Best and Worst Things About Working in Biotech was originally published on Vault.

Best and Worst Things About Working in Biotech

Opportunities in the pharma/biotech industry exist at every career level. Scientists with graduate degrees are in high demand, as are workers with science-related bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. Workers with no scientific background may find jobs in administration, finance, law, marketing, and other areas. Even high school graduates may find work in production as capsule-filling-machine operators and tenders, fermenter and granulator machine operators, tablet testers, and quality-control workers. The bottom line is that pharma/biotech is a major jobs provider in the U.S., and the employment outlook is good for well-qualified job seekers in this industry.

That said, below are some of the most attractive and most challenging aspects about working in the industry. If you’re aware of these, you’ll be better prepared to meet any challenges that come your way once you’re in the industry.


1. Make a difference in the world

Whether you’re working in the laboratory, in an office, or on a sales call, you’re helping people live healthier and happier lives. You will also be on the cutting edge of science. Many people in the pharma/biotech industry love the high-tech environment and the fact that no two days are the same.

2. Financial rewards

Pharma/biotech companies often offer high pay and good benefits. Some even offer stock options. Mean annual earnings for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing professionals were $67,010 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This is significantly higher than the mean salary ($48,320) for all workers.

3. Geographic freedom

Opportunities in the industry are available throughout the U.S.. Or, if you dream of living and working abroad, many U.S. companies have offices and manufacturing facilities in foreign countries and foreign pharma/biotech companies hire American workers, too.

4. Team focus

The industry offers excellent opportunities to work as a member of a team and the field is loaded with bright, motivated people, which can make each workday intellectually fulfilling.

5. Good opportunities for advancement

With the right educational background and experience you can be prepared for opportunities for advancement to a managerial or executive-level position. Many companies offer leadership development programs. 


1. Limited job security

The pharma/biotech industry is always undergoing cycles of expansion, contraction, and restructuring. Companies are merging. Some are cutting research and development budgets, some are closing, and others are outsourcing work overseas. Currently, the industry is especially fragile because technology continues to change, and the companies that fall behind or bet on the wrong drug development plans fail.

2. Deadlines

Time is money in the drug industry, and deadlines are strongly emphasized. This can create a stressful work environment.

3. Less autonomy

Individualists may struggle in this industry because of its emphasis on teamwork.
Rules and regulations. The pharma/biotech industry is strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. This adds up to a lot of rules to follow and paperwork to process.

4. Bureaucracy

Large companies often have large bureaucracies, which sometimes makes it hard to get things done. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re facing deadlines. Small companies may have less bureaucracy, but they also have fewer resources.

5. Extensive travel

Sales, marketing, management consulting, business development, and other positions often require significant travel, which can be stressful and affect your personal life.

This post was adapted from the Vault Career Guide to Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology.