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What are the career options for the life sciences industry?

03/11/20

In the UK alone, the life sciences industry boasts an annual turnover of £80.7 billion and hires 256,100 employees at thousands of sites across the country. While the small molecule sector takes the prize for having the largest combined workforce, digital health claims second place and is driving the growth of the global workforce. Other emerging trends such as smart technology and the growth of the biopharma and medtech markets are paving the way for an exciting future for life sciences. So, what are the career options for the life sciences industry and how can you secure your next role? 

Different roles

Engineering, manufacturing and facilities

Though there are many different professionals involved in this area of life sciences, here are three main job types:

  • Quality engineers can often be found working for medical device companies, where the professionals may be responsible both for improvement within manufacturing and business processes. An objective within this life sciences job is continuous improvement and how data can be used to raise standards and make a real difference. 
  • As with most other jobs in life sciences, a production technician is focused on quality. The complexity of products you work with will depend on the company, but as standard you’ll be overseeing everything from the formulation to the packaging. This job requires someone who can work independently, follow engineering drawings and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements
  • The scope of a project engineering job can also vary considerably depending on which branch of life sciences they’re working in. Generally, they’ll work directly with a project manager, overseeing the execution of strategies, managing the schedule and costing for a project, and monitoring the overall performance. 

Quality, compliance and regulatory affairs

  • In the emerging role of quality assurance, there are several jobs - one being a quality assurance associate. These professionals ensure that documentation and laboratory procedures meet the necessary standards concerning process development, validation and quality control. At more senior levels - like quality assurance specialist - professionals are involved in writing and approving standard operating procedures. 
  • Starting as a quality control coordinator is a great way to gain exposure to the monitoring of testing activities. Employees in this field work both with upstream and downstream teams to ensure the efficient flow of products through the testing areas. Meanwhile, quality control technicians will inspect raw materials and finished goods, and complete a review of whether they meet the defined specifications. Alongside these professionals are quality control analysts who are more concerned with the numbers. Their job is to complete data reviews whilst also participate in quality risk assessments. 
  • A regulatory affairs associate is responsible for liaising for with all site staff, overseeing the production and archiving of documentation. Then moving up to a  , duties would extend to developing regulatory strategies and estimating the success of said strategies before implementing them. 

Administration

  • The world has entered a project economy – one that brings in £159.5 billion of annual Gross Value Added for the UK. This has created new and exciting job opportunities where project managers in every industry are accountable for project health, milestones and budgets. As with many life sciences roles in today’s current job market, project management is data-driven and professionals in this field will feel confident analysing data to glean insights, trends and risks. They’re often supported by a project coordinator who helps to assess the business value of projects and track financials. 
  • Administrative assistants and executive assistants are integral to the success of any life sciences company. Responsible for managing correspondence, processing expense reports and the creation of presentations, those in an administrative role keep a workplace organised – whether that’s a pharmaceutical team or a board of CRO executives and directors.

Contract vs. permanent

Many life sciences jobs are contract-based, where short-term employees are hired for several months to a year or until a project is finished. Whereas in permanent roles, long-term staff will work across several projects throughout their employment. For some, the toss-up will be a no brainer but for those who are undecided, there are five key differences between contract and permanent that will help you choose which suits you best.

Tips for standing out in the life sciences job market

The huge uptick in demand for regulatory experience is just one example of how Covid-19 is impacting jobs in life sciences and acts as a reminder to candidates to highlight their relevant skills and experiences – both on their CV and in the interview.

CV tips

To make sure you get noticed and are given the opportunity to showcase your abilities you need to write a compelling CV. The major pointers are to make sure that the formatting is simple and easy to read, free of errors and results-focused. If you’ve worked in different therapeutic areas emphasise these as it will show your broad knowledge and versatility. Meanwhile, take care not to make your CV too vague - tailor it to the role and the therapeutic area you are applying for a job in. 

Interview tips

Whether you’re meeting face-to-face or preparing for a digital interview there are some standard interview tips which will help you make a lasting impression, and they’re all straightforward. Some of the most important – and therefore most commonly heard – pointers are to dress smart, arrive early and keep strong eye contact. The opportunity to make a real impact is at the questions stage. Enquire about the technology you’ll be using and what major challenges the company is facing. Both these questions demonstrate that you’re envisioning yourself in the role and thinking about how you can add value to the team.

Find an exciting role in life sciences with Orion Group

Are you looking for a job in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device or clinical research sector? Since 1987, Orion Group has grown steadily and is now recognised on the international recruitment scene, placing candidates in roles across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the Americas. During this time, we’ve specialised and strengthened our position as a leading life sciences recruitment agency. We want to use our experience and passion to help you find your next opportunity in sciences job. View our current life sciences jobs or register with us to receive personalised job alerts and more.

Tagged In: Life sciences
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