Job Outlook for Biotech & Pharmaceutical Careers

by Forest Time
Biotechs focus much of their time on research and lab work.

Biotechs focus much of their time on research and lab work.

The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are involved in researching, developing and marketing drugs and other medical products. While biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies can be expected to produce a number of new jobs in coming years, signs indicate that they will slow hiring and outsource much of their work to private research and development firms and, in some cases, to workers in other countries. The job outlook for biotech and pharmaceutical professionals depends on their employers and positions.


Microbiologists coordinate and conduct research projects, such as developing new drugs to combat infectious disease. They are expected to see average job growth between 2010 and 2020, much of it driven by demand for pharmaceutical and biotech research. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for all microbiologists to grow at a rate of 13 percent during the decade, about the same as the average job growth rate of 14 percent expected across all occupations. This will produce an estimated 2,700 new microbiology jobs by 2020.

Biophysicists and Biochemists

Biophysicists and biochemists study the chemical and physical principles of living organisms and of biological processes such as cell development, growth and heredity. Their research might involve analyzing the effects of drugs. The BLS reports that the number of jobs for these professionals is expected to grow a robust 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, which would create an estimated 7,700 new jobs.


Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers accounted for 18 percent of the total number of U.S. jobs for chemists in 2010, according to the BLS. That was the second-biggest industry in terms of employment, behind companies that provide research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences. The BLS expects that jobs for chemists will grow at a rate of only 4 percent from 2010 and 2020. The bureau reports that many pharmaceutical companies are partnering with research and development firms and even universities to conduct research that was formerly done by in-house chemists. Only about 3,200 new jobs for chemists will be created by 2020.


Chemical engineers use chemistry, biology and physics to solve problems involving the production or use of drugs and other products. The BLS expects chemical engineers to experience a relatively slow job growth rate of 6 percent from 2010 to 2020, leading to about 1,800 new jobs. However, many of these jobs are expected to be in biotech industries. Additional job openings will be available because many chemical engineers are set to retire. The outlook is much brighter for biomedical engineers, whose job duties include designing systems and products such as artificial organs. The BLS expects these engineers to see a 62 percent rise in jobs from 2010 to 2020, one of the fastest growth rates in the U.S. economy. This will result in about 9,700 new jobs by 2020.

Science Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments, while chemical technicians assist in researching, developing and producing chemical products and processes. Because these technicians tend to have fewer skills than scientists and engineers, their work is even easier to outsource to research and development firms. The BLS expects that science technicians will face strong job competition between 2010 and 2020. Jobs for biological science technicians are expected to grow at an average rate of 14 percent, while jobs for chemical technicians are projected to grow at a slower rate of 7 percent.

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