______________________________Arrow-Pushing in Organic Chemistry: An Easy Approach to Understanding Reaction Mechanisms, 2nd Edition (111899132X) cover image

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Empolyment Opportunities Part 2 - Answers to Questions from Soon-To-Be-Graduates

In these challenging economic times, it is natural to wonder where employment opportunities can be found.  This question is not unique to the many students preparing to enter the workforce.  In fact, everyone working to protect their career options, from the gainfully employed to those seeking new employment, is continually evaluating options.  In my last post, I began addressing questions focused on employment opportunities.  In this post, the following questions raised by graduating life sciences students are addressed:
  • Are part time opportunities with tuition assistance available in pharma/biotech companies?
  • For new hires, what degrees are more valuable - organic chemistry or medicinal chemistry?
  • Is there job security in the life sciences?
  • What are the trends in outsourcing?
Are part time opportunities with tuition assistance available in pharma/biotech companies?

Having worked for companies of varying sizes, benefits extended to employees can vary widely.  The larger organizations I have seen, having more available operating capital, tend to be more generous regarding career development benefits.  Some even offered tuition reimbursement programs to employees wishing to enhance their skill set through education.  However, such programs did not include provisions for part-time work.  While I am sure that arrangements of this type are available, they are not common and employees eligible for tuition assistance programs should be prepared to study at night while working full time.

For new hires, what degrees are more valuable - organic chemistry or medicinal chemistry?

This is an excellent question because while most research universities offer degrees in organic chemistry, degrees in medicinal chemistry are also available.  In my post of September 30, 2009 (Academic Institutions and Drug Discovery), I addressed this question in detail and stand by my assertion that organic chemistry degrees are far more valuable to drug discovery efforts than degrees in medicinal chemistry.

Is there job security in the life sciences?

While some employment is associated with unions, most jobs - including those in the life sciences - are not.  However, even with union-backed employment contracts, the nature of at-will employment virtually assures that employment is not guaranteed to those working at a given company.  Furthermore, in today's climate of mergers and acquisitions, job security is non-existent.

While we cannot count on any level of job security, there are steps we can take to preemptively enhance our employability as we transition from one job to the next.  In my posting of August 21, 2009 (Maintaining Marketability in a Shrinking Job Market), I talk at length about employment trends and the opportunities they provide.  Remember, while jobs come and go, we all have the ability to adapt and enhance our skill sets to meet the needs of our future employers.  It is our responsibility to develop our careers if we want to continue to be employable.

What are the trends in outsourcing?

In my post of October 25, 2009 (Chemistry Outsourcing - New and Challenging Career Opportunities), I discussed outsourcing in great detail.

In today's industrial climate, there is likely to be more dependence on outsourcing as a means of slowing cash burn rates and minimizing the need for dedicated infrastructure.  However, I do not see this as a sustainable alternative to the development of novel technologies at dedicated facilities controlled by parent companies.  If we are to maintain a competitive edge in a global marketplace, it is essential that we maximize productivity and fully control all intellectual property supporting our innovations.  In the meantime, outsourcing provides novel opportunities for the management of complex and diverse infrastructures - in many cases, extending across cultures.  Such opportunities should be embraced, as associated skill sets are broadly valued throughout the biopharmaceutical industry.