Graduate jobs: what path will your career take?
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Do you know where your life sciences degree will take you?

1 Jun 2017

At this time of year, students all over the country are considering their career options. Life sciences graduates, in particular, are faced with a multitude of options that may seem overwhelming. Hays’ Matthew Cotton explains how the sector operates and where graduate jobs exist.

The life sciences industry in Ireland continues to thrive, with a number of well-defined pharma, medtech and biotech clusters benefiting from considerable recent investment. These include the €200m expansion project at Eli Lilly, Mallinckrodt’s announcement of up to 50 new jobs as part of its €45m investment, 150 new jobs at Shire’s Dublin office, and the IMR announcement of 40 new jobs at its research facility.

The industry directly employs 50,000 people, not including a sizeable number of contract and consultancy staff. With exports in excess of €50bn, and some of Europe’s most innovative projects, the Irish life sciences sector is an extremely attractive place to work.

The sector also offers a lot of possibilities for graduate jobs, if you know where you want to work.

In the lab

Naturally, your university degree will guide you towards certain areas within life sciences.

Chemistry and biochemistry graduates will often gravitate towards formulation, QC, lab analysis, analytical or process development positions. As a biochemist grad, you should consider branching into roles heavily involving molecular biology, and development and manufacturing within biopharma groups.

Many science-related courses typically produce strong employees in these highly analytical roles.

Outside the lab

Away from lab- or analysis-based roles, the quality, regulatory affairs and pharmacovigilance areas are extremely important across the Irish life sciences sector. The nature of the industry ensures regulation is hugely important, meaning a career in this area would offer significant opportunities both domestically and further afield.

In addition, if Ireland succeeds in attracting the European Medicine Agency to relocate from London, it may mean many more companies establish a significant quality/regulatory presence here. This, in turn, will create opportunities for those with a background in pharmacology or other less analytically focused degrees.

Engineer your career path

Biologics manufacturing is becoming more significant as the world’s top pharma companies turn their attention towards products that are less invasive. In fact, eight of the world’s top 10 selling drugs are now biologic. In order to capitalise on this latest trend, a number of expansion and upgrade projects are underway, creating large demand for engineering professionals.

Biomedical, biomechanical and chemical engineering students can expect plenty of choice when it comes to project/process engineering, validation, CQV, quality and mechanical roles. While engineering degrees are highly sought after, they are often on equal par with science-based qualifications in the race for engineering-related posts.

The life sciences jobs market is in a constant state of motion. Innovation in the sector occurs at such an extraordinary pace, change is constant and opportunities abound.

By Matthew Cotton

Matthew Cotton is business director for life science at Hays, specialising in recruitment for pharma, biotech and medtech.

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