Review: Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development

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Here’s another great resource for your pharmaceutical job search: Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development, by Toby Freedman.

Freedman has put together a solid resource for finding jobs and developing your career in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. At 409 hardcover pages, this isn’t the kind of book you can slip in a pocket to browse on the subway — it’s a comprehensive guide that I could see being an invaluable aide to finding your first job in the biotech industry.

Early chapters on resume writing and interview techniques, including informational interviewing, are brief but well-written and useful. If you’ve read a lot of career guides, these chapters probably aren’t going to teach you anything you haven’t heard before.  The real meat of this book is the industry-specific information that follows.

In an excellent overview chapter, Freedman explains the breadth of the industry, and summarizes the different product development pathways followed by therapeutic, nontherapeutic, and medical device companies.

Next, individual chapters, each about 20 pages long, cover a wide range of career pathways: drug discovery, preclinical research, project management, clinical development, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, quality assurance and quality control, operations, product development, business development, sales, marketing, and corporate communications. Chapters on executive management, legal affairs, finance, management consulting and even recruiting round out this comprehensive guide.

Each chapter includes ‘snapshots’ of various roles and offers a thoughtful analysis of both the positive and negative aspects of a given job.  For example, in clinical development, Freedman notes that “Original and applied clinical research is exciting.  Outcomes are unknown until trials are completed, and each trial is unique. Your work is close to the market”, but “There is frequent pressure to meet constantly looming deadlines, and the objectives often seem to be ‘too much, too soon, with too little'”. When you’re just starting out, and trying to decide what path to follow, knowing the downside of a job can be very useful information.

Naturally, salaries and compensation are a matter for discussion, as is the potential for career development, and a look at how future trends might influence job security for each role is useful in today’s economic times.

Perhaps most usefully for job seekers, Freedman clearly lays out job requirements and typical pathways into the role, and offers tips that could be helpful for getting one’s foot in the door.  Descriptions of what it takes to excel in a role, and qualities common to good candidates are also helpful.

This guide isn’t cheap, and it isn’t very portable — but if you are looking for a career in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector, this book should be at your side.


Posted: January 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Clinical research, Interviewing, Marketing, Medical Science Liaisons, Preclinical R&D, Regulatory affairs, Resources, Resumes & CVs | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

How free trade magazines can give you the edge in your pharmaceutical job search

There is a secret weapon that can help you get on the inside track in your job search, and it’s free.  A wide variety of pharmaceutical trade journals cover every aspect of the industry from early-stage drug design all the way to marketing. Trade journals are basically news magazines with a very specific focus. They contain articles and advertising content that is highly targeted to specific industry niches.  For example, Applied Clinical Trials is focused on clinical research professionals and the challenges of designing and executing clinical trials, whereas Contract Pharma offers content specific to outsourced drug manufacturing.

Many trade journal publishers offer free subscriptions — all you need to do is fill out a form. A number of sites (like this one) allow you to quickly review and sign up for multiple journals.  However, if you don’t meet the publisher’s criteria for a free subscription, don’t despair.  Most of these magazines make their content available free online.

So, how can reading trade publications help you find your first pharmaceutical or biotech job?

  1. In today’s tough economic times, companies aren’t interested in spending a lot of time and money on bringing people up to speed on the basics of their business. Reading the trades can help you understand what’s really involved in the careers that interest you.
  2. If you use the trades to learn the acronyms and buzzwords, and familiarize yourself with key issues and new developments, you’ll be able to hold an intelligent conversation with professionals in the field and make a great first impression at networking events, informational interviews, and in cover letters.
  3. Not only do trade magazines often include job advertisements, but they’re a treasure trove of company information that you can use to identify firms that might have unadvertised openings.
  4. You can follow up with the authors of articles to build your network. Expressing your genuine interest in their article may give you an opening to ask for advice and referrals.

So don’t delay — read a trade today!


Posted: January 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Informational interviews, Resources | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

10 things to look for in an academic Regulatory Affairs program

Signing up for a formal academic program is one way to put yourself on the fast track to a career in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs.

The Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS) is a great clearinghouse of information.  If you’re interested in a career in regulatory affairs, it’s a great place to learn more about the role.  Membership isn’t cheap ($185), but it is significantly discounted for current students, and includes a subscription to Regulatory Focus magazine, discounts on educational programs, and access to networking opportunities. RAPS offers online courses that may help give you the knowledge you need to land an entry-level role and maintains a list of degree and certificate programs offered at academic institutions worldwide.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: January 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Industry associations, Regulatory affairs, Training | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are entry-level pharmaceutical research jobs a lost cause?

A look at some recent economic numbers has the BioJobBlogger suggesting that the future may look dim for new PhDs and postdocs who were hoping to find entry-level work in the biotechnology sector.

The Future of Pharmaceutical R&D : Bio Job Blog.

“. . . a majority of the almost 160,000 employees layed off by pharma companies in the past few years have been R&D scientists. . . . Unfortunately, this paradigm shift doesn’t bode well for doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows who are training in the life sciences. This is because many entry-level biotech positions, traditionally filled by newly-minted PhDs and postdoctoral fellows will likely be filled by experienced, pharmaceutical employees who lost their jobs in the recent rounds of layoffs.”

Is this true? Maybe. However, there are a few positive things to consider about entry-level positions:

  1. A lot of people are not interested in taking a step back in their careers and applying for entry-level work if they’re already accomplished and experienced at a higher level.
  2. Companies trying to fill entry-level positions sometimes will not consider more experienced people for these roles. Fairly or not, more experienced candidates can be seen as more difficult to manage and more likely to be unsatisfied with low-level work and salary.
  3. R&D work can be incredibly specific to particular assays and model systems. A newly-minted PhD with the exact skills a company needs may be a better bet than an experienced scientist who has been working on a different system.

So, if you have your heart set on an R&D position in industry, don’t lose hope entirely — although keeping your eyes open for other opportunities is always smart.  One last piece of advice — be mobile!  Being genuinely open to relocation will ensure that you have the most opportunities available to you. Locking yourself down to one location will almost always limit your career trajectory.


Posted: January 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Preclinical R&D | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

A day in the life of a Clinical Research Associate

When you’re looking to get your foot in the door and find your first job in the pharma industry, sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what a particular job entails.

If you’ve ever wondered what a typical day is like for a clinical research associate, then you might be interested by the story of Ann, a lead CRA for the UK-based firm CDSS. When it’s time for a site visit, Ann begins her day at 5am and works through to 8 o’clock.

The site also hosts similar ‘day in the life’ stories by Clinical Trial Associates and a Clinical Nurse.


Posted: January 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »