Ten Things You Should Know About Today’s Biopharma Job Market

Nov 21, 2016


MassBioEd released the fourth iteration of their quarterly jobs reports. Like the past three editions, this report is meant to highlight the current state of the industry’s labor market – who is hiring, what skills they are looking for, where the jobs are, and what occupations are in greatest demand. The latest report includes both an overview of the past three months of the industry’s hiring patterns, as well as a broader review of trends we have seen in the previous year.

Here are ten interesting pieces of information we’ve learned from our latest quarterly jobs report:

  1. Job postings are declining in 2016. While there was a slow, if not steady, climb in industry job listings in 2014 and 2015, that growth has subsided in 2016. In 2015 the year-over-year change in listings was consistently above 30%. In 2016, that rate declined in every month from January through July, where it bottomed out at -5%.
  2. But job postings rose slightly in Q3. Q3 ’16 saw an increase of 4.7% in job postings in comparison to the same period a year earlier. It also proved to be an increase of 11% over Q2 ’16. 
  3. Industry employment just reached an all-time high in March. In March, the last month with employment data available, employment in Massachusetts biopharma reached a record of 66,258.
  4. Research and analytical positions have grown much faster than the rest of the industry. These core positions, which include Medical Scientists, Chemists, Biologists, as well as various Life Science Technician and Laboratory Research positions collectively grew at an annual rate of 40% – double the industrywide growth rate of 20%. 
    As spotlighted in our annual report, this could well produce a strain on our higher education community in the coming years as they struggle to keep pace with the demand for a highly-trained workforce. Annual growth in graduates from biotech-related academic programs at public schools between 2010 and 2014 – which help supply our expanding industry with new and replacement workers – was 10.7% at the bachelor’s level, 2.4% at the master’s level, and 3.6% at the Ph.D. level. 
  5. Medical Scientists remain at the top. For the fourth straight quarterly report, demand for Medical Scientist has topped the charts. There were 664 such openings between July and September, an increase of 36% compared to the same months in 2015. All told, the past 12 months saw a 53% year-over-year increase in job listings for Medical Scientists.
  6. Demand in chemistry-related professions rose sharply. Postings for Chemical Technicians, Chemists, and Chemical Engineers grew by 180, or 58% when compared to Q3 ’15.
  7. The fastest growing job is not what you would imagine.  Production Plant Managers, who supervise and manage the manufacturing floor, grew by 162% this past quarter, and 123% for the entire year. 
  8. The growth rate of the industry outstrips that of the Massachusetts and United States economy. No surprise here. Since January 2014 annual growth in biopharma has doubled to around 4% this past year, peaking at over 6% at the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the growth rate for Massachusetts economy and the country as a whole has stalled at about 2% during that same period. 
  9. Good Laboratory Practices was among the fastest growing skills at each level of education. Also known as GLP, it is an FDA-required system of quality and consistency controls that all research laboratories must abide by. It increased its prevalence by at least two percentage points at each level this past quarter compared to the previous 12 months.  
  10. Considering a career in the biotech industry? Chances are you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree. In our analysis of entry level job postings in Q3 ‘16, the only occupations that require a scientific background that were available to those who possess less than a four-year degree were Laboratory Technicians, Research Associates and  Quality Technicians. Those occupations were only listed 45 openings out of the industry’s 6,741 total postings (regardless of background or experience level) in those three months.

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