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How to Utilise Your STEM Skills for a Rewarding Career in the Life Science Sector

10 November 2021

By Jay Freeman

How to Utilise Your STEM Skills for a Rewarding Career in the Life Science Sector

So many facets of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are central to the way we operate in our work and personal lives, guiding the trajectory of many industries as the way we utilise the disciplines evolves and adapts.

Few industries undergo as many frequent transformations as life sciences, given that the sector requires the ability to innovate and apply new technologies to a host of uses, from clinical research to medical devices.

Primarily, STEM education keeps the life sciences sector agile and innovative.

If you have a strong STEM-based skillset, you might be pondering the opportunities available to you in more traditional roles in other sectors such as finance – here’s why you should consider a career in life sciences instead.

Sector growth

Choosing a career is no small decision, and you’re likely prioritising the long-term implications of your choices.

In such a fast-paced working world, particularly one that is adapting as a result of a global pandemic, workplaces and industries are continuing to change rapidly.

Over 60% of all jobs created are to be found in science, technology, engineering, and maths, life sciences have experienced immense growth and investment.

In Europe, the private biotech sector alone raised a record-breaking $3.3 billion in private money (35% more than was raised in 2018, the previous record year) with an increase in sources of capital.

At a time when many industries are in an uncertain recovery period, biotech continues to raise unprecedented amounts of capital – Amsterdam-based investment firm LSP raised a staggering $620 million life sciences fund in March 2020, considered to be the largest in Europe!

Across Europe, venture capital funding has risen 23% above the 2018 record, proving that across the sector, investment and investor interest is only increasing.

The benefit for those looking to enter the life sciences sector is that there has arguably never been a better period of growth, innovation, and as a by-product, job security.

For those looking to utilise their skills towards more ground-breaking projects, life sciences is perfect, as traditional roles may prove too stationary.


Rewarding work

Research has shown that employees work harder and are more motivated when their job is associated with a genuine social cause – a career in life sciences certainly fulfils a desire to work towards the greater good.

Many employees have a passion for making the world a better place, and life sciences generally, and biotech specifically, function to do just that: developing life-saving vaccines and medication, helping society to adapt through technology breakthroughs and being involved in the cutting-edge of science.

Studying STEM subjects can lead to a variety of exciting and rewarding career opportunities, such as designing visual FX for films, working as a physiotherapist for athletes, inventing hi-tech health scanners, or even putting satellites into space! 

The life sciences sector is high-tech, competitive, and it is both a challenging and rewarding career in equal parts due to the fast-paced nature of the role and in the variety that job roles in the sector can bring.

Unlike some traditional tech roles, there doesn’t need to be a significant emphasis when searching for a job in life sciences to determine which role will have the largest impact, as whether you choose to work in a laboratory, an office, or remotely, you’ll know you’re making a positive impact.


Easily applicable skills

A STEM background is ideally placed for an easy transfer of skills in life sciences.

In our blog detailing the skills that are currently in high demand in life sciences, there is a lot of overlap with the skills that an individual with a STEM background would have:

  • Digital and computational (e.g., data modelling and programming skills)

  • Research and development

  • Statistical literacy (e.g., skills for roles such as computational biology or bioinformatics)

  • Leadership and communication (e.g., team management, entrepreneurial mindset)

Commonly-cited STEM skills include:

  • Problem-solving

  • Creativity 

  • Solutions-based mathematics and science skills

  • Engineering-design thinking

  • Critical thinking

The overlap between the skills that a STEM background can offer and the skills that are in high demand in life sciences is significant, and this also provides those from a STEM background with unique opportunities in the application of their skills – particularly when it comes to technology.


New ways of working

Whilst traditional tech roles may have paved the way for remote working roles, there can still be an element of inflexibility.

Life sciences is a global industry, and the opportunities for work are not exclusive to in-person or remote working, they also include the potential for geographic freedom.

This coincides with a high demand for skilled candidates from life sciences companies, meaning that those who have such coveted skills such as statistics, technology, and science-based engineering will be highly sought after.

It has been a trend in the last few years that rapid technology and business innovation have driven talent needs, global competition has continued rising, alongside a greater push for diversity.

All in all, the picture for those with such vital skillsets, whether around data programming or up-and-coming technology such as artificial intelligence, is positive.


A challenging job 

If you have a passion for science, numbers, tech or engineering, you’re also likely to enjoy a challenge.

There are multiple avenues for anyone seeking a challenge in their career for technology, statistics, and/or engineering, which can be split into three categories:

  • IT functional areas: data analytics, bioinformatics, 3D printing, IT security, data quality/integrity, artificial intelligence

  • Life science technologies: next generation sequencing, stem cells technology, analytical chemistry, clinical development, drug delivery, aseptic processing, downstream processing, pharmacogenomics

  • Specialised engineering fields: automation, miniaturisation of medical devices, process integration, downstream processing, CAD design

It’s not just the endless possibilities in terms of applying your knowledge that can be appealing.

There are also ground-breaking developments across the sector.

For example, the significant developments in medical products, such as Roche’s Rituxan, used to slow the growth of tumours in several types of cancer, or Amgen/Pfizer’s Enbrel, used to treat several autoimmune diseases.

Continuing to develop your knowledge in a life sciences career allows a huge scope to grow professionally and expand your skillset in the process.


Sustainability 

In the past, the life sciences sector was associated with its part in generating greenhouse emissions due to the role of pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing.

However, the sector is making significant changes to make a more positive impact on the planet and move towards a generation of clean energy and more sustainable practices.

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health is investing $800 million over the next ten years to improve the health of people and the planet through ingredient transparency, hoping to also use 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging – read our blog on how the life sciences sector is tackling sustainability to find out more.

Starting your career in life sciences now means you will be on the precipice of meaningful change towards sustainability efforts, and can be a part of making a difference.


To summarise

A passion for facing challenges will get you far across industries. 

Whilst a traditional role in sectors such as finance or infrastructure might seem appealing, a career in life sciences could be the boost you need to be a part of one of the most innovative, challenging and rewarding sectors.

Few careers will have such a fast-paced, competitive environment whilst also providing ample opportunity for you to utilise your skills for the greater good.


Let us help you to begin an exciting career in life sciences today by getting in touch with the Panda team.

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