Why You Need More Than a Degree to Work in Pharma or Biotech


Pharmaceutical and biotech job boards list thousands of available positions from across the country. Individual posts offer job descriptions, qualifications, and more. Yet they often don’t express the fact that possessing a degree doesn’t guarantee being hired. A lot of jobs in pharma and biotech require more than a degree alone.

The difficulty for job seekers often lies in the fact that listings do not describe what recruiters are really looking for. They only go so far as to mention the technical qualifications. Candidates only discover that they really aren’t what employers have in mind during the interview. If you have been through the experience, you know it can be frustrating and disheartening.

Recruiters and HR managers could be more descriptive in their job posts. Fortunately, the entire HR industry is moving in that direction. But in the meantime, you need to know what biotech and pharma employers tend to look for, above and beyond a college degree.

Problem-Solving Skills

Many of the ‘extra’ qualifications relate to intangible skills. Take problem-solving skills. There is no practical way to track and measure such skills. Your college degree did not come with a certificate saying that you are good problem solver. So, when hiring managers want to see that, they tend to rely on the interview to determine a candidate’s problem-solving abilities.

Problem solving is key to many biotech and pharma careers for the simple fact that both industries are heavy on research, analysis, and solution development. Candidates with poor problem-solving skills may be fantastic at obtaining and compiling data. But how to put that data to use remains elusive.

Communication Skills

It should be obvious that careers in pharma and biotech require good communication skills. In both industries, teams are a big part of a company’s success. And when a company stresses teamwork, good communication is critical. It is the backbone of collaboration. Fortunately, job candidates have the opportunity to demonstrate their communication skills from the very earliest stages of the hiring process.

Planning Skills

Yet another intangible is planning skill. This is the ability to think long term and plan one’s actions accordingly. Why is it important in biotech and pharmaceuticals? Because both industries emphasize long-term success over short-term gain.

Imagine a pharmaceutical company getting ready to begin developing a new drug. Management knows that it’s likely to take a decade to get the drug to market. There is a lot that needs to happen in that time. Every team member involved in its development needs to have a plan in place to get from A to Z.

Personal Initiative

Personal initiative, though not a skill, is still prized in the pharma and biotech industries. Due to the complex nature of the work, pharma and biotech employees need to be able to work independently. They need to be able to accomplish goals without a manager looking over the shoulder. As such, initiative is highly prized.

Like good communication skills, job candidates can prove they possess personal initiative by staying on top of the hiring process. They can send follow-up emails and make phone calls. They can have all their documentation in order before the interview. They can arrive early so as not to keep the interviewer waiting.

A college degree is required for most pharma and biotech jobs. However, possessing a degree is no guarantee of being hired. HR managers often look for intangible qualities that go above and beyond college degrees. The chances of getting an offer are good if you have what it takes to impress above and beyond the degree you possess.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

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