Life Sciences Employment Trends by Occupation

By IEEE Life Sciences Portal Staff

NOTE: This is an overview of section 2 of the report.
Click here to read the entire article.

In the first part of this four-part series, we had presented opportunities in the Life Sciences field by looking at sectors and subsectors within the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. In this second part of the series, employment trends and projected growth are reviewed across a number of occupations to gain further insights into the life sciences industry.

For the purposes of this study, relevant occupations within architecture and engineering, healthcare, life, physical and social science, production, and management were identified and analyzed using The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Employment varied significantly across different occupations related to the life sciences industry in 2010; employment ranged from 6,000 to 177,000 among 24 relevant occupations included in the analysis. Architectural and engineering managers, medical and clinical laboratory technologists, and medical and clinical laboratory technicians were among the largest occupations in the industry in 2010, employing over 160,000 individuals each. Though smaller, data management is becoming more important in the life sciences industry as evident by the 25,000 individuals who are each employed as clinical data managers, and statisticians and biostatisticians. More specialized occupations like materials scientists, and prosthetists had the lowest employment numbers in 2010.

In additional to current employment statistics, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projects future employment growth to determine the outlook for occupations within the United States. Total employment in the U.S. is expected to grow by 14.3% between 2010 and 2020; however, a much faster employment growth rate (29% or more) is projected for several key occupations including biomedical engineers, biochemists and biophysicists, and medical scientists. Health technologists and technicians are also expected to experience faster than average employment growth rate.

Furthermore, the BLS Occupational Handbooks lists the number of job openings projected for each occupation between 2010 and 2020. Though employment for medical and clinical lab technologists and technicians is only expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade, these occupations are also expected to have the greatest number of job openings in the next several years because the occupation is already large in terms of employment. The BLS predicts that there will be over 57,000 job openings for these two occupations between 2010 and 2010. This is followed by architectural and engineering managers, which is projected to have 49,700 job openings between 2010 and 2020.

In terms of the required education level by occupation, the life sciences industry requires a range of expertise from traditional biological sciences as well as quantitative sciences, including cell and molecular biology, physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and more. In addition to a need for an interdisciplinary workforce, the Demand for Talent: Current and Projected Workforce Trends in the Life sciences Industry report revealed a demand for individuals across a variety of educational levels. According to the report, almost half of 64,334 jobs in the life sciences posted between February 2012 and March 2013 required a bachelor’s degree, while 17% sought individuals with graduate or professional degrees (12%) or post-secondary degrees (5%). A notable percentage of postings (14%) also sought individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Employers also expect scientists, engineers, clinicians and management teams to possess strong communications skills, a commercial market-based mindset versus an academic mindset, and the ability to propel scientific developments into commercial production.