Across health care, labs and drug companies, the world of biotechnology is brimming with career opportunity. Biotech research and development depends on people who can navigate the industry’s complex rules and keep projects on track.
“If you don’t have people who understand this area of regulation, you can’t get your products to market,” said David Hammond, a Seattle-area clinical and regulatory consultant.
Here’s a look at a few hot jobs in this biotech boom — and what you need to know to join the industry.
Clinical Research Coordinator
When companies need to test new medical devices, drugs or biologics, clinical research coordinators work directly with human subjects — the people who take part in clinical trials.
Mindful of ethics and privacy, clinical research coordinators work with doctors to identify people eligible for clinical studies. They collect and manage data, as well as communicate with patients during the consent process. They don’t need medical background, said Hammond, who also is an instructor for the UW Certificate in Clinical Trials. But some experience in health care can be useful, such as previous work as a nurse or lab technician.
In the next decade, jobs for clinical research coordinators are projected to grow 6% nationally, and at least 18% in Washington. Across the Puget Sound area, these jobs are part of clinical-research teams at most major hospitals and research universities — Evergreen, Swedish, Overlake, Virginia Mason and more.
Clinical research coordinators also work at large practices, such as Polyclinic, and private or nonprofit research groups, such as PATH and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Hammond says. He adds the government also needs clinical research coordinators for federal agencies that provide health care for millions of Americans, such as Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
“They need to find better, cheaper ways to treat conditions,” Hammond said. “And that’s sometimes what clinical research is about.”
Biotechnology Project Manager
Biotechnology project managers work in biotech labs and R&D environments to define, scope and staff projects. They build relationships among sponsors and stakeholders, and they estimate timelines, costs and risks.
To work in biotech, project managers need to have specific knowledge about product development and clinical research.
For example, Bart Staker is a project manager for the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. During the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, he helped his research team rapidly pivot to study the virus that causes COVID-19.
Staker also shares his expertise as an instructor for the UW Certificate in Biotechnology Project Management. In addition to project management principles, his students learn about good laboratory practices, quality systems and manufacturing, and how FDA rules, regulations and safety measures can impact a project.
Nationally, project management remains one of the hottest jobs around — the number of jobs is expected to jump 33% by 2030.
Biomedical Regulatory Affairs Manager
Businesses that develop medical or pharmaceutical products have to follow a maze of rules set forth by regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Biomedical regulatory affairs managers help companies meet these standards. They shepherd companies through the process of product approvals, labeling, marketing, and advertising claims. They also help manage problems and product recalls.
Working in regulatory affairs doesn’t require particular science or tech training. But, Hammond says, a background in communications or English can be helpful — the job includes a lot of writing. Programs like the UW Master’s of Biomedical Regulatory Affairs or the UW Certificate in Biomedical Regulatory Affairs can also help people get familiar with the field.
In the next decade, jobs in regulatory affairs are projected to grow 5% nationally. In Washington, expected growth is more than 20%. That’s driven, in part, by Seattle-area companies that are developing medical devices, biologics, and medical technologies powered by computer science and artificial intelligence.
“Engineers and scientists are great at the inventions,” Hammond says. “But the reality of making a product — that falls to regulatory. They need to understand how they’re going to work with the FDA.”
Get Started or Ahead in BioTech
Interested in starting or advancing your career in biotech? These UW certificates and degrees can help.