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Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

Biotechnology is a science-driven industry sector that makes use of living organisms and molecular biology to produce healthcare-related products and therapeutics or to run processes (such as DNA fingerprinting). Biotechnology is best known for its increasingly important role in the fields of medicine and pharmaceuticals, and is also applied in other areas such as genomics, food production, and the production of biofuels. 

Pharmaceutical industry is the discovery, development, and manufacture of drugs and medications (pharmaceuticals) by public and private organizations. 

Skills to develop for success in this field

  • Analytical ability 
  • Communication skills 
  • Cross functional teamwork
  • Detail-Oriented
  • Engineering coursework (for manufacturing based positions)
  • Flexibility
  • Problem Solving/Troubleshooting
  • Research
  • Technical and design (for research and manufacturing roles)
  • Time and project management 

Online resources specific to the industry

  • Vault is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession. 

Job posting and other career informational sites relevant to the field: 

  • National Science Foundation-sponsored site that outlines a wide range of biotech career options. 
  • BioPharmGuy: Directory of biotech companies. 
  • BioSpace: Pharma and biotech job board. 
  • Biotech Careers: Comprehensive site that assists with job exploration and has a board with internships and jobs. 
  • Built-in Chicago: Find local and national start-ups. 
  • Fierce Biotech: Helpful Medtech, Biotech, CRO industry information 
  • Science Careers: Learn about career options for different jobs at different levels. 

Key information or knowledge for this field

  • Various roles exist within biotechnology/medical devices/pharmaceuticals, including positions in research, data science, operations, engineering, quality control, quality assurance, communications, marketing, sales, and corporate functions. 
  • Gain research and project experience as an undergrad to help you to be more competitive. 
  • Networking is an important part of your internship/job search in with Biotech and Pharmaceutical companies.  
  • It is common for biotech and pharmaceutical companies to use applicant tracking systems to scan your resume as you apply to internships and jobs. Be sure to carefully read job descriptions and use keywords and relevant research experiences. 
  • Some larger pharmaceutical companies include interview tips and videos on their websites 
  • Candidates at pharmaceutical companies will most often be interviewed by bench level scientists, who will ask questions that assess the candidate’s technical and communication skills. Candidates interviewing for research positions will often be asked to give 30 – 45 minute seminars based on their research. For interviews at biotechnology companies, instead of giving a research presentation, candidates will likely have one-on-one or small group discussions about their research 
  • Consider a graduate degree in the future. Although individuals have advanced in the biotechnology field with a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field, most scientists say it is necessary to have a Ph.D. to be assigned creative work. Many bachelor’s degree candidates work at a biotechnology firm as a research assistant for one to two years before pursuing an advanced degree. 
  • Most large biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device firms are more likely to recruit undergraduate students for rotational programs on-campus. For full-time technical or research roles, employers are more likely to hire lean. Employers can work with staffing agencies to hire contract/temporary roles due to unclear staffing needs in product development process. Temporary/contract employment is a way to build experience and make yourself more marketable. 

Relevant student groups or professional organizations

Northwestern Student Groups: 

External Professional Organizations: