Is There Really a PhD Glut–You Betcha!

Posted in BioEducation

My colleagues over @ sent me an infographic (these things are very popular these days) explaining why there is a glut of PhDs on today’s job market and how it is affecting undergraduate education in the US. 

Surprisingly, the glut is not restricted to the life sciences; it appears to be universal!  At some point, the education bubble will burst and it is certain to have a marked effect on graduate programs. While I am proud of my PhD degree, I am not sure that getting a PhD degree is a wise career path unless you truly love what you are studying and cannot see yourself doing anything else for the rest of your life. If you have any doubts, I recommend finding a job or world travel before you decide to take the PhD plunge!  

The bottom line: earning a PhD degree is a very personal decision and it does not guarantee you employment at the end of your training!!!!!!!!!!

PhD Job Crisis
Created by: Online PhD

Until next time…

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

Statistics and Job-Related Facts You Should Know About Careers in the Life Sciences

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Fewer and fewer American college students are choosing to major in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This has been an ongoing trend in the US for the past two decades. However, within the STEM majors, the life sciences are faring the best. While I believe that the US needs more life sciences majors to remain competitive with the rest of the world, there are a few things you ought to know before you take the life sciences plunge.

  1. More than 86,000 American biology majors graduate each year
  2. About 58% of all bachelors’, masters and doctorates in the life sciences are awarded to women (who continue to earn substantially less than their male counterparts)
  3. Entry level salaries for biology majors range from $40,000 to $50,000 per year (computer and engineering students start at salaries of $55,000 to $65,000 per year)
  4. PhD degrees in the life sciences take on average six years to complete
  5. Postdoc starting salaries range from $37,000 to $40,000 per year
  6. More than a third of biologists are still working as postdocs or in other non-tenure track jobs six years after receiving their PhD degrees
  7. Only 14% of PhD-trained biologists win tenure track positions within six years of receiving their degrees
  8. Because of tighter funding for government jobs and the loss of 300,000 pharmaceutical jobs in the past decade, many newly-minted PhDs are forced to become serial postdocs (supported by soft money) or help senior scientists set up and run their laboratories waiting to see if they can win permanent academic employment
  9. Fewer tenured life sciences professors are retiring because of the financial downturn

If you still want to be biology major after reading this post, then I think that you know what career path you ought to pursue! Just sayin’……

Until next time…

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


Demand for Patent Agents and Attorneys Continues to Grow

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Times are tough for many in the legal profession these days. However, the demand for patent experts including attorneys and patent agents is skyrocketing. According to an article in today’s NY Times, 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 the US patent 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 the US according 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 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!!!!!!


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Getting a PhD Degree…And Then Some!

Posted in BioEducation

While getting a PhD degree in the life sciences (or most other disciplines) is no longer de rigueur, those of you out there who are courageous enough to make the attempt may benefit from an article entitled “25 Q&A Sites for PhD Information and Requirements.

The folks over @ sent me the link and the information offered in the post is very good. That being said, let me state for the record that if I had to do it all over again—despite my somewhat unconventional and circuitous career path—I will still choose to obtain my PhD degree. If nothing else, earning a PhD builds character and shows you that if you try hard enough almost anything is possible!

For those of you who may be on the fences between a Masters or PhD degree, sites like Did the PhD Kill the Masters Degree? and Master’s vs. PhD Programs may be helpful. For those of you who are considering PhD degrees but need to learn more about the degree, check out PhD explained & FAQs or Questions to Ask When Thinking About Pursuing a PhD. Those of you ambitious types or may be interested in pursing an MD/PhD degree may want to check out What’s the difference between MD/PhD programs and MST Programs or NIH MD/PhD Partnership Training Program FAQs [PDF]

Finally, those of you who may not yet be convinced that a PhD degree in the life sciences is right for you may want to visit On Getting a PhD Degree in the Life Sciences.

And, if none of these sites answer your questions, you can always ask me!

Until next time…

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


Grad School Got You Down? You Gotta Watch This Video!

Posted in BioEducation

Adam Reuben, PhD is a molecular biologist who spent seven years@ Johns Hopkins earning his degree. While not in the laboratory pouring gels and analyzing DNA sequence data, he performed a stand up routine at open mike nights at local Maryland clubs.   He crafted the The Grad Student Rap as part of his routine.

After graduating, he got a job as a scientist at a biotech company where he is currently working on a malaria vaccine.  He also wrote a book entitled "Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School" which is likely an enlightening read for those of you who are still struggling with your decisions.  Also, he teaches an undergraduate class at Hopkins on the stand up comic and society (talk about an alternative career path).

Anyway, check out his video….it rocks but is sadly true!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Viewing!!!

The US Science Job Market: A Conundrum?

Posted in BioEducation

A recent report issued by the US Department of Commerce reported that job opportunities in science technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) are increasing in America. The report contends that over the past decade the number of people employed in STEM jobs has increased three times as much as the growth rate for non-STEM jobs growing by approximately 7.6 million workers. Further, the report predicts that between 2008 and 2018 that STEM jobs will grow by about 17 percent as compared with roughly 10 percent for non-STEM jobs. On average, in 2010 STEM employees earned about $25 per hour almost $9 more per hour than non-STEM workers.

While this may appear to be good news, a report published last year by the President’s Council on Science and Technology indicated that less than one-third of US eighth graders are considered proficient in math and science. Further, the report also found that there is a lack of qualified STEM teachers at most schools even those that are otherwise successful. Consequently, this has resulted in a student population that is not only unprepared to fill those predicted 1.3 million STEM jobs but also uninterested in STEM subjects. In other words, unless something changes, there won’t be enough trained American workers to meet future US STEM needs; thereby reducing US global competitiveness in STEM fields like biotechnology, computing and engineering.

However, it is important to note that previous reports predicting future shortages of science and technology employees have been flat-out wrong! Nevertheless, there is no doubt that America is lagging in STEM competitiveness. However, this is likely because of the way in which STEM subjects are taught in primary and secondary schools. There is more emphasis placed on memorizing STEM concepts rather than teaching and honing problem solving skills which is the most important factor when participating in real-life STEM endeavors.

The same conclusion was reached by an 18-member National Research Council committee that recently issued a report outlining a new framework to improve science curriculums in the US. The head of the committee that issued the report, a retired physicist said “kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them.” The last time the National Research Council—the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering—weighed in on STEM preparedness was 1996.

One way to improve STEM education in the US is to hire more PhDs as middle and high school science, math and engineering teachers. After all, problem solving skills are what the PhD degree is all about and most PhDs ought to be content area experts in the subjects that they teach. Unfortunately, in most PhD and postdoctoral programs the mere mention of possibly becoming a high school teacher is invariably “the kiss of death” and may result in a student or postdoc being thrown out of a laboratory. The irony of the US STEM conundrum is stark; there is a need for more problem solvers in the class room but the people who train the problem solvers refuse to empower them to become teachers! Go figure!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (try teaching)


Things to Consider When Contemplating a Career Change

Posted in Career Advice

The tough job market and economy have caused lots of folks to consider changing careers to find gainful employment. While sometimes a career change is warranted, it may not be as easy as you think. With this in mind, there was a great article entitled "The Big Switch, One Step at a Time" by Phyllis Korkki that provides some tips and insights to think about before taking the big plunge.

Of course, not all career changes are created equal and there are a variety of things to consider depending upon whether you are starting out or a midcareer person. I think that the best bit of advice that was offered for all persons considering a career change was a recommendation to read industry trades and follow industry blogs; mainly because they are not translated for the general public. That said, if you find yourself reading these publications and you don’t know what certain acronyms mean or you are having difficulty understanding the points that the authors are trying to make, it is a good indication that transitioning into that career may take a little more training and understanding than you think!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Career Hunting!!!!!!!


Health Informatics Career Resource List

Posted in BioJobBuzz

As I mentioned in numerous previous posts, health or healthcare informatics is one of the hottest and fasting growing sectors of the US economy. And, not surprisingly, career counselors and job prognostication experts are predicting job shortages unless more Americans are trained for these job opportunities.  To that end, William Hooper of HealthTechTopia sent me a link to a list of 25 online health informatics resource collections

Those of you who are interested or considering pursuing a career in the emerging health informatics field ought to check it out!

 Until next time…

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


Alternate Career Options: So You Want to Be a Medical Science Liaison (MSL)?

Posted in BioJobBuzz

One of the new “hot career” opportunities in the life science industry is something called a medical science liaison or MSL. Increasingly, graduate students and postdocs are beginning to mention MSL as a possible career option. Of course, the first thing that I ask these persons is “Do you know what an MSL is or does on a daily basis?” In most cases, most of these would-be MSLs sheepishly admit that they don’t!

With this in mind, I invited Dr. Samuel Dyer an experienced MSL and CEO and Founder of the Medical Science Liaison Corporation and MSL WORLD to better inform those who may be interested in pursuing a career as an MSL.

What is a Medical Science Liaison?

By Samuel Dyer

The MSL is a therapeutic specialist (e.g. Oncology, Cardiology, Infectious Diseases, Central Nervous System) within pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices, and clinical research organizations (CRO) who has advanced scientific training and generally a "terminal D" degrees in the life sciences (PhD, PharmD, MD).  It’s important to note that MSL’s are not sales reps and their function is very different.  The primary purpose of the MSL role is to be scientific or disease state experts for internal colleagues (sales and marketing), but more importantly for doctors in the Therapeutic Area of the Medical community in which they work (i.e. Oncology, Cardiology, CNS etc.).  The focus of the role has changed over the years, but the primary responsibility of the MSL role remains to establish and maintain peer-peer relationships with leading doctors, referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s).

Medical Science Liaison’s (MSLs) were first established by Upjohn pharmaceuticals in 1967 as a response to the need for professionally-trained field staff that would be able to build rapport with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in various therapeutic areas of research. Although originally called Medical Science Liaisons by Upjohn, over the years and today, pharmaceutical companies have used various names for the role including: Medical Liaisons, Medical Managers, Regional Scientific Mangers, Clinical Liaisons, and Scientific Affairs Managers among others.  

Originally, the first MSLs were selected from experienced sales representatives that had strong scientific backgrounds to bring a higher degree of clinical and educational expertise to the medical professionals they were working with to influence sales. Over the years, MSL teams have been made up of individuals with various scientific backgrounds including: “super” sales reps, those with nursing backgrounds, those with various doctoral level degrees or other clinical backgrounds.  However, the required educational and scientific background and purpose of MSL’s has progressively changed over the years since they were first established.  In the late 1980’s, a number of companies began to require those applying to MSL roles to hold a terminal “D” degree such as an MD, PharmD, or PhD degrees.  

Although, historically, the educational standard in the industry did not require MSL’s to have a terminal “D” degree, however, today the terminal “D” degree has become standard in the industry.  Today according to one benchmark study more than 90% of current MSLs hold terminal “D” degrees.  

While the MSL role has received some attention, including a CNN Money article entitled "#1 Job in Pharmaceuticals-10 Jobs for Big Demand-Good Pay”, it remains one of the best kept secrets and one of the most difficult roles to break into.  Few people know about it, and little is written about the role.  In fact, the MSL community is quite small when compared to other professions in the pharmaceutical industry however there has been an explosion in the growth of the position. According to a recent benchmark study, there has been an average growth of 76% of the MSL role since 2005 across the industry in the U.S.

To learn more about the MSL role and find free resources go to

Until next time…

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