17 Career Paths Within the Life Science Industry
Working in the life science industry can be extremely rewarding, with a unique opportunity to save lives and improve the quality of life for patients across the globe. Whether you see yourself working in a laboratory researching molecules for use in drug development, or in an office processing contracts and other legal documents to kickstart a clinical trial, the work you do in the industry has a real, meaningful impact on people’s lives worldwide.
In this article, we’ve outlined 17 career paths within the life science industry: including paths towards scientific, creative, administrative and customer-focused roles…
Clinical Research is a branch of life sciences that investigates the safety and effectiveness of treatments intended for human use, including medicines and medical devices. There are many benefits to working in Clinical Research, including the opportunity to help save lives and improve the quality of life for patients across the globe. Work in this field can be extremely varied and rewarding, and often provides the opportunity to travel across different research sites nationally and internationally.
Here are 10 Clinical Research career paths for you to consider.
Within the life science industry, one of the main roles of those involved in Data Management is to ensure that all data from clinical trials is collected and recorded correctly, protecting the integrity of this data, and allowing accurate conclusions to be extracted from it. Data is also analysed to identify any trends as well as anomalies, measuring the consistency and accuracy of results produced. Working in Data Management can also be extremely varied and is a great career path for those with an analytical mind who want to help improve the outcomes of clinical trials.
More information on the responsibilities of a Clinical Data Manager can be found here.
Business Development, Sales, Account Management, Product Management and Commercial Management are all important roles within life science organisations. These roles are all focused on selling a company’s products or services, nurturing customer/client relationships, and managing the product/services portfolio. Jobs in this field can be extremely satisfying and rewarding, with good salaries and benefits, and excellent career development opportunities.
There are many different niches within Research and Development (R&D) to work in, including jobs in:
- Genetics and Genomics
- Toxicology and more.
Whilst these roles can take various shapes, R&D roles in the life science industry will typically see you undertaking important laboratory work to kickstart the drug development process; identifying molecules to be used and making progress towards developing and refining new and existing medicines for various diseases. These are highly scientific roles which often require a more academic background as well as an analytical mind.
Medical Affairs professionals act as the bridge between the company (e.g., a pharmaceutical company) and the wider medical community, including key thought leaders, patient groups, regulatory authorities and more. Medical Affairs is a highly collaborative field, providing the opportunity to work with a variety of people both internally and externally to support commercial activities.
Project Management is an essential part of any organisation. In the life science industry, Project Managers may work in any of the following areas:
- Clinical Project Management
- Manufacturing Project Management
- Quality Project Management
- Regulatory Project Management
- R&D Project Management
- IT Project Management
- Data Project Management
Within these areas, Project Managers will ensure teams are working efficiently to produce required deliverables, monitoring progress and adherence to predefined timelines and budgets. They are also responsible for delegating tasks, managing the use of resources, and maintaining project plans. Time management, communication, and organisation skills are essentials for a career in Project Management.
Regulatory Affairs is concerned with ensuring a company is compliant with the protocols, laws, and regulations surrounding their business. Regulatory Affairs professionals use their knowledge of these laws and regulations to advise a company on relevant best practices, including those surrounding product marketing and data presentation. They ultimately help to protect public health by ensuring the products supplied by the company are safe, effective, and contribute positively to public health.
More information about working in Regulatory Affairs can be found here.
Medical Communications involves the communication of medical/scientific data in a variety of formats to different groups of stakeholders. These stakeholders may include healthcare professionals, patient advocacy groups, investors, and the media. Work is typically done by Medical Communications agencies who work on behalf of life science companies to deliver this information clearly and accurately, keeping all informed of recent developments. This is one of the more creative career paths in the industry, although the ability to transform complex scientific concepts into clear, concise messages that can be easily digested by all audiences is a key skill to have.
Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic which saw a surge in the decentralisation of clinical trials, the life science industry is rapidly increasing its use of technology, also increasing demand for the talent to implement and manage this technology. With more and more clinical trial activities taking place remotely, more attention is needed on how data – including patient data – is being stored, processed, and protected. Working in IT is a good option for those who are tech-savvy with strong numerical skills and the desire to help life science companies carry out their activities safely and efficiently.
If you’re looking for a more administrative rather than scientific role, working in Finance / Administration may be a good path for you. Depending on your background, you could work in:
- Contracts / Proposals
- Purchasing & Procurement
- Customer Services
These roles are essential in ensuring life science companies are carrying out their business in adherence to the law, fulfilling contractual obligations, and delivering a quality service to clients and customers.
In pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing involves the process of industrial-scale synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs, ensuring these drugs are being produced safely and efficiently. Roles within Manufacturing include:
Quality professionals are responsible for ensuring compliance to relevant laws and regulations as well as for testing new products at various stages throughout production, ensuring each is being produced at the expected quality. They ensure products – including new medicines – meet predefined standards, identifying any defects and taking measures to correct these. This is a good career path for those with an eye for detail and a love of problem solving who want to help deliver safe and high-quality treatments to patients.
Whilst the Healthcare industry is under huge pressure in 2023, careers in this field can be extremely rewarding for those wanting to help patients in a more hands-on capacity. Whether you want to work as a Doctor, Nurse, Consultant or Pharmacist, you’ll have the opportunity to improve the physical and mental health of patients in need, improving and often saving lives. Although a challenging career, no two days will be the same.
Marketing within the life science industry is concerned with keeping company stakeholders informed of company developments (e.g., product launches, clinical trial results, FDA approvals, mergers and acquisitions, company awards and achievements, and more). Marketing professionals help with the promotion of the company’s products/services, helping the business to generate more sales, attract more investment, establish a positive reputation, and create meaningful partnerships across the industry. This is a great career path for those with excellent communication skills and a desire to spread the word about developments in all aspects of public health.
Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) is focused on the correlations between treatments and outcomes, generating real-world evidence to improve patient care and communicate the value and effectiveness of pharmaceutical products. This a great career path for those wanting to work on improving patient care and influence how drugs are produced and prescribed. HEOR professionals may also work closely with those in Market Access, helping to ensure eligible patients have access to treatments, and ensuring products/services are fairly priced.
Operations professionals are responsible for ensuring all aspects of a business are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, overseeing things such as:
- Facilities Management
- Site Services
- Supply Chain Management
- Health and Safety
In the life science industry where work is often highly collaborative, they also ensure efficient collaboration and communication between departments as well as with external stakeholders. To work in Operations, you’ll need to be highly organised, an excellent communicator, and a proven problem solver.
Human Resources (HR) are responsible for managing the employee lifecycle, from hiring and onboarding to training and development, conflict management, employee retention, and employee dismissal. One of the biggest challenges facing life science organisations in 2023 is having to compete for top talent, making the work of recruitment and talent acquisition professionals even more important than ever. Working in HR is a great career path for those with strong interpersonal, organisation and communication skills, and those driven to improve the meaningful work of life science companies through the attrition of highly talented individuals.