Life Sciences Job Market Outlook: Is the Future Brighter?

Posted in BioEducation, BioJobBuzz

According to a report published in Nature last week, 72% of drug makers surveyed (respondents included company executives and recruiters) intend to boost their research capacity in the next 12 months by hiring scientists, creating partnerships or improving infrastructure.  Further, additional survey results suggested that jobs will grow by 30% among US medical scientists, biochemists and biophysicists by 2020.  While I have not read the entire report, it seems to me that asking company executives (responsible for company growth and maintaining stock share price) and recruiters (who make a living finding difficult to find employees for drug companies) may not provide survey readers with  accurate information that one could use for trend analysis.

Nevertheless, despite the rosy proclamations made in the report, there are a few caveats. First, the 30% increase in hiring by 2020 includes mainly medical scientists (clinical personnel), biophysicists (how many biophysicists are there anyway) and biochemists (are there any really left?).  What about all the molecular biologists, bioinformatics and genomics scientists, physiologists, pharmacologists etc etc?

Second and perhaps most revealing, survey respondents noted that the types of scientists that they want to hire are those who 1) “can develop and manage external partnerships” (translation: business development, marketing, brand managers etc); 2) “know about regulatory science”  and 3) “can manage and analyze big data sets and outcomes research.”  I don’t know about you, but I did not learn any of the above mentioned desirable skills while working on my PhD degree.

Finally, one of the report authors opined that early career scientists looking for employment opportunities need to “think about the entire value chain  that leads to the development of a drug or medical device.”  Really?  First, what is a value chain and second who is going to teach graduate students and postdocs how drugs and devices are developed when nobody at their institution knows how to develop drugs and devices since they work in academia and not industry?  Interestingly, I know many pharmaceutical and biotechnology company employees who don’t really understand the complete drug/device development process because things are done in silos at most drug and devices companies.

The point that I am trying to make, is that nobody can predict what the job market for life sciences professionals will be in 2020.  The best advice that I can give is to develop a career plan, remain flexible and have at least two or three contingency in place!

Until next time,

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



Statisticians and "Big Data" Analysts in High Demand

Posted in BioEducation

When I was a graduate student back in the dark ages, I took an advanced statistics course and then briefly worked in a laboratory where statistical analysis of data derived from animal models of disease (in this case the guinea pig model of tuberculosis) were essential. After leaving that lab, I developed an appreciation for the power of statistics (when appropriately designed according the laws of parametric statistics) and actually used statistical analyses of in vitro data for my PhD thesis. Unlike me, most of my contemporaries never understood statistics and thought that statistics can be used to manipulate data to confirm any hypothesis put forth by an investigator.

Imagine my surprise when I read in today’s NY Times that statistics are one of the hottest new career opportunities in technology and related industries. This is because billions of bytes of data (aka "big data sets")are generated daily and someone (usually a statistician or a person with knowledge of some arcane statistical analyses) is regarded to tease out trends and interpret the data. Companies like Google, Facebook, as wells as marketers, risk analysts, spies and companies that engage in competitive intelligence are desperately seeking new employees who understand applied statistic, analytics and trend analysis.

According to a recent LinkedIn survey, from 2009 to 2011 the number of new jobs with titles related to analytics grew 53%. Unfortunately, there are not enough trained or qualified persons available to fill these positions at most of these companies. Because of workforce shortages, universities like Stanford, Harvard and North Carolina State (NC State) have created graduate programs to train students in statistics and advanced analytics. 

Ninety per cent of NC State advanced analytic students (a 10 month program created in 2006) annually found jobs. The average graduate’s starting salary for an entry-level job is $73,000. Stanford and Harvard statistics department graduates head to Google, Wall Street and in many instances bioscience companies and start with salaries of over $100,000.

Not surprisingly, competition for entry to these programs is getting fierce. NC State takes only 40 new students per year in its program (185 applicants last year). Moreover, this year, Stanford received over 800 applications for 60 openings in next’ years class; nearly twice the number of applications that it received three years ago.

Like it or not “big data” and analytics are de rigueur and persons with advanced analytics training may be the new rock stars. That said if you like statistics or love to look for trends in large data sets then a career in analytics may be right for you. Now, you have to figure out where to get the training.

Until next time…

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


Alternate Career Options for Life Scientists: Persons Able to Manipulate "Big" Data Sets Will Be In High Demand Says New Report!

Posted in BioJobBuzz

An article in today’s NY Times entitled “New Ways to Exploit Raw Data May Bring Surge of Innovation, a Study Says” suggests 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 the 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 the US 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. The US 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!!!!!!


Employment Update: Who Is Hiring and Who Is Not!

Posted in BioJobBuzz

While US unemployment continues to hover around 9.4 percent, there appears to be a steady increase in the number of companies that are posting ads on job boards like Simply Hired and According to an article in the NY Times “A Sign of Hope for More Hiring” job postings at Simple Hired roe over 50 percent last year over 2009 and increased almost 70 percent in December 2010 as compared with December 2009.

The situation at, a major competitor of Simply Hired, appears to be similar. That is, there has been a substantial and continual increase in the number companies posting jobs on the website.

However, while this is great news, it isn’t exactly clear what the increased job postings mean. For example, some industries are hiring at a greater rate than others (see below).

Not surprisingly, the greatest increases are occurring in some of the industries that were hit hardest by the recession, e.g. transportation, automotive, legal, manufacturing and financial services. Hiring in healthcare, technology and education remains steady and respectable. On the other hand, two industries that have actually lost ground are media and the military. For a more comprehensive analysis check out the white paper on 2010 Employment Trends created by Simply Hired. Although things look like they may be picking up, the sad reality is that workers who have been unemployed for months have a much harder time landing new jobs as compared with those who have been unemployed for weeks. Unfortunately, many of the workers that make up the 9.4 percent unemployed, have been out of work for six months or more. Further, the availability of jobs will vary by industry and perhaps more importantly geography. Data from Simply Hired suggests that employment opportunities are greater in Washington, D.C, Baltimore, Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St Paul, San Francisco and Denver as compared with Miami, Detroit, Sacramento and LA. The availability of healthcare jobs appears to be greatest in San Francisco and San Antonio. Interestingly, many of the new job postings are coming from smaller companies rather than those that constitute the Fortune 500 list. This means that former corporate employees may want to focus their job searches on smaller companies rather than continue to seek employment at big name companies.

Despite these encouraging and optimistic signs, the road ahead for most R&D scientists and pharmaceutical sales reps looks pretty bleak. That said, now may be a good time to consider alternate career options or possibly going back to school for retraining. To that end, data from suggests that learning HTML 5, the new, highly anticipated Web development language which may make Flash obsolete, may be the ticket to guaranteed employment. Knowledge of HTML 5 in addition to experience with mobile apps, the Android operating system and Twitter skills that are highly coveted by employers in many industries. Finally, if more school or retraining is not in your future, you may want to consider switching industries, moving to a different type of job in your discipline or, if possible, relocating!

Until next time…

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


Some Social Media Facts and Figures to Ponder

Posted in Social Media

Much has been written about social media but who has time to ponder all the analytical data to come up with trends and cool statistics? 

To that end, I was reading Dec/Jan edition of Forbes Small Business (FSB) magazine and I came upon some random social media tidbits that I thought were worth sharing.  I cannot vouch for the veracity of the information but sources were cited to confirm the facts.

35% of Americans 18 and over used social media of some type in 2008; only 8% were involved with social media in 2005 (source: Pew Internet and American Life Project)

95% of business decision makers worldwide use social networks (source: Forrester Research)

Of 2000 recent tweets that were analyzed by Peer Analytics:

  • 4% were spam
  • 6% were self promotional
  • 9% were “moderately interesting”
  • 38% were conversational
  • 43% were “babble”

Finally (and not surprisingly):

87% of adults said they prefer dealing with others in person instead of via computers or smart phones (source:

I am not sure what it all means but I figured the info was worth a shout out.

Hat tip to FSB!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Networking


Career Development for Life Scientists: An Ongoing and Disturbing Trend

Posted in Career Advice

For the past 10 years or so, I have been providing career counseling and development seminars and workshops for life scientists. In the early years, students, postdocs and a smattering of faculty members would attend to learn about industry trends, the job market and more recently, alternate careers for PhDs and postdoctoral fellows. However, over the last few years, a disturbing trend has emerged—the lack of faculty participation at these events

Yesterday, I was invited to participate as a panel member to moderate a career development event sponsored by the graduate student and postdoctoral associations at the University Of Rochester School Of Medicine. The event was well attended (over 85 participants) and the discussion lasted for more than 2 hours. Joining me on the panel was a PhD-trained scientist/manager from Bristol Myers Squibb and a healthcare company executive who received his PhD degree from the university about 16 years ago.

Many of the questions asked by the participants were spot on and revealed that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are extremely anxious about their futures. The panel did its best to describe what it takes to get a job in the life sciences, the process and steps required to successfully win jobs and some ideas for alternate career options for PhD-trained scientists. Unfortunately, not a single University of Rochester medical school faculty member attended the event. In fact, I met the PI of one of the postdocs who sponsored my visit and he said with all sincerity (I think) “Thanks for coming…the students are really looking forward to your talk.” Obviously, I don’t think that it ever crossed his mind that he, like his students and postdocs, might learn and benefit from a discussion about career options and hear (probably for the first time) how anxious and fearful his and other students are about future job prospects.

The fact that faculty members are routinely eschewing career development seminars and forums is troubling and extremely disturbing for a variety of reasons. First, as I have said many times before, I believe that PIs have moral and ethical obligations to help their students determine what careers that they are best suited for. I don’t think that it is too much to ask or very labor-intensive for PIs to learn about the job market outside of academia.

Despite an ongoing lack of tenured track faculty positions and the extremely fierce competition to win them, academicians continue to exclusively train and prepare students for academic careers. This makes absolutely no sense from a “supply and demand” perspective. Second, the lack of faculty support and participation sends a clear message to graduate students and postdocs that their anxieties, fears and concerns about job prospects simply isn’t that important to their PIs.  The mantra of most academicians —“just continue to do good science and everything will be okay”— is outdated, anachronistic and self serving (for PIs) at best.  

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the failure of  tenured faculty members to actively engage and participate in discussions about career options reveals the unbridled contempt that most academicians have for scientists who work outside of academia. Most academics choose to not concern themselves with non-academic and mundane issues like jobs and careers. And why should they? Once they win tenure, their lives are set because they are guaranteed jobs and benefits for life!

We are living in very challenging and troubling times. In the past three years, over 180,000 pharmaceutical workers have  lost their jobs and national unemployment will likely hit 15%. Academic and government jobs are hard to come by and the competition for these jobs is ferocious and extremely competitive. And, sadly, current academic training programs are woefully inadequate to prepare graduate students and postdocs for alternate career opportunities in the life sciences. 

As I have stated numerous times before, life science graduate training programs are in dire need of systemic change and must be overhauled to remain relevant. Unfortunately, systemic changes are unlikely because tenured faculty members can’t be forced or induced to change their attitudes or beliefs. While a minority of life sciences faculty members realizes that the system is broken, the majority doesn’t.  To that end, if graduate students and postdoctoral fellows want change to occur, than they must band together and collectively send a message to their PIs and mentors that “We are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore!” Anything short of a widespread, massive protest will be ineffectual!

To learn how to more effectively manage employees, please check out the 360 feedback solution.

Until next time…

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


New Technology: Using Google to Track the Flu

Posted in Career Advice

No matter what you may think of Google, you gotta love the brilliance and innovative moxy of the guys who run that company. In today’s New York Times, there was a story about a new web tool called Google Flu Trends. This tool is being evaluated as a new early warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks in the US.

Tests of Google Flu Trends, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It works by tracking and quantifying number of Americans who enter search phrases like “flu symptoms” into Google and other search engines. By analyzing these searches as they come in, Google Flu Trends creates graphs and maps of the country that show where the flu is spreading.  For example, in early February the CDC reported that the flu cases had recently spiked in the Mid-Atlantic States. But Google says its search data showed a spike in queries about flu symptoms two weeks before the CDC report was released.

According to public health experts “The CDC reports are slower because they rely on data collected and compiled from thousands of health care providers, labs and other sources. The Google data could help accelerate the response of doctors, hospitals and public health officials to a nasty flu season, reducing the spread of the disease and, potentially, saving lives.” Researchers have long contended that information published on the Web amounts to a form of “collective intelligence” that can be used to spot trends and make predictions.

Google Flu Trends appears to be the first public project that uses the powerful database of a search engine to track a disease. This could be the beginning of a new trend in epidemiology. Google hopes to publish the results of its study in Nature.

Until next time…

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