Job Fields / Positions in Industry

Research & Development

Research is not only done at universities but also in industry. However, research in industry is profit-driven with the aim to commercialize a useful product. This means less flexibility in the choice of the research topic and a stricter schedule. Unlike research in academia, research in industry is more of a teamwork with numerous smaller projects. This also includes regular communication with other departments and the management.

Presentations at conferences and publishing are not common in industry due to confidentiality issues. There are often restrictions on the publication of research results, which makes it almost impossible to be recognized for new findings. A common misconception is that research in industry is easier but the demands placed on researchers are the same. A science background or PhD is required and skills like analytical thinking, hypothesis testing, accuracy and numeracy among others are highly valued.

Job Positions:

Discovery or preclinical researcher, manager of a research team or facility


analytical thinking, accuracy, technical skills, communication (to non-scientists), good time management, flexibily, team player

Source: Gramlich, P., Bodewits, K. (2018). PhD! And, next? A guide for natural- and life scientists. Munich:; Blackford, S. (2012). Career Planning for Research Bioscientists. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.  


 Links with further information

Research & Development scientist


Experience report:

Manager / Head of a research team



Clinical Research

In the field of clinical research, documentation during clinical trials is the principle task. A CRA (clinical research associate) is responsible for the coordination and supervision of a trial. This process includes writing protocols, developing templates for data acquisition, to ensure the ethical manner and the fulfillment of prescribed regulations of a trial, to instruct and inform patients and doctors about the trial and to write reports for publication. In short, a CRA is a project manager who is managing all stages of the clinical trial. Therefore, communication is another important skill because a CRA is in contact with a large number of different people from different contexts. He or she needs to travel to several locations, which requires flexibility from the worker.

Clinical Research Organizations, companies from the pharma and biotech sector and hospitals are possible employers. Job entrants start their career in the role of a low-level CRA whether they have a graduate or post-graduate degree. Then they can move up to become higher-level CRAs with growing responsibilities like training staff. With some years of experience in the field, working as a consultant or freelancer is another option. It takes about 7 years of working experience as a CRA before one can become a clinical research manager. In this job field, hands-on experience is the key that cannot be replaced with a higher academic qualification. Typically, clinical research workers have graduated in life sciences, medical sciences, nursing or in the broader fields of biology or chemistry. A post-graduate course in clinical research is an advantage.

Job Positions:

Clinical research associate, clinical research manager


Knowledge of current regulations, clinical trial knowledge, documentation , data  analysis, organization and communication, willingness to travel, empathy


 Links with further information

Clinical Research Scientist:  

Clinical Research Associate:

Clinical Research Manager: 


Source: Gramlich, P., Bodewits, K. (2018). PhD! And, next? A guide for natural- and life scientists. Munich:; 

Science Application

After a PhD or a Postdoc in science, some researchers consider further career options outside of academia and away from the bench, however still linked to science. Such science application positions include various job opportunities, such as an application scientist, a MSL (medical science liason manager) or a regulatory expert, and many more. Depending on your level and expertise of research experience and responsibilities, you can either enter such a position in industry directly, or you might find it easier to firstly apply to a R&D position and then transfer from there to a science application position. In a R&D position, you will most likely – or you can make the effort to – be in contact with departments related to R&D, such as clinical research, medical management, regulatory affairs, scientific advisory, etc., which can make it easier to join such a team from inside than from outside the company.

A job position that eases the direct transfer from the lab in academia to a science-related job in industry, but which is often not considered during job search given its misconception of being a technical sales role, is the job of an application scientist / specialist. As a scientific application specialist, you will give demos and trainings regarding specific lab equipment or research tools and will be a major contact point for clients regarding trouble shooting. Given the various tasks involved with the high level of client communication, an application scientist will develop a great pharmaceutical business understanding and according industry expertise, thus making him/her prone for further jobs in science application or in business development and marketing and sales (please see job field “Marketing and sales”).

A Medical Science Liason Manager (MSL) position represents an attractive, more and more common, very communicative and interactive job involved first line with the newest drug and clinical developments. Being employed by a biotech or pharma company, an MSL provides up-to-date scientific knowledge and advice to internal and external stakeholders. Main aim of this position is to support the process of successfully launching a new product on the pharma market. The expertise of an MSL ranges from scientific knowledge about therapy area, disease, company’s and competitors’ products in the market and in clinical trials, as well as mode of action, efficacy and side effects of these, patient data, up to understanding of the pharma market and physicians’ treatment decisions and procedure. While having no actual promotional activity, MSL provide disease and drug information presentations to regional organizations of physicians, patients and health insurances. Furthermore, they are in very intensive exchange with influential persons in the field, so called KOLs (key opinion leaders), which could be e.g. head of medical departments in clinics, top researchers and representatives from patient and health insurance organizations.

Such scientific exchange and discussion with KOLs happens either on one-to-one meetings or at international scientific and medical congresses. Thus, such a position also brings along up to 60-80% of traveling activity (in case the MSL position sounds exciting for you, but you wish for less traveling, the position of a scientific advisor might be for you). By reporting back to the company all the insights from the exchanges with KOLs, the internal drug development and business strategy can be aligned to the patient, physician and market needs and thus enable the company to make a successful launch of a new product.

Job positions such as in quality management (QM) and in regulatory affairs (RA) in biotech and pharma companies enable the compliance to specific health and safety requirements. Such positions represent alternative pharma industry entry jobs for postdocs, but also for PhDs preferably with QM or RA training. While QM focuses on the monitoring and evaluation of the quality and validity of drug substance, drug manufacturing and drug packaging and the compliance to regulations thereby, RA manages all regulatory aspects and strategies regarding a drug product’s life cycle. Thereby, RA is a major coordination point between clinical affairs, QM and regulatory authorities in the context of drug approvals and compliance with actual regulations.

Job Positions:

Application specialist, MSL, data scientist, medical manager, regulatory affairs, QM


Communication & presentation, scientific underst., managem., willingness to travel

 Links with further information

Application specialist:  

Technology Scout: 

Medical Science Liaison: 

Scientific advisor

Data Scientist:

Medical Manager

Regulatory Affairs:

Quality Management (QM):


Source:  Gramlich, P., Bodewits, K. (2018). PhD! And, next? A guide for natural- and life scientists. Munich:;;;  


The job field of Communication includes jobs such as editor, science publisher/ journalist as well as scientific and medical writer. This field is interesting for everybody who wants to stay close to the scientific discourse and whose passion is writing.

Editor: An editor is mainly responsible for reviewing and rewriting publications. Usually there are several editors with different specializations; e.g. a “content editor” who is working on text intelligibility while bearing in mind the target group or a “copy editor” who is focusing on errors in grammar and spelling.
Required skills: Native speakers preferred, language (including grammar rules), understanding of the publishing process of (non-) scientific texts, evaluating and verifying content, becoming familiar with the target group. 

Science writer/ journalist: A science writer or journalist is writing about the state of research for a broader audience in newspapers, consumer and trade magazines or press offices of federal agencies or companies. As many journalists work as freelancers, it is also common to write for more than one medium from more than one country. Several online platforms bring freelancers and employers together (e.g. people per hour,
Experience in writing is essential which can best be proven by writing samples. Therefore, it is advisable to develop writing skills from an early stage by participating in university magazines or creating your own online blog.
Required skills: Talent for language and writing, broad understanding of science, (hard-to-access) information procurement, communication to non-scientists.

Scientific/ medical writer: A scientific writer is addressing a specific but non-expert audience. Therefore, a target-group-oriented communication is important. Scientific writers are typically employed by companies and academic institutions or hospitals and pharmaceutical/ biotechnology companies in the case of medical writers. Medical writers are needed for composing regulatory documents, package leaflets, label materials and summaries of epidemiological studies. In academic institutions, scientific writers support professors and other scientists to publish their work. Sometimes the work overlaps with the tasks of an editor or a science writer, however, the career start is often easier e.g. as a company’s in-house writer. Freelancing is similarly common among scientific writers and can be lucrative when for example employed for grant writing. Building up a professional network can help to get a food in the door. There are numerous associations of scientific and medical writers worldwide that you can join.

Job Positions:

Science / medical / technical writer, science editor, science publisher


Language & writing skills, subject expertise, decision making


 Links with further information

Scientific/ medical writer:  



Experience report



Science writer/ journalist: 


Science editor: 


Experience report:


Source: Gramlich, P., Bodewits, K. (2018). PhD! And, next? A guide for natural- and life scientists. Munich:

Technology Transfer

Technology transfer specialists, technology scouts, research support managers, Entrepreneurial Investment Manager, Intellectual Property Manager, IT specialists, programmers, data analysts are job titles covered by the job field technology transfer. The term technology or research commercialization is synonymously used. It describes the transition from scientific knowledge gained in a research organization like a university into a profit-oriented environment where it can be sold in form of a product or service. Working in the field of technology transfer means to be at the interface between the research institution and an actor from the profit sector which is interested in the intellectual properties/ technology. Therefore, technology transfer professionals work along numerous stakeholders. They are responsible for identifying new technologies, patenting them and to market them to the for-profit sector. The latter includes selling and licensing to outside companies or into spin-offs which requires also the expertise on compliance laws. The job field is obviously related to patent law, business development and venture capital. Hence, those working in technology transfer range from life scientists to engineers and lawyers.

Since the 1980s, universities introduced technology transfer professionals in order to attract corporate research support, to get revenue for further research and to add prestige to the research organization. Therefore, almost all universities and research organizations have technology transfer offices. A good entry point is to look for a position as a licensing assistant/ associate or assistant director in the field of your specialization. Another opportunity might be a postdoctoral fellowship or similar programs at your research organization like the Data Science School Exchange Programm at Helmholtz. (

Job Positions:

Technology scout / transfer specialist, IT specialist, programmer, data analyst


IT skills, programming skills, data handling, legal and regulatory skills, networking


 Links with further information

Technology transfer specialist


Technology scout



Experience report:


IT specialist




Data analyst





Marketing & Sales

Marketing departments are involved in the business process of identifying, anticipating and meeting customers’ needs and wants. The responsibilities of marketing departments range from detailed questions like “what texture and color should the package for that fancy new drug have” to strategic planning of worldwide sales activities. Their areas of expertise includes, depending on the complexity of the project: market research, market targeting and segmentation, determining distribution, pricing and promotion strategies, communications strategies, budgeting, as well as defining long-term market development goals. Several stages of this process involves creative skills, e.g. product design, brand management, advertising. Pharmaceutical marketing for instance layers complex information and makes them available to physicians (the health care system). A pharmaceutical marketer‘s goals increasingly is to make a product stand out in the crowd, as the differenciation between the products becomes smaller. In the pharma space marketing is often more closely associated with growth than the creating or improving of producs.
Required skills: communication, analytics, creativity and writing, psychology, finance and economics, critical thinking, customer focus, flexibility

Sales positions come in many facets, all evolving around the selling of a number of products in a targeted time-period. Field sales involves visiting single customers and lots of travelling. You get to know customers first-hand, which often turns into entering other positions within the company headquarters. Technical Sales Specialists (TSS) are needed in technology-based companies and bridge the gap between technical know-how and sales skills. They support the larger sales team and help clients, e.g. suggesting equipment ideal for solving their specific needs. Most technology-based companies offer to entrants with phd’s a specialized certification course in sales and business to ensure quality and win the client’s trust. Quantitative analysts are required in both marketing and sales. With their ability to conduct independent research they can complement employees with a background in finance. Business and Development (BD) evolves around the strategic positioning of a product, e.g. in acquisitions and opening new markets.
Required skills: communication and presentation, customer focus, analytics, finance and economics, service mentality, willingness to travel

Job Positions:

Brand/product manager, marketing specialist, business developm. professional, sales rep.


Finance & economics, analytical skills, comm. & present., customer focus, flexibility


 Links with further information

Quantitative Analyst:  

Brand/ product manager: 

Marketing specialist:  

Business development professional:  

Sales representative:



Source: Gramlich, P., Bodewits, K. (2018). PhD! And, next? A guide for natural- and life scientists. Munich:;