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Fit for a Future in Pharma: Cross Trained and In Demand

Cross-training’s not just for the gym anymore, people. PricewatershouseCoopers (PWC) just released “New chemistry: Getting the Biopharmaceutical Talent Formula Right,” their report on the education and skills that will be needed for the pharmaceutical jobs of tomorrow. The takeaway? Learn more than just (!) science.

The PWC report predicts that most pharma companies will be revamping their R&D organization models from a pure science orientation to one that leverages partnerships and alliances. This is no surprise. Pharma’s increased appetite for in-licensing deals and Contract Research Organizations (CROs) has been in evidence for a while.

On the job opportunity level, this means increasing demand for project managers and clinical trial managers. It means a transfer of hiring focus on pharma’s part from highly specialized positions like medicinal chemist or toxicologist to more integrated ones: alliance manager, project leader, translational scientist. There will always be a need for highly-trained specialists, but there will also be an even greater need for workers with a broader range of skills and the ability to interact seamlessly with other teams in the company, scientists who can bridge technology areas, or mesh science and business.

Scientists with regulatory knowledge, relationship skills, and the ability to develop and manage external partnerships will be the most sought-after candidates. Cross-trained scientists with dual scientific and business degrees, those who have management and investment decision-making experience, and those with experience in quality or clinical operations will have great opportunity. If you have a science degree, and perhaps a tuition reimbursement benefit at work, it’s probably wise to go for that night or weekend MBA or project management certification (so much for your movie and errand time).

Other highly-sought backgrounds and training will be biomedical engineering (projected to see a 62% increase over 10 years), medical science (36% increase projected), and biochemistry/biophysics (31% increase projected). Note that all three areas require cross training in at least two disciplines.

Even though this change in career-thinking may be somewhat painful to contemplate, there is some good news. Several companies, such as many of the big pharma organizations, look to “put some skin in the game” to help workers train for these future requirements. “Sixty percent of pharmaceutical executives say they intend to increase investments over the next three years to create a more skilled workforce.” The icing on the cake is that “72% intend to increase their R&D capacity in the next 12 months,” as well.

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