in your area has a need. What value can you add to fulfill that need?  This ties into #2 above.

There are many more examples. The reality is that it is not impossible to create opportunities, take on an internship, do consulting, and/or run a professional blog during your PhD and come out with a huge leg up upon graduation. Those that do #1-#5 or a combination thereof will stand out from the crowd and will most likely beat out other PhD students who focused on nothing else but getting their degree. Chances are you will land a job in industry and work in a fulfilling career. Gaining the marketable skills to crossover is no easy task, but with hard work, patience, and the right connections anything is possible.

Keep pushing and you will see good things come your way.

Email me with any questions. Future article will be on how to transition into Product Management, Marketing, or Sales.


Further Reading:

Internships Boost Postdocs’ Skills, Worldliness, and Marketability

The PhD Industry Gap

Life after the PhD: Re-Train Your Brain

3 Things PhDs Leaving Academia Should Know About Business

Taking Charge of Your Career

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Seeking!!!!!!!!!

Alternate Careers: How To Become a Clinical Research Professional

Posted in BioBusiness, Career Advice

I am often asked about “hot” alternate career paths.  Sadly, even alternate career opportunities for PhD-trained scientists have waned in recent years. However, there is and will continue to be a rising demand for clinical research professionals. This is because life sciences companies are more keenly focused on drug development (which includes human clinical trials) than they are on drug discovery.

The transition from a basic to clinical research career is not an easy one; mainly because clinical research encompasses a wide and diverse range of skills that are often not offered to most graduate students or postdocs during their training.  That said, those of you who are willing to take the plunge should read a great article  entitled Training New Clinical Research Professionals To Work On The Front Line by Eduardo F.  Motti, MD in the July/August 2013 issue of Pharmaceutical Outsourcing Magazine.

Dr. Motti offers an incisive view of the burgeoning clinical research field and the skills sets and training that are required for persons interested in gaining employment in this field.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!

Healthcare and Social Media

Posted in Social Media

I received this infographic from an organization that is promoting a Masters of Public Health program.  It is interesting and I thought I would share it with BioJobBlog readers.
Healthcare and Social Media
Source: Healthcare and Social Media

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

Big Data and Jobs for Life Scientists

Posted in BioBusiness

Many recent articles in various publications including the lay media suggest that persons with quantitative skills and a firm grasp of the scientific method will be in high demand in the near future. This is because there is a current data surge coming from “sophisticated tracking of shipments, sales, suppliers and customers, as well e-mail, Web traffic and social network comments.” And, the quantity of business data has been estimated to double every 1.2 years!

According to a 2011 report Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity” put together by the McKinsey Global Institute, harvesting, managing, mining and analyzing “big new data sets” can lead to a new wave of innovation, accelerated productivity and economic growth. And, the place where this may be felt first is theUS healthcare system. The report asserts that better management of big data sets can lead to as much as $300 billion in savings. Also, American retail companies could possibly increase their operating profit margins by as much as 60 percent. However, one of the major hurdles to this paradigm shift is a talent and skills gap. TheUS alone will likely need 140,000 to 190,000 with expertise in statistical methods and data-analysis skills. McKinsey also notes that an additional 1.5 million data-literate manages will be required. Accordingly, “Every manager will really have to understand something about statistics and experimental design going forward,” noted one of the report’s authors.

As far as jobs for scientists in the healthcare realm are concerned, the report suggests that

“….the biggest slice of the $300 billion gain is expected to come from more effectively using data to inform treatment decisions. The tools include clinical decision support to assist doctors, and comparative effectiveness research to make more informed decisions on drug therapy.” That said, life scientists with backgrounds in statistical analyses, bioinformatics, genomics, public health, epidemiology and quantitative analysis will be ideal candidates for these new job opportunities.”

While these types of jobs (mainly health informatics) are certain to available in the future, it isn’t clear how soon. This is because the big-data trend has just begun and, according to economists, it may take years to recognize its financial advantages and benefits. In any event, it is something for life scientists who may be considering alternate career options, to think about. To that end, if you begin to train for these opportunities now, you may find yourself in the right place at the right time in the not-to-distant future.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

Alternate Career Options: Working For CROs and Biotech Startups

Posted in Career Advice

In today’s tough economy, one of the more challenging things after graduating college or graduate school is finding a job. Many life sciences graduates are beginning to realize that skills and training that they received in college have not adequately prepared them for jobs in the real world. Furthering, “previous industrial experience” is almost always a requirement for most jobs at pharma and biotechnology companies. As many students ask me “How can we get previous industrial experience if nobody will hire us to get that experience?”

While this may appear to be a typical “Catch 22” situation, it is not an insurmountable one A convenient way to acquire the requisite previous industrial experience is to volunteer or land an internship (paid or otherwise) at a small, local life sciences company. Many of these companies can use the help and will gladly give you an opportunity as long as they don’t have to pay you much. These companies conduct research for their pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients and are frequently willing to hire relatively inexperienced but talented scientists into entry level jobs. This is because the demand for well-trained scientists continues to grow at CROs as more and more pharma and biotechnology companies outsource R&D activities and continue to shed jobs.

Another option is to look for entry-level jobs at local start up companies. Typically, most of these companies are venture-backed and have limited financial resources. Consequently, salaries offered by these companies to employees are generally lower than those at CROs, biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, while you may not get paid as much as you expected or like, working as a research scientist at a start up company definitely counts as industry experience and it may help to jump start your career in the life sciences industry.

If you cannot get a job at aCROor a local start up, you can always start your own company! However, while this may sound like an exciting idea, it is probably a good idea get some entrepreneurial training before you take the leap.

Finally, it you cannot land a job at aCRO, a local start up or you are not interested in starting your own company, you can always go back to graduate school (not science related) or professional school. However, if you choose this path, then I highly recommend that you do some research to determine which jobs are likely to be in high demand over the next 5 to 10 years! While going to graduate school may help to defer repaying your undergraduate students loans, you run the risk of incurring more debt and possibly not have a job after you graduate unless you choose your next career option wisely.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

Alternate Careers: Patent Agents and Intellectual Property Attorneys

Posted in Career Advice

Times are tough for many in the legal profession these days. However, the demand for patent experts including attorneys and patent agents is skyrocketing. Openings for patent attorneys account for more than 15 percent of law firm job openings while only 3 percent of lawyers in the US specialize in this area. The bottom line: it is a great time to be a patent attorney or agent in today’s tough economy.

Not surprisingly, many patent attorneys (and agents) usually have a background in science or engineering. And, because of the scarcity of qualified applicants many law firms are doubling their recruiting spending to meet the growing demand for specialists in intellectual property (IP) and patents.

One of the reasons for the growing demand is passage of the America Invents Act, the largest overhaul in theUSpatent system in the past 60 years. The legislation which changes how patents are reviewed and process is spurring competition between firms to higher IP specialist to ease the transition pain. At present, there are over 230 IP openings among more than 1400 lawyer positions nationwide. Many of the openings have been unfilled for over 90 days and more are added daily.

Currently, there are about 40,000 patent attorneys and agents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In order to register with the USPTO agents and lawyers are required to pass the patent bar examination. While registered patent agents have taken and passed the exam, they are not lawyers who are required to pass state bar examinations to become licensed attorneys. For those of you who may not know, you don’t have to go to law school to take the patent bar exam nor is a law degree required to take individual state bar exams (however, person who are not law school graduate are likely not to pass the state tests). Patent agents can prepare patents and prosecute cases with the USPTO but cannot litigate in court or draw up contracts. There are roughly 1.2 million licensed patent attorneys in theUSaccording to the American bar association.

The greatest demand for IP attorneys and agents is in information and computing technology and the life sciences. Persons with PhD degrees in the life sciences can sometimes find work at IP and patent law firms. Also, you may be able to find work at a patent examiner with the USPTO! PhD degree holders who have passed the patent bar are even more desirable. However a law degree plus a PhD degree will almost certainly guarantee you employment at most IP firms. That said, before you decide to go to law school, I high recommend that you talk with IP professionals or read a few dozen patent applications (they can all be found at www.uspto.org) in your spare time. If you find the reading interesting or manage to stay awake after reading the fifth application than patent law may be a good choice for you. If not, I suggest that you consider other alternate career options.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Some Alternate Career Suggestions

Posted in Career Advice, Uncategorized

Since 2001, 300,000 pharma employees have lost their jobs, primarily in R&D and sales. That’s according to Clifford Mintz, the founder of BioInsights, which develops and offers bioscience education and training. While the losses have been steep, they’re balanced by emerging, in-demand careers in the industry.

The industry’s struggles are well-known: Many companies are facing loss of exclusivity on their biggest sellers but have little in the pipeline to pick up the slack. Productivity is dropping as the cost of bringing a new drug to market soars. Government and payors want more effective drugs for less money. The list goes on.

Developers are looking to new markets and new technologies to address these issues. But how do these trends play out for the pharma job seeker? Many people, particularly Ph.D.s, may have to consider getting additional training if they want to land their dream job. “Companies used to be willing to just hire smart people. But with the economic downturn and global competition, companies can no longer afford to invest in people who have promise. They need to see proven skills,” Mintz explained. With the right blend of skills and experience, however, there still some pharma jobs that are in demand.

Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

“Clinical research is the lifeblood of the industry,” Mintz said. As developers expand in emerging markets, there’s a particular demand for people to manage and organize overseas clinical trials. “There’s a huge need for clinical research professionals worldwide,” he said, noting that most Phase I and II trials are conducted outside of theU.S.

Another one of the industry’s perennial needs is regulatory affairs professionals. “Regulatory affairs experience is a skill that all companies large and small would die to get their hands on,” explained Mintz. The increasingly complex and uncertain world of FDA regulation–particularly when it comes to new technology and science–means that companies are always on the prowl for individuals with solid regulatory knowledge and ability to interact with the FDA. You can read more about the demand for clinical research and regulatory affairs jobs here.

Biomanufacturing

The pharma industry’s interest in biologics remains strong–just look at Sanofi’s buyout of Genzyme, or Roche’s purchase of Genentech. They’re lured by disease-altering biologics that are less likely to face generic competition than traditional drugs. As a result, there’s been increased demand for professionals who can navigate the complex world of biomanufacturing. Those with a background in upstream and downstream processes, large-scale protein purification, fermentation technology and bioengineering can make the transition to biomanufacturing.

Healthcare Information Technology

The rise of bioinformatics and genomics coupled with the push for electronic medical records has created jobs in healthcare information technology. Health informatics–the intersection of healthcare and IT–is ideal for people with expertise in genomics, bioinformatics or software that understand how to work with and manipulate large data sets and databases. The Obama administration has made EHRs a priority, and there’s a need for software engineers and biologists who are comfortable working with medical information.

Medical Devices

“The medical devices industry has been experiencing explosive growth for the past decade,” Mintz said. Regulatory hurdles in the medical device industry are much lower than they are for biologics or small molecules, making the industry a more stable alternative to biotech and pharma. The demand for devices, which address problems that can’t be treated with medicine, will continue to grow as the population ages. Job seekers with strong backgrounds in bioinformatics, genomics, engineering and translational medicine are best suited to this field.

Medical Communications

Medical communications–which includes medical writing, editing, graphic design and science journalism–continues to boom. The demand for these jobs has risen because companies need a slew of communication materials to send to patients, physicians, researchers, investigators and the general public about their products and business.

Patent Law and Technology Transfer

Recent changes toU.S.patent laws have increased the demand for patent agents and patent attorneys in the life sciences field. Pharma’s growing reliance on basic research from learning institutions means that there’s a need for technology transfer experts. These experts manage the patent estate and intellectual property of universities and colleges that may engage in licensing deals with the industry. A law degree is a must to compete in this field.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

Its Official: The US Doesn’t Need Any More PhD Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

I have been blogging about the glut of life sciences PhDs in the US for the past five years. Sadly, not many people paid much attention to my claims despite repeated discussions with graduate students, postdocs and even tenured faculty members.  Recently, however, there has been a spate of lay media articles shedding light on this very recent phenomenon (yeah right).

One that caught my attention was written by Jordan Weissmann an associate editor at The Atlantic who also writes for the Washington Post and the National Law Journal.  Although the title “The Ph.D Bust:America’s Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts” was not particularly inspiring, it does contain some very interesting data (provided by the National Science Foundation); and as we scientists know the data are incontrovertible (unless fudged or applied to certain esoteric statistical analyses).

Here are the highlights (unfortunately, lowlights for many of you).

First, the big picture view: employment opportunities for all American PhDs including those graduating from humanities, science, education, and other programs.

The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more persons doing post-doc work — especially in the sciences.

Second, let’s take a look at employment rates for life scientists (including biologists, chemists, biomedical engineers etc) upon completion of their graduate training.

Since 1991 the number of PhD scientists who choose to engage in postdoctoral training has hovered around 45% (it just seems like the number should be higher).  Interestingly, the number of PhD scientists who were able to secure jobs at the completion of their training (without doing a postdoc) has dropped from a high of almost 30% in 2006 to roughly 19% in 2011. However, the most telling statistic is that the number of PhD scientists who are unable to find employment after receiving their degrees has skyrocketed from 27% in 2006 to almost 40% in 2011.  These data clearly indicate that there were many fewer job opportunities for PhD life scientists over the past five years.  Yep, I started talking about the life sciences PhD glut five years ago.

Finally, Georgia State University Professor Paula Stephan has broken down NSF data on biology Ph.D.’s five or six years after receiving their degrees.

As many of you may have heard, less than 1 in 6 are in tenure track academic positions. What is must troubling, however, is how low the overall employment rates were for most PhD trained scientists as far back as 2006 (before the recession began and US pharmaceutical companies began laying off hundreds of thousands of employees!)

The Bottom Line: There is a glut of PhD-trained life scientists (duh) and we do not need to mint anymore PhDs: there simply aren’t enough jobs. And supply side economics suggests that the only way to make PhD life scientists more valuable to prospective employers is to reduce their overall number.  Sorry guys, the data do not lie!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

Fixing the Disconnect Between Academia and Industrial Life Science Jobs

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

Dave Jensen’s article in a recent edition of Science Careers entitled “Tooling Up: The Big Disconnect” aptly and cogently pointed out why it has become increasingly difficult for academically-trained PhD life scientists to find jobs in the life sciences industry.

Dave is spot on in his assertion that most life science hiring managers engage in what he terms “pinpoint hiring”— a practice in which employees are hired based on their extant skill sets rather than long term scientific potential and possible contribution to the success of a company.  In the good old days before globalization, companies would frequently hire the “best and the brightest”, train them and take the long view that well trained employees will ultimately benefit and add value to their organization.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s mantra is “what can you do for me today because there may not be a tomorrow.”

As Dave rightly points out, graduate students and postdocs are simply not being trained to meet the needs and demands of most life science companies.  An essential ingredient that is missing from current training paradigms is a fundamental understanding of the life sciences industry and how it works. Put simply, students who lack a basic understanding of the pharmaceutical/biotechnology drug development processes will find it increasingly difficult to land an industrial job; regardless of the number of Cell, Science and Nature papers or where you may have received your graduate or postdoctoral training.

In his article, Dave asserts that determining (as early a possible) that an industrial career is right for you may be your ticket to success. Unfortunately, while conducting informational interviews and landing a competitive unpaid company internship may be helpful, only small numbers of graduate students and postdocs have the flexibility or access to these activities.  More importantly, most academic researchers engage in basic rather than applied research (which is what life sciences companies are looking for). Consequently, while many students view industry jobs as possible employment opportunities, there simply may not be enough PI or mentors who can help to acquire the applied skill sets demanded by most life sciences hiring managers.

By now, many of you may be thinking: okay we know about the problems how about some practical solutions. So, here goes:

First, there are many online biotechnology courses and certificate-earning biotechnology/pharmaceutical/regulatory affairs course at local community colleges that graduate students and postdocs can take. Yes, I know that you are extremely busy and working 80 hours plus in the lab, but it is your career and nobody else can do if for you. These courses will provide graduate students and postdoc interested in industrial careers with a basic understanding of how the life sciences industry functions. Also, these courses can provide a rich lexicon of industrial jargon—when correctly used in a face-to-face job interview — can make a difference between a job offer or not.

Second, graduate students and postdocs can work together to organize career development symposium, seminars and workshops to obtain a better understanding of the requisite skill sets and training required to improve their competitiveness for industrial jobs.

Third, there are a number of PhD programs that now offer joint degrees in science, business and other disciplines. Choosing to enroll in these programs rather than traditional graduate life sciences programs may be an option for students who already know that an industrial rather than an academic career path is right for them.

Finally, organize and then talk college administration to demand that changes be made to existing graduate training paradigms to improve job preparedness. To that end, it would not be unreasonable to request that alternate career training courses (regulatory affairs, medical writing, project management etc be) be offered to all graduate students and postdocs who may be interested. Also, it may be appropriate (depending upon geographical location of an institution) to request that formal industry-focused company internships are established to allow interested and qualified graduate students and postdocs to participate. And, last, request that all faculty members be required to engage in career development counseling to help them to better understand the job market realities that their graduate students and post docs are currently facing.  While this may sound like an odd request, it is important to remember that tenured professors are guaranteed a “job for life.” Consequently, most of them are not particularly concerned about whether or not their PhD students or postdocs find gainful employment after they leave their laboratories. Sadly, many of them (and perhaps rightly so) believe that finding a job is not their problem but yours!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!