The biotechnology industry is poised for significant employment growth over the course of the next decade, according to the recently released 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook issued by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, the handbook outlines 10 clinical and research biotech occupations projected to be most in demand between 2014 and 2024. The occupations are ranked according to the number of jobs that are expected to be created in the coming years. In the following, you can find out more about the top five fastest-growing occupations in the biotech industry.
1. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists
Also referred to as a medical laboratory scientist (MLS), a medical laboratory technologist plays a critical role in the field of biomedicine and health care overall. Working in a wide range of settings, including hospital labs and clinics, forensic labs, and molecular biotechnology labs, a medical laboratory scientist collects, examines, and analyzes samples of blood, body fluids, and tissue. The test results produced are key to detecting, diagnosing, and treating disease. While a medical laboratory scientist working in a small laboratory will typically perform many different types of tests, an MLS working in a larger laboratory will likely focus on a particular area of specialization. Examples of specialized medical laboratory technologists include blood bank technologists, who collect and classify blood and prepare it for transfusion; cytotechnologists, who study slides of body cells to detect abnormalities that may indicate a potentially cancerous growth; and molecular biology technologists, who use cell samples to conduct complex nucleic acid and protein tests. Over the next decade, the occupation, which employed 328,000 people as of 2014, is projected to add 52,100 jobs, around double the number that will be added over the same period by the rest of the top 10 occupations combined.
2. Medical scientists
Medical scientists are responsible for a diverse range of functions related to the broad goal of improving human health through investigative research. Designing and conducting clinical trials, creating and testing medical devices, and investigating the causes of and treatments for various diseases through the analysis of medical samples and data are all typical tasks performed by medical scientists. A few examples of specialized medical scientists include cancer researchers, neuroscientists, and clinical pharmacologists. By 2024, this occupation is expected to add 9,000 more jobs to the 107,900 that were counted in 2014.
3. Biomedical engineers
Biomedical engineering is currently one of the most cutting-edge fields in health care. By bringing together engineering principles with medical and biological sciences, biomedical engineers create a variety of sophisticated medical equipment and devices, as well as computer systems and software that are used across a range of health care areas. For example, biomedical engineers design and build such things as artificial replacements for particular body parts, which may include knee and hip joints; the software needed to run particular medical equipment; and computer simulations that test experimental drug therapies. In 2014, there were only 22,100 biomedical engineers, far fewer than the total number of medical scientists or medical lab technicians. The growth in jobs in this occupation is expected to be proportionally much greater: an additional 5,100 jobs, an increase of 23%, is forecast by the year 2024.
4. Biological technicians
Similar to medical lab technicians, biological technicians are the dedicated laboratory assistants who help to ensure the smooth operation of tests and experiments conducted by biological and medical scientists. Typically working in teams under the supervision of a lead scientist, biological technicians assist with all phases of scientific experiments, tests, and analyses, which may include maintaining laboratory instruments and equipment, gathering biological samples and preparing them for laboratory analysis, conducting tests and experiments, documenting and analyzing results, and writing summary reports. Virtually all scientific research areas, ranging from medical research and microbiology to agriculture, utilize the services of biological technicians. By 2024, this occupation is projected to grow by 5%, from 79,300 to 83,400 jobs.
5. Biochemists and biophysicists
Our body of knowledge about the chemical and physical principles behind such biological processes as cell development and growth, disease, and heredity has been developed through the work of biochemists and biophysicists. These scientists and researchers are responsible for helping us to understand complex concepts such as how cells feed, divide, and grow; how nerve cells communicate; and how genetic traits are transmitted to successive generations. Their research falls into two broad categories: basic research, which is conducted to expand human knowledge rather than to fulfill an immediate application; and applied research, which is conducted specifically to solve a particular problem. Biochemists and biophysicists work with the latest technology, including fluorescent microscopes, advanced computer modeling software, and recombinant DNA synthesis techniques, to conduct their experiments. The occupation, which counted 34,100 jobs in 2014, is projected to add 2,800 jobs by 2024.