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admin 23.10.2013

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. If you could rewind and go back a few years maybe you wish you knew all this sooner rather than later. 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. Before we dive deeper, you need to understand that there is no set career path, and everyone’s career path is UNIQUE. 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. When it comes to a resume or cover letter, there is too much emphasis placed on these two items. If you are banging your head against the wall that’s probably because you aren’t doing it right. 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.
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. Half of PhD candidates in the life science and engineering field still requireseven years or more to complete their degree. 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.
The Biotechnology and Life Science Advising (BALSA) group was founded in 2010 by a group of dissatisfied postdocs and graduate students. Even researchers with NO prior business knowledge are making valuable contributions to both early and late stage companies. 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. The bottom line is that you aren’t going to sit around and wait for BALSA to come along to your University. 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. The first step to land an internship position is to do informational interviews and start networking. If you are a science person, then take a business class and start networking with business professors and MBA students.
4)      Start a side business, professional blog, develop a product, or find like-minded individuals preferably with an entrepreneurial mindset or business drive. 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.
I received this infographic from an organization that is promoting a Masters of Public Health program. 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. While these types of jobs (mainly health informatics) are certain to available in the future, it isn’t clear how soon. In today’s tough economy, one of the more challenging things after graduating college or graduate school is finding a job. 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. 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. Not surprisingly, many patent attorneys (and agents) usually have a background in science or engineering. 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. Currently, there are about 40,000 patent attorneys and agents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The greatest demand for IP attorneys and agents is in information and computing technology and the life sciences.
The rise of bioinformatics and genomics coupled with the push for electronic medical records has created jobs in healthcare information technology.
I have been blogging about the glut of life sciences PhDs in the US for the past five years. First, the big picture view: employment opportunities for all American PhDs including those graduating from humanities, science, education, and other programs. 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). TAGS: alternate careers, career planning, employment rate, glut, jobs, life sciences, PhD, scientists, US. 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. 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. 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.
By now, many of you may be thinking: okay we know about the problems how about some practical solutions.
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. Finally, organize and then talk college administration to demand that changes be made to existing graduate training paradigms to improve job preparedness. 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.
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. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, from 2009 to 2011 the number of new jobs with titles related to analytics grew 53%.
There was a time when most students pursuing a PhD would find themselves in tenure track teaching positions, making any other option an “alternative” career path. Today, tenure track positions are very difficult to come by for even the most brilliant of candidates. Beyond the low supply of available academic positions, more graduates than ever are committing the crime of not even considering a career in academia after considering their interests and career goals. Since the employment landscape has shifted significantly, it is good to rethink any bad feelings associated with “alternative” careers. For PhD students who want to follow an alternative career path, there are a surprising number of options. Unlike other professional programs, PhD programs tend to do a poor job of educating students in the specifics of what those options are.  The blame for this is not entirely on career services departments, as many schools have ramped up efforts in recent years to reach out to students in PhD programs. The students themselves must realize that the employment landscape has changed, and that exploring alternative careers for PhD students is not something to be left as an afterthought. Many graduate students would love to focus just on completing an awesome thesis that is meticulous and complete. The management consulting industry is actively pursuing PhD graduates alongside MBA graduates in reverence for the fact that most PhDs develop exceptional analytical skills over the course of completing their thesis project.
Management consulting generally involves assessing big picture problems, finding a way to meaningfully break them down using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and providing suggestions for the methods that will best address the problems. Although there is a general requirement for mathematical competence, the larger firms tend to have specific business boot camp programs for incoming PhDs, so loading up on business classes beforehand isn’t necessary. If you have a great idea or product that addresses an open and unsaturated market, then there can be nothing more rewarding than rolling up your sleeves and addressing that need yourself. If you are getting your degree in a technical field where there might be the opportunity to patent a product or method you are developing, then you may want to go out and try to build a business around it.  It can be long hours, stressful, and risky, but the potential for both financial and personal rewards are sky-high. You may not have associated PhDs with the world of finance, but there are many opportunities that demand the technical expertise and quantitative skills that many PhDs have in spades. Two of the most popular career options for PhDs in finance are in equity research and quantitative analysis.  Equity research analysts cover a specific industry and analyze companies within that industry. Quantitative analysts tend to be handy in computer programming and will build programs to determine when and where transactions should take place. A degree related to a specific industry will likely help in pursuing a position as an equity research analyst. If you are feeling particularly patriotic, there are plenty of positions available in which you will be able to serve your country.  There is the option to enlist in one of the military branches and serve as a military researcher in your field of study. If your degree is in a technical field such as computer science, engineering, or one of the life sciences, many intellectual property law firms employ PhDs as technical specialists to review and compose patent applications. Most firms will require technical specialists to become a certified patent agent within a year of employment, and some will even offer programs that allow you to complete law school part-time on the company’s dime.
There is the obvious option for life science and chemistry PhDs to pursue research and development positions within pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.
There are also other alternative careers for PhD students that may be less obvious.  Other positions within pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are open to PhDs include business development manager, regulatory affairs specialist, medical science liaison, and field application scientist. Are you fed up with government policy within your field of expertise?  Why just complain when you can actively participate in the policy formation process and voice your concerns directly to the decision makers.
There are quite a few opportunities to serve as a technical advisor in your field of expertise through government sponsored internship and postdoctoral programs. For those who especially love meeting new people and a good dose of travel, a career in sales may be a good fit.  Many companies that produce technically complicated products and instruments actively recruit PhDs to sell those products.


If you have extensive experience using any particular instrument or technology as a part of your dissertation research, you’ll likely be an especially attractive candidate. Every research university produces patentable technology, and the technology transfer office is responsible for figuring out how to turn those technologies into products that can be commercialized. The route for commercialization involves either out licensing to companies or developing new ventures, and there are opportunities for PhDs to be involved in these processes as a licensing associate. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit but would rather not be tied down to one company’s success, your calling may be to help other entrepreneurs build their companies into successful ventures. As a venture capitalist you’ll be responsible for identifying companies that you believe are likely to succeed after conducting due diligence. Although it’s not an easy industry to break into, the rewards can be great, both financially and personally.
Of course, anyone is free to try their hand at writing a novel, but PhDs are especially well suited to a writing career given the extensive experience throughout the dissertation process. Chances are, there is some form of media that addresses your area of expertise, whether it is television, radio, newspaper, magazine, academic journal, or even a blog.  If you studied a technical field, there are also opportunities to become a scientific or medical writer within a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. Putting all of these careers into one nebulous group called “industry” or “alternative careers for PhD students” fails to take into account the variety of these options.
As positions within academia continue to become more elusive, alternative career preparation will need to become more than a mere afterthought. There are specific experiences, internships, and extracurricular activities that can be undertaken while doing a PhD that can prove to be vital in developing important skills and connections within a particular industry. The earlier students are made aware of these options, the better able they are to pursue meaningful experiences.
About Michael D'EcclessisMichael is a graduate fellow pursuing his PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology at Rutgers University. How do you think Open Access, science blog and micro-publications are affecting traditional careers in publishing? What many people may not realize is that if you’ve been in a field or industry for a few years, you likely already have the skills to be a consultant. Which positions are for more experienced workers in industry or for those who are looking for entry-level?
A job in academia has always been the alternative one for me as having a teaching career has never sounded that appealing to me. You want to go into industry but they look at you as an academic with only one marketable skill: bench science. 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 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. Maybe you finally decided to join the 85% club and face reality (only 15% will land a tenure-track position within 5 years).
Or you just lack the marketable skills to crossover (which is discussed later in this article). You get a job because you get in front of somebody and they decide to add you to the payroll. 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%.
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? What can you do NOW as a PhD student or postdoc that will give you the marketable skills to crossover? 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.
These many options span freelance work, working for a consulting firm or even starting your own consulting company. Many companies (including start-ups) are blogging and doing digital marketing, and learning the ropes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. If you have the passion to innovate, drive change, and help companies be more successful, it might be the career choice for you. 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. 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.
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!
The report asserts that better management of big data sets can lead to as much as $300 billion in savings. 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. 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. 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. Typically, most of these companies are venture-backed and have limited financial resources. 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. However, the demand for patent experts including attorneys and patent agents is skyrocketing. 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. The legislation which changes how patents are reviewed and process is spurring competition between firms to higher IP specialist to ease the transition pain. In order to register with the USPTO agents and lawyers are required to pass the patent bar examination. Persons with PhD degrees in the life sciences can sometimes find work at IP and patent law firms. That’s according to Clifford Mintz, the founder of BioInsights, which develops and offers bioscience education and training. As developers expand in emerging markets, there’s a particular demand for people to manage and organize overseas clinical trials.
They’re lured by disease-altering biologics that are less likely to face generic competition than traditional drugs. 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 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.
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). 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! 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).
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. 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.
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. Unfortunately, there are not enough trained or qualified persons available to fill these positions at most of these companies.
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.
The event is open to anyone between the age of 14 and 20 , with Q radio network broadcasting live from the event and there will be various demonstrations and many interactive and inspiring ideas, including how to be more active within your community and how to volunteer. Most PhD graduates find themselves asking the question “what do I do now with this degree?”.
The reality is that very few employers outside of academia will really care or know the difference between a perfect thesis and a good thesis.
They advise whether the stock of a company should be bought (value will increase), sold (value will decrease), or held (meh, value will likely remain the same). However, quantitative analysis is usually not industry specific and will usually only rely on quantitative and programming skills to be a successful candidate. You will consider the management team, the validity of the technology and product upon which the company is based and the potential market and disruptive potential of the technology or product.
This may bring many students into the false sense that preparing for a nonacademic career is a one-size-fits-all proposition that can be accomplished in the few weeks before graduation. He is also the founder of PhD Career Guide, a website devoted to providing specific career information for graduate students of all disciplines. I wish my classmates and I read this 3 years ago (hardly anyone wanted to go into academia).
Of that pool, I’ve only worked with several dozen, and during an average year, need less than 2 dozen clients to consistently earn over $100k. I was looking for a job in research and development department in many companies after graduated my first degree (MEng) and couldn’t find one that would even consider with the MEng degree that I have.
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. You’ll jump into the postdoc only to leave after you spent X amount of years figuring out what you truly want to do. 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. But getting a PhD doesn’t mean that you are immune to economic hardships or the struggles of finding a job.


In other words, if you don’t plan on staying in academia, why are you spending 5+ years as a postdoc?
And when you gain these marketable skills, how can you couple this with NETWORKING so that you are tapping into the “hidden job market”?
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. 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. Whichever that may be, I would highly recommend doing freelance consulting work during your PhD. 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 will learn how to lead teams, manage people, and take on challenging and interesting problems. Get involved in patent law, tech transfer, computer programming, or entrepreneurial classes.
Gaining the marketable skills to crossover is no easy task, but with hard work, patience, and the right connections anything is possible. However, there is and will continue to be a rising demand for clinical research professionals. Also, American retail companies could possibly increase their operating profit margins by as much as 60 percent. 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. 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.
Consequently, salaries offered by these companies to employees are generally lower than those at CROs, biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
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. At present, there are over 230 IP openings among more than 1400 lawyer positions nationwide.
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. While the losses have been steep, they’re balanced by emerging, in-demand careers in the industry. As a result, there’s been increased demand for professionals who can navigate the complex world of biomanufacturing.
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.
The demand for devices, which address problems that can’t be treated with medicine, will continue to grow as the population ages. These experts manage the patent estate and intellectual property of universities and colleges that may engage in licensing deals with the industry. 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. These courses will provide graduate students and postdoc interested in industrial careers with a basic understanding of how the life sciences industry functions. 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. 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. Publishers are actively seeking PhDs as they are already integrated in their subject communities. Of course, this is really hard to do when one is doing research, writing a dissertation, taking classes and trying to squeeze in sleep too. I would need at least a Masters (by research) degree just to make myself eligible to apply for the job.
During graduate school, the focus is on getting the PhD and the attitude is that things will just unfold and work themselves out.
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). It is time that Universities, faculty, and professors stop looking the other way when it comes to fixing the problem. You are also developing your technical writing skills in addition to sharing scientific ideas and making worldwide network contacts. The connections that you make with top business professionals will also open doors to future career opportunities.
Just because internship positions aren’t posted doesn’t mean they can’t be created or they don’t exist.
This is because life sciences companies are more keenly focused on drug development (which includes human clinical trials) than they are on drug discovery. 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.
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. The bottom line: it is a great time to be a patent attorney or agent in today’s tough economy. 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). Those with a background in upstream and downstream processes, large-scale protein purification, fermentation technology and bioengineering can make the transition to biomanufacturing. Job seekers with strong backgrounds in bioinformatics, genomics, engineering and translational medicine are best suited to this field. 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. It is time to realize that a student’s career is first and foremost their own responsibility, not their PI’s. Personally, I didn’t start looking at alternative careers until my second year as a postdoc. Although this is a good list of alternative PhD careers, the necessary steps that need to be taken to break into these careers are missing. 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. 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. And, your hard work and efforts could also have a huge impact on the future direction of the company. Many business professors will allow you to sit in their class even if you aren’t taking the class for credit.
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. TheUS alone will likely need 140,000 to 190,000 with expertise in statistical methods and data-analysis skills. Patent agents can prepare patents and prosecute cases with the USPTO but cannot litigate in court or draw up contracts. However a law degree plus a PhD degree will almost certainly guarantee you employment at most IP firms. But with the economic downturn and global competition, companies can no longer afford to invest in people who have promise. Sadly, many of them (and perhaps rightly so) believe that finding a job is not their problem but yours! An honest conversation with a PhD supervisor early on will more than likely open up the opportunity for them to serve as a networking resource instead of someone to hide ambitions from. And now fast approaching the finish line, I’m still not interested in looking for a job in academia when I finally completed my PhD.
Therefore, when doing your job searchfocus on the company first, how you can add value, then backtrack to find the correct position. Entrepreneurial management classes for example, will expose you to writing business plans and doing SWOT analysis, and growing local starts-ups via group projects. 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.
There are roughly 1.2 million licensed patent attorneys in theUSaccording to the American bar association. Doubt may come from a general uncertainty about which nonacademic route is available or a good personal fit. 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. This means you should have multiple roles in mind that play on your strengths and not just one. Accordingly, “Every manager will really have to understand something about statistics and experimental design going forward,” noted one of the report’s authors. With the right blend of skills and experience, however, there still some pharma jobs that are in demand.
There is no stopping when it comes to networking and the truth is that it is a lifelong process and requires continual effort. One of the first and most important steps in pushing students to be more proactive in pursuing their careers is helping them to be more informed regarding which career options are actually out there.



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