Career opportunities at Medium-Sized Life Science Organizations Before, During, and After COVID-19

COVID-19 changed just about everything. The jobs we do, where we do them, how we communicate—even the ways we dress—have all been altered by this seemingly endless pandemic. The silver lining is that we are learning more about infectious diseases than we ever knew before. Leading the charge are life science organizations and the people they employ. Without epidemiology, bioinformatics, and bioengineering firms, we would not be able to imagine the possibility of taking COVID-19 down, once and for all.  

Small businesses give us the equipment, process the data, and run the tests. Huge corporations and government organizations create the vaccines, fund vast relief efforts, and contribute to international research. But what about the mid-sized life science organizations? What has their experience been like before and during the pandemic, and what are careers at these firms apt to look like in the future? Read further to find out.

Before the pandemic

Montgomery County, namely the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia expanse known as the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR), was thriving long before the pandemic. Home to more than 1,800 life sciences companies, the region has been named the fourth greatest biopharma cluster in the nation. The goal to move up to third place could have been thwarted by the havoc COVID-19 wreaked. However, if anything, the pandemic put the region more firmly on that path than ever.

During the pandemic

The changes experienced by many mid-size life science companies during the pandemic were notably different than in most professions. Instead of laying people off, they were pulling people in. Instead of diversifying their pursuits, they were homing in on one common enemy: COVID-19. Although putting other projects on hold was frustrating for many scientists, the immediate and critical challenge of stopping the pandemic in its tracks was rewarding.

This is certainly not to say that there were no negative impacts of the pandemic for life science organizations. As with all businesses, communication processes had to be revamped, with heavy reliance on virtual communication. Scientific conferences were either cancelled altogether or forced online. For example, in 2020, the international European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)/European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Symposia that traditionally convenes in Heidelberg, Germany, could only be attended via the internet. The same was true of the 2020 “The Biology of Genomes” convention traditionally held in New York.    

Telework also became more prominent, causing stress and frustration for some life science personnel. Yet not everyone saw it that way. A survey of life scientists conducted by the professional journal Genome Biology revealed “some respondents reported that their stress during the laboratory shutdown was lower than during their normal work routine, which could be explained by less frequent interruptions in their daily routine or perhaps reduced expectations from peers and lab heads to deliver results.” Whatever the case, life science organizations experienced major changes during the pandemic, good and bad, some of which may persist.

After the pandemic

Although we’re not quite there yet, the days of a COVID-free routine are (hopefully) lurking around the corner. This means that life science organizations will be able to diversify their pursuits once again, while at the same time using some of the lessons learned from the pandemic to establish permanent alterations. For those of you hoping to start a job in the field, or anticipating a return, the future appears bright.

Nationally, The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates an eight percent growth in the field between 2020 and 2030. Locally, in the BioHealth Capital Region, BioBuzz reports “the BHCR has continued to show substantial growth and garner global attention with new venture capital deals totaling $1.229 billion.” With more than 55,882 jobs currently in the region, and a projected 13.2 percent increase by 2026, career opportunities abound.

Careers in medium-sized life science organizations cover a full range of specialties, but they all have one thing in common; they are steadily growing.  Whether you’re interested in genetic research, bioinformatics, chemistry, or some aspect of the field that hasn’t even launched yet, you can feel confident your expertise will be a valuable commodity.

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