Recently, Genetic Engineering News published a list of what they believe will be the top 10 biotech jobs most in demand over the next decade.
For those looking for moving beyond the bench, starting their science career, or just looking for a change, the list proposes where the likeliest landing spots are located. I’ve provided a little taste of what such positions do, so that you can do an initial assessment on whether it might be of interest.
#10 – Epidemiologist
Are you the detective type? Do you enjoy examining clues, determining why something happened … and then going beyond that to develop a hypothesis on what will occur in the future? Do you like giving your opinion and gathering the facts to back it up? You may be a budding epidemiologist.
They study factors determining and influencing the how frequently diseases occur, as well as where they occur and who is impacted. At times, they are “historians” who point to previous events leading up to current circumstances. At times, they are “futurists” who predict how a disease will affect the still unaffected. Good for scientists who want to keep a few toes in research – as they need to investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They have an important mission of trying to reduce the risk and frequency of negative health outcomes through research, community education, and health policy.
#9 – Genetic Counselor
A passion for genetics is a great start – but you also need to enjoy dealing with people, often under difficult circumstances. You could be seen as a therapist, subject matter expert, and source of hope. As the amount of genetic information increases daily, and as the speed at which that information is collected increases daily, a genetic counselor must help form the “take-home message.”
You will help caregivers, patients, and parents (in the case of inherited disease during a pregnancy or in a newborn) – alongside medical professionals, geneticists, and social workers – towards decisions on care and treatment. It is a fine line to walk: guiding decisions instead of making them. You must be able to explain genetic results to non-scientists. You must be able to knowledgably discuss risks and options. There are few more challenging, rewarding ways to apply health information to people’s lives.
#8/7 (tie) – Microbiologist
This could be a good path if you want to stay more in the bench research realm – but still want to find answers to some issues impacting healthcare from the US (e.g., biomanufacturing) to the developing world (e.g., Ebola). The worldwide impact of bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and parasites continued to grow. Some bugs are being harnessed to treat disease. Some bugs are bioterrorism weapons. Some bugs are essential for our survival and are, themselves, at risk. They help our understanding of how such organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments (us, that is). Good option if you want to leave your options open between basic and applied research. The average salary can be on the lower end of the curve given the amount of formal education and training required.
#8/7 (tie) – Chemical Technicians
Good for those who want to stay focused on science. Good for those more introverted and enjoy “talking shop.” These folks work with special instrumentation and methods, alongside chemists, to develop products and processes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay within a narrower career comfort zone.
Keep in mind, though, doing a narrow variety of tasks each day could impact job satisfaction. Keep in mind that technician positions – regardless of type – are a two-edge sword. They tend to be more entry-level positions. Every company and laboratory needs more troops than generals. These positions are the troops of a lab. As such, transitioning to these positions from academia is comparatively easy. Be aware that salaries generally tend to be lower until promotion to higher, supervisory positions.
Next time: #4-6!