Research and development roles in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech

Posted by Morag Walling on 1 October 2015

Many students dream of working in active science or research and development when they finish studying. Whether you're one of these students or are simply interested in finding out more about this industry, here is some information and activities designed to help guide your next steps.

Keep in mind that the business models used in this industry are changing and there is now a move towards outsourcing the early stage of drug discovery to contract research companies (CROs) or biotech discovery companies. It's often within these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that job opportunities for aspiring bench scientists can be found.  Do bear in mind that if you are a scientist interested in this sector there will also be opportunities for more commercial and support roles as well as directly at the lab bench.

Read our top tips below for getting into the sector:

Keep up with the industry and link in with London networks

You'll probably already have an understanding that academic further study is likely to be required to meet entry requirements for research science roles. However it is also important to understand the skills and experience outside your academic studies that will support your success in this area as it continues to change.  

UK BioIndustry Association exhibition 2013Get started by:

  • Signing up to newsletters.
  • Attending networking and information events.
  • The BioIndustry Association has lots of information and the One Nucleus site has lists of companies within the London area.
  • Medcity brings together those interested in the life sciences sector in London
  • To gain an understanding of developments in the sector, keep an eye on London & Partners and UKTI (Life Sciences) which support SMEs in London.
  • The London BioScience Innovation Centre gives an overview of The Bio Incubator and start-up areas.  

Get lab experience

Many roles will only be open to those with sufficient experience.

Get started by:
  • Thinking carefully about modules or further study options to maximise exposure.
  • Exploring summer placement opportunities within your department and university. Also try The Wellcome Trust.
  • Identifying pharma or biotech companies that you could approach directly. The ABPI provides a list of bioscience companies who offer work experience and placements on its careers website

Improve your communication skills

Student discussion. Copyright The Careers Group, University of London

Work experience and opportunities in this area are often found through networking. Think about how comfortable you might be talking to people you don’t know.
If this doesn’t come naturally you can get started by:

  • Going to events you are interested in and engaging in conversations with fellow attendees. 
  • Taking advantage of opportunities within your department or the university to become an ambassador, give a presentation or engage with the community.

Show that you have a head for business and can act in an entrepreneurial manner

To be successful in this environment, you will need to demonstrate more than great hands-on science. Look for opportunities that build your skills in all these areas.

Get started by:

  • Finding opportunities to sell. Ideas and skills count just as much as products.
  • Demonstrating yourself as a finisher, and have great time-management and organisational skills.
  • Having confidence in your ideas, yourself and others, and being able to express yourself clearly and concisely.
  • Being willing and able to learn new skills and understanding risks and how to mitigate them as you act.

Information in this blog post was taken from the King’s Careers & Employability Bioscience Careers Guide

Learn more about careers in research science                                                       

Topics: STEM, employability skills, Getting Experience

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