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Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 2:20 am
by R. F.
I am currently pursuing a Ph.D degree in microbiology/molecular biology. After I graduate I plan to move to industry, however I do not want to enter as a research scientist. My interests lie in other business aspects of industry. Here are a few questions I have:
1) Is it possible to enter the operations or manufacturing department in industry directly after my Ph.D? If not, what are the entry level jobs availabe for new Ph.Ds in industry besides being a bench scientist?
2) Since I do not want to enter industry as a bench scientist, how important is it for me to do a post-doc?
3) If I have only a paper or two published in a low-impact journal from my Ph.D thesis, will it negatively affect my chances for getting into non-research departments in industry?
4) Would I strengthen my resume if I take a few business classes along the way? If so, what business classes should I take?
Any advice or other suggestions would be most appreciated. Thank you.

Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 1:17 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Tony,

Good questions, all.

1) You can definitely enter manufacturing directly from a PhD program, but most people don't do this. Most people move over from research, which means that they have a reputation at the company and they are given increased responsibility in a move over to operations or mfg support labs. There are a lot of opportunities for future growth in mfg jobs, but you may need to do a lot of networking on this category of job, because PhD positions won't be advertised all that much.

2) Jim Gardner got away without a postdoc, into a technical writing job at a big pharma, and I know plenty of others who have done this as well. But they are definitely in the minority. If you start an aggressive job search, consider a temp staffing firm, which is how Jim got his position.

3) Yes -- low number of publications is seen as "low productivity" by all departments, all types of hiring managers.

4) Only if you are interested in a business position would your CV be enhanced by business courses. There may be a class like "Finance for the non-finance professional," or "Technology Transfer and Licensing," etc. Those would be good.

I'm hoping we'll get some other posters to help you,

Dave Jensen, Moderator
CareerTrax Inc.

Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 2:22 pm
by Nikos
Hey Tony,

Im in the same predicament you are. I plan on wrapping up my PhD in a couple of years and am attempting to take all of the necessary and possible steps to facilitate a transfer into the life sciences industry.

Dave certainly makes a number of helpful suggestions and to add to those I would say that I know of a couple of people who have gone into work as technical support scientists (NOT research scientists)in both biotech or pharmaceutical companies, and you do NOT need to do a postdoc to obtain one of these positions. You can then certainly transition into a different field, i.e manufacturing or perhaps even regulatory affairs, if you later find that technical support is not for you.

Additionally, I would say that during the remainder of your graduate studies you oughta attempt to become unique and stand out. If you can take business courses that have some relevance to the biotech/pharma industry I would highly recommend these classes. Also, if your University has a tech transfer department try volunteering there for a while. Both of these resources can serve as hubs for networking and gaining a better idea of life and medical technologies, as well as intellectual property and licensing issues that both biotech and pharma companies face on a daily basis. I can assure you that these steps have been very helpful during my graduate career in enhancing my understanding of "bio-business."

Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 2:34 pm
by Dave Jensen
Nick's suggestion of volunteering in tech transfer is a very good one. I've known people who started this way, and who went almost immediately after graduation into a high-paying Business Development position in the biotech industry, simply because they had this exposure at their school.


Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 5:28 pm
by Patrick P.

Which article mentioning Jim Gardner he is talking about?


Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:29 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Pat,

The only thing that I can think of is a recent NextWave piece which I wrote called "The Career Contrarian" and a link is below. I mentioned Jim in this because of the unique nature of his initial job search which got him into his job at a big pharma company. I didn't break any confidences because Jim himself has spoken of it in public on this forum on on the previous forum that I moderated,

Dave Jensen (link below)

The Career Contrarian

Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 7:18 pm
by Jim Gardner

I posted at least some of my saga earlier on this forum. Perhaps you can search or sort on my name. If you can't find the earlier relevant posts, please post questions and I'll respond.

There are actually quite a few non-bench biotech/pharma positions where the PhD is welcome. Medical writing, regulatory affairs, project management, QA/QC, strategic marketing, business development, competitive/scientific intelligence, etc. It can be quite difficult to get started in these fields, but once you have experience in the industry you can "lateral" into some of these areas. (The only area I can provide specific advice on how to get started sans experience is medical writing--where I got my start.) After 5+ years as medical writer, I lateralled into competitive/scientific intelligence where I have been for the last 3 years.

Good Luck!


Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 7:57 pm
by Dave Jensen

Please tell us more about competitive/scientific intelligence. What is this job? What kind of career opportunities are there? Do you have to "lateral" into them, or do they hire directly into that field?


Careers in Competitive Intelligence

PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2004 10:46 pm
by Jim Gardner

After 5+ years in medical writing at a large pharmaceutical company I decided to pursue a "lateral" opportunity and took a position in a department called Global Scientific and Business Intelligence (GSBI). I was doing very well in medical writing and was clearly on the management ladder, but I just could not imagine an entire career in medical writing. I wanted a position where I would learn more about my company and the industry. I also noticed that the few ex-writers who moved up into non-writing management positions had prior experience in other disciplines.

In my current position I am known internally as a Scientific Liaison (SL). However, my job duties are that of a competitive intelligence (CI) analyst. There are very few of these positions in the pharmaceutical industry and even fewer in biotech. Every SL in my department "lateralled" in from another position. There are currently 5 of us. Two have PharmD degrees, 1 has an RPH and an MBA, one has an engineering degree, and one (me) has a PhD. My boss has a scientific MS. I believe (from networking at the few CI conferences I've been to) that my dept is rather typical for a pharmaceutical company. CI practitioners come from a variety of educational backgrounds and usually lateral into CI from other disciplines.

So what exactly do I do? Well, it changes from week to week depending on the information needs of the many clients I serve. My job is to work with them (in Drug Discovery, Clinical, Regulatory, Marketing, Business Development, and Licensing & Acquisitions) and determine their needs. I bring these needs back to the information/search professionals in my department who then gather the information. I then organize, summarize, analyze, and communicate the information to the clients. All the information I deliver comes from external sources: biomedical literature, business news, patents, external industry and financial analysts' reports, clinical trial info, and information about drugs in development.

Among my most frequent client requests are pipeline analyses (charting all the drugs in development for a specific indication or that work via a specific mechanism of action) and reports on the competitive landscape for specific indications, mechanisms, or technologies. I regularly track competitors' drugs of interest (especially those we are considering for in-licensing) in news sources and pipeline databases. I cover (listen, summarize, and report) R&D and/or Science Day presentations that almost all the big pharmaceutical companies have once per year. I also am the content manager of a web portal page customized for the therapeutic area in which I work.

More information about CI can be found at the website of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals ( I am not sure if this treatise is going to be of much help to anyone--as I pointed out above these jobs are scarce and there is no standard path for obtaining them. At the very least this is an example of the kind of interesting and unexpected opportunities that are available within the industry once you have experience and a track record of success.

Ph.D jobs (non-bench)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2004 10:56 am
by Dave Jensen
Thanks Jim . . .Great post. This goes to show that there are many types of jobs that are just not highly promoted. Fascinating work, and all of them start by getting "in" with a company and then moving laterally -- also, you did not have a postdoc to begin with, which makes it more interesting for some people.

Dave Jensen