An Imminent Biotech Scientist Shortage is Coming
Biochemists and biophysicists are some of the essential critical scientific community members. We rely significantly on their study of the chemical and physical principles of biological processes and living things. At the basic level, this is going to be the result of simple demand and supply dynamics. There will be a much higher need for these specialists than a supply.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for these professionals will rise by 15 percent by 2031 compared to a relatively minuscule 5 percent average for other occupations. There are numerous reasons we can point to for this discrepancy, but there are a few that stand out from the rest. Here’s a quick look at the major causes of this imminent crisis and how companies might successfully navigate the coming challenges.
Sharp Increase in Demand
As older generations, such as the baby boomers, increasingly call for life-saving and life-extending drugs and interventions, there will be an explosion in demand for disease detection and genetic research researchers.
The demand for clean energy will also increase our need for scientists focused on alternative energy sources. To top this all off, we will see a spike in our demand for genetically engineered livestock and crops that can match the pressure caused by the world’s ever-increasing population and skyrocketing food prices.
Increasing Shift Away from STEM Studies
It may be unfortunate, but nonetheless, student entry in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career paths is at an all-time low, and the trend is continuing. Let’s face it; STEM studies can be challenging. College STEM classes tend to have large sizes and fewer student-teacher interpersonal relationships. There needs to be more role models and support, especially for women. It would be best if you had the grit to get through it. In my college Physics class, one other woman and I were in a class of 40. Pursuing a business degree is much easier, especially as a woman. Furthermore, many non-STEM fields heavily recruit graduates with STEM degrees because of the soft skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and data analysis that STEM programs heighten.
Constrained Field Overly Reliant on Research Funding
The biotechnology industry talent pool has always been small due to various reasons. High entry standards are only one reason for this. Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees (accredited by the American Chemical Society) are typically the bare minimum requirements, with most senior positions calling for Doctorate Degrees. It takes a long time before you even get a traditional paycheck.
The biotechnology industry’s growth is being constrained because of the industry’s constricting reliance on research funding that is often unreliable and harder to come by. Funds and grants are the life support for university research and project development. They are under pressure to produce publishable positive results, and budget cuts can deter future generations of scientists. Unless this changes drastically soon, we can expect a crunch as fewer and fewer young scientists choose the sciences as their specialization.
High Retirement Rates and Occupational Shifts
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the next ten years will likely see more than 6,400 experienced biochemists heading into retirement while only 3,600 young scientists enter the workplace.
Aside from these dire predictions, many potential biochemists are diving into other related branches of science that satisfy their intellectual curiosity, offer commensurate pay, and fulfill their need for accomplishment while providing similar or better employment prospects. These fields include endocrinology, geriatrics, infectious disease research, critical care, and psychiatry.
All indicators tell us these concerns and that many others will play a role in the anticipated biotech labor supply crunch. As companies seek ways to cope with the emergency, industry players can expect high rates of cross-company talent poaching, even as everyone tries to snap up whatever talent is coming through the education pipeline.
The best way to solve this shortage is by keeping your knowledge within your company and having employees feel appreciated and motivated to stay. Understanding who is thinking about leaving or is feeling underappreciated is the best way to stay ahead of the game. You will need to do more than pay high wages. You will need expert assistance to assess employee loyalty and tailor programs to develop and retain the best and the brightest, keeping them satisfied, engaged, and inspired. And I, Regina Munroe, founder of Inproma and former scientist, have the experience to do just that.