A recent report on the U.S. Life Sciences sector delivered both good and bad news when it came to employment.

First, the good news: Employment reached a record high of 2.1 million jobs at the start of this year, the commercial real estate firm CBRE reported in its 2023 U.S. Life Sciences Outlook, released earlier this month. However, the pace of biotech job growth had slowed to 4.1% in January from 6.3% a year earlier. Already this year a spot check by GEN shows 61 companies disclosing layoffs as of April 10, vs. 37 during the same period a year ago.

A more dramatic illustration of that slowdown can be seen in a declining average number of jobs added per month as measured by CBRE. That average has slid 70%, from 11,144 jobs between June 2020 and June 2022, to 3,378 jobs between July 2022 and January 2023. The 2020–2022 average was skewed by a wave of hiring and activity by biotech in the year following the onset of COVID-19, since the average was 6,259 in pre-pandemic 2018–2019.

CBRE blames the employment decline on rising interest rates and the slowdown in public and private funding for the life sciences. On the public side, only five U.S. biotech priced initial public offerings (IPOs) in the first quarter, totaling $382.5 million—most of that reflecting IPOs of $192 million (psychotropics contract manufacturer Lucy Scientific Discovery, February 9) and $161 million (Structure Therapeutics, whose small molecule drugs target G-protein-coupled receptors, February)—compared with eight U.S. and European companies totaling about $744 million in Q1 2022.

As smaller biotech avoid the IPO market, they are expected instead to fuel a new wave of mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity by biopharma giants which are often better poised to grow the workforces of the companies being snapped up.

Matthew Gardner
Matthew Gardner, Leader, CBRE’s Advisory Life Sciences practice in the U.S.

“When the public market is effectively closed, those companies will turn more to pharma partners, and we think that’s where it’s going to really be the most important watching brief to keep for the next year or two,” Matthew Gardner, who leads CBRE’s advisory life sciences practice in the U.S., told GEN.

On the private side, EY has reported a 37% year-to-year decline in the total value of U.S. and European VC deals, to $16.88 billion in 2022 from $26.62 billion in 2021. The number of VC deals in the U.S. and Europe fell 18%, to 761 last year from 930 in 2021.

“Previous cycles show that any slowdown in life sciences employment likely won’t be as severe as that of the broader economy. An uptick in venture funding in Q4 2022 was a hopeful sign for employment stabilization later this year since employment changes generally mirror funding changes after a two-quarter lag,” the Outlook report noted, before adding: “However, recent turmoil in the banking sector could cause quarterly reductions in funding this year.”

Below is a list of 10 research and clinical biotech occupations projected to add jobs through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, updated last December, ranked in order of the number of expected additional jobs to be created between 2021 and 2031, projected as of April 10. Each occupation also lists the number of jobs in 2021 as counted by BLS, the percentage increase between 2021 and 2031, the median pay per year in 2021, and a description of the position.

This year as with GEN’s 2021 A-List of top-10 biotech jobs, the greatest number of projected jobs over the coming decade were for professionals who collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances—namely clinical laboratory technologists, also known as medical laboratory scientists, and clinical laboratory technicians. But in a sign of how the COVID pandemic has reshaped lab employment, the occupation with the second greatest number of projected jobs are not biological technicians as in 2021, but medical scientists who oversee research and manage clinical trials and other investigative methods.

For three of the 10 occupations highlighted in the Handbook, BLS projected smaller increases in jobs from 2019 to 2029 than it did between 2019 and 2029, the 10-year period BLS examined in the previous edition of its Handbook, the basis for GEN’s 2021 A-List. GEN published its first A-List of top-10 jobs in 2014, and published updated A-Lists in 2016, as well as in 2018 and 2019. The other seven occupations showed increases in the 10-year job projections compared to 2019–29.

 

 

Top 10 Life Sciences Jobs over the Next Decade

10. Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 100 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021-31: 1,500

Number of jobs, 2021: 17,100

Job outlook, 2021–31: 1% (Little or no change)

Median pay, 2021: $64,650 per year

About the position: Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals—those both in captivity and in the wild—and how they interact with their ecosystems. They focus primarily on undomesticated animals and their behavior, as well as on the impact humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

9. Genetic Counselors

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 500 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 300

Number of jobs, 2021: 2,900

Job outlook, 2021–31: 18% (Much faster than average)

Median pay, 2020: $80,150 per year

About the position: Genetic counselors assess clients’ risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as birth defects. They review genetic test results with individuals and families and support them in making decisions based on those results. They also offer information to other healthcare providers.

8. Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 1,700 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–-31: 1,200

Number of jobs, 2021: 17,900

Job outlook, 2019–29: 10% (Faster than average)

Median pay, 2020: $97,410 per year

About the position: Bioengineers and biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software.

7. Microbiologists

Projected employment change, 2021-31: 1,900 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 2,000

Number of jobs, 2021: 20,800

Job outlook, 2021–31: 9% (Faster than average)

Median pay, 2021: $79,260 per year

About the position: Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.

6. Epidemiologists

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 2,200 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 800

Number of jobs, 2021: 8,600

Job outlook, 2021–31: 26% (Much faster than average)

Median pay, 2021: $78,830 per year

About the position: Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy.

 

5. Chemical Technicians

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 2,700 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 7,800

Number of jobs, 2021: 60,400

Job outlook, 2021–31: 4% (As fast as average)

Median pay, 2021: $48,990 per year

About the position: Chemical technicians use laboratory instruments and techniques to help scientists analyze the properties of materials.

 

4. Biochemists and Biophysicists

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 5,700 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 4,000

Number of jobs, 2021: 37,500

Job outlook, 2021–31: 15% (Much faster than average)

Median pay, 2021: $102,270 per year

About the position: Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.

3. Biological Technicians 

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 7,700 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 12,200

Number of jobs, 2021: 84,300

Job outlook, 2021–31: 9% (Faster than average)

Median pay, 2021: $48,140 per year

About the position: Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

2. Medical Scientists 

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 20,800 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021–31: 10,000

Number of jobs, 2021: 119,200

Job outlook, 2021–31: 17% (Much faster than average)

Median pay, 2021: $95,310 per year

About the position: Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

1. Clinical Laboratory Technologists (Medical Laboratory Scientists) and Technicians 

Projected employment change, 2021–31: 21,800 more jobs

Jobs openings projected each year on average, 2021-31: 25,600

Number of jobs, 2021: 329,200

Job outlook, 2021–31: 7% (As fast as average)

Median pay, 2021: $57,800 per year

About the position: Clinical laboratory technologists (also known as medical laboratory technologists) and clinical laboratory technicians (also known as medical laboratory technicians) perform medical laboratory tests for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.