Career opportunities at Small Life Science Organizations Before, During, and After COVID-19
When you hear about bioengineering, biochemistry, and other careers in the life sciences, you probably picture a state-of-the-art lab inside a mega corporation or major university. However, the life sciences occur at all levels, including small businesses. There are many small companies in the D.C. area that focus on biomedical research, microbiology, biochemistry, and related pursuits. And like most organizations, COVID-19 has had a serious impact on them.
Unlike other businesses, however, the impact on small life science organizations has not been all bad. In fact, many of these organizations have found themselves thriving more during the pandemic than they were before 2020. While other fields were experiencing major downsizing, life science jobs actually expanded over the last couple of years. Will that trend continue when COVID-19 is finally under control or eradicated? Let’s take a look at small life science organizations in D.C. before, during and after the pandemic.
Before the pandemic
In the decade prior to the pandemic, national career growth in the field of life sciences was rising at a rate of about 1.7 percent a year. The growth was steady, but not astronomical. In the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, known as “the BioHealth Capital Region,” growth was significantly higher, averaging over 15 percent a year. With over 500 biotech companies in and around Montgomery County, it’s not surprising career growth here far outpaced the national average.
Epidemiology, genetic counseling, medical science, bioengineering, microbiology, and laboratory technology were all promising career paths prior to COVID-19. However, since these fields are all directly involved in understanding, preventing, and treating coronavirus-related diseases, the demand for life science workers has mushroomed.
During the pandemic
While the majority of small businesses have been struggling to survive the pandemic, life science organizations have been a notable exception. The pandemic granted unprecedented opportunities for students and recent graduates to get their feet wet at smaller biotech companies that were busy developing the equipment and data necessary to decipher, track, and thwart COVID-19. While other businesses were putting a freeze on hiring and sending their employees home, these organizations were adding personnel and boosting their hours.
Not only was the workforce in life sciences increasing during the pandemic, but so was the diversity of that workforce. It’s well known COVID-19 has been particularly devastating to African Americans and Latino-Americans due to widespread disparities in quality healthcare. As a result, life science organizations have been more eager than ever to diversify their personnel to gain a multitude of perspectives on science and health-related issues.
Some may question whether these positive trends will continue to thrive after the pandemic abates. However, the way things are looking now, there is very little to worry about. Experts are projecting that over the next five years, employment in the life sciences will grow at three times the normal rate. The specialty that is expected to expand the most—at a 21 percent growth rate—is genetic counseling, i.e.,. the study of genetically inherited conditions. In the D.C. area, the outlook is particularly optimistic. Ranked fourth among biopharma clusters in the United States by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, the BioHealth Capital Region has a strong foundation and a solid plan for the future.
The valuable contributions to society made by life science professionals before and during the pandemic are primed to carry on in the post-pandemic era. Anyone looking to pursue a career in this field can feel confident their services will be needed both now and in the long-term. While it is unfortunate the reason this sector is thriving is due to horrific events, no one can deny that when unexpected tragedy strikes, we all benefit from having experts in place to lessen the impact. No matter how big or small the organization is, the importance of their contributions is enormous.