Life Sciences – where are the jobs? What skills are in demand?

Are you planning on attending the Careers in Life Sciences Mini Fair on Thursday 30th January? Carol Macdonald, Careers Consultant, gives an excellent insight into this innovative sector. Read on to find out more…

What is the Life Science industry?

This is an innovative industry sector with ambitious growth targets, which operates in a global marketplace. It includes pharmaceutical companies, contract research, clinical trials and manufacturing companies, biotech companies, medical device companies, medical diagnostics companies and a host of related and support organisations working in areas such as medical technologies, healthcare communications, patents and more…

Approximately 40,000 people work in Life sciences in Scotland across 770 organisations, 675 of which are private companies.  You can find out more about these organisations by using the Life and Chemical Sciences Scottish Industry Directory.

What’s happening in this sector?

The short answer is lots! It truly is an innovative sector and one with a high number of start-up and university spin out companies. The sector in Scotland has been growing in recent years at an impressive 7% per annum. It’s expenditure on research and development is high and accounts for 25% of Scotland’s total business R&D expenditure.

It’s an industry where there is a high level of collaboration, and not just collaboration between firms. The three-way collaboration between life science companies, academia and the NHS – known as the triple-helix approach – is central to sector growth. Academic research supports companies to develop new products; the NHS provides the clinical experience and data to allow products to be taken to market. 

As this sector is important to the Scottish economy, it benefits from government support. Recent developments have included the establishment of an Innovation Campus at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow; where companies, researchers and clinicians are co-located. Two Scottish innovation centres have also been established. These are the Industrial Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research in Digital Diagnostics (iCAIRD) and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC). Both centres involve collaboration between industry, academia and government and are addressing projects defined by industry consortia.

You can find out more about this sector through the Life Sciences in Scotland website. Although this site is targeted at business users, it can offer you a good insight into what’s going on.  

What sort of jobs are available?

It’s not all about lab work, although lab science and R&D roles are important.  There are plenty of options ‘outside the lab’ where you can apply your scientific knowledge and skills.

Graduates work in a wide range of different roles including regulatory affairs, quality , sales, medical liaison, clinical trials administration, medical writing, business development, data science, IT, bio-manufacturing and more …  

To gain an insight into the range of jobs available have look at career information provided by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).  You’ll find some great resources including an extensive bank of career case-studies.

What’s important to this sector?

Quality control and regulation are hot topics in this sector. Companies work to strict regulatory standards and adhere to industry standards including Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). It helps to be aware of this.

This is a sector where a high percentage of staff are graduates – many also have postgraduate qualifications, although this is not required for many of the roles available.

Skill shortages identified from recent industry feedback have included:

·         engineering skills

·         digital skills, including data, software and informatics

·         regulatory, compliance, quality management/assurance/control, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and the ability to follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

·         biomanufacturing, particularly cell therapy and regenerative medicine, both of which require specific, aseptic techniques to use within a clean room environment

·         individuals that combine business, commercial, entrepreneurial and leadership skills with sector knowledge.

·         There is also an increasing demand for a range of cross-disciplinary and transferable skills , including communication, team working, leadership.  

You can find out more by looking at the Scottish Skills Investment Plan for this sector which was published in May 2018

Does this industry sector interest you?  

We will be welcoming representatives from around ten Life Science companies onto campus for our specialist mini career fair, Careers in Life Science on Thursday 30 January (6pm – 7.30pm).

This is a great opportunity for you to meet industry professionals and potential future employers within this vibrant industry sector. You will be able to discuss future career opportunities and find out about graduate jobs and work experience opportunities. 

Students of all years are invited – both first degree and postgrads.

Book your place at Careers in Life Science now.

(Image credit: iStock)


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