Not long ago I assembled a few current and former coworkers to meet with a young woman who is contemplating a career in journalism. Part of that visit involved comparing experiences of those who had been in the field for many years with those who had finished their formal education only a few years ago. We wondered whether the field still welcomes newcomers with degrees other than in journalism; or whether publishers now insist on that specific academic background — becoming more selective because a shrinking market allows them to.
At that same time, I was also following a similar thread in the MyBIO group on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com): What levels of education are advised these days for launching a career in biotech? Topics include the pros and cons of combining an MBA with a BS (or MS), the importance of having multiple years of lab experience on your resume, and the importance of networking (but not in all national cultures). They recommend a number of academic programs that combine business with science studies. One person mentions that although only 10 years ago a BS degree would be a fine qualification for entry-level and/or clinical positions, the industry has now entered “the age of the PhD.” Although most everyone is optimistic about future employment trends, I imagine that such choices and conflicting predictions can be daunting to those trying to chart an entry into just about any industry.
Actually, our main advice to our potential journalist was about the same as the suggestions in the biotech careers discussion thread: get (and do well in) internships, research and write for publication even if unpaid (to build a professional history), find a subject niche you like so you can offer specialized knowledge, stay current in the latest technological/electronic tools of your trade, consider earning a double major (an MBA with a BS in bioscience; degrees in journalism and bioscience…), pursue continuing education in ancillary skills (learn how to better manage a team, build a Web site, or maintain electronic records), start networking now — and (back to our journalism discussion), never ever use the word impact as a verb.
Back when scientists in biotech start-ups wore multiple “hats” and were still inventing biomanufacturing, many companies were built by folks with only BS or MS degrees. These days, however, and in our slow job market, companies have highly experienced PhD-level applicants to choose from. So how would you advise a young person who hopes for a career in biotechnology?
I invite your perspectives on this topic for consideration as Elucidation closers (800 words) in upcoming issues. What do you advise those just completing a BS degree toward a career in biotechnology? Do you know of other academic programs that bridge the gaps between science and business and/or between research-focused academic programs and our regulated industry? Does your personal story offer good examples for others? Let me know what you think (email@example.com), and I will help you share your advice with others.