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When finishing their studies many people wonder what kind of different positions and careers are out there. The most well understood career path is academia, either as a technician, scientific/educational staff member or down the road to professorship.

The possible career paths in industry are less clear for most people. When asked what kind of positions are out there, many come up with jobs such as scientist or manager for a company. To help you in determining the right career for you we provide an overview of the different careers in industry and the public sector. Keep in mind that the exact tasks and responsibilities of a job can differ between companies, even though the title may be the same (or, vice versa, job titles can differ even though the tasks are the same).

Considering the myriad of different possibilities of careers and jobs, this article doesn’t aspire to be complete, but we hope it gives a good overview as a starting point for your career orientation.

Technical roles
   + Research & Development (R&D) 
   + Process/Product Development 
   + Quality Control (QC) & Quality Assurance (QA) 
   + Application scientist

Commerce & sales
   + Sales 
   + Business Development 
   + Marketing & Public Relations

Writing & communication
   + Science journalism 
   + Medical/Technical writer

Interpersonal roles 
   + Career coach 
   + Recruiter

   + High school teacher 
   + Lecturer in vocational education 
   + Teacher or course organizer in the private sector

Organizational roles
   + Project/Programme Manager 
   + Clinical Research

   + (Management) Consultancy 
   + Technical consultancy

   + Patent Attorney or Patent Examiner 
   + Regulatory Affairs


Technical roles
Research & Development (R&D)
In R&D your overall aim is to make new discoveries in a specific field and create new innovations. This can be a new compound to treat a disease, an innovative bioinformatics tool, a novel type of plant seed or a new chemical process, to name just a few examples.
You are involved in setting up and executing experiments as well as in analysis of the outcome. In academia the goal of research is often to deepen our understanding of certain topics, and therefore experiments often don’t have a definite end. Industrial R&D focuses more on development of new processes and products for commercial purposes.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Technician, Analyst, (Assistant/Associate) Scientist, Researcher, Research Associate

Process/Product Development
As a process or product development technician/scientists you strive to improve the performance of already existing processes or products. You enhance the efficiency, reliability or other aspects of a product. This can mean increasing the yield of a chemical reaction; enhancing the stability of a drug to increase the shelf life; or improving the reliability of a pacemaker.
You are for example involved in testing existing production pipelines, advising on how to improve them and scaling up production methods.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Technician, Process Scientist, Process Engineer, Operator, Product Developer

Quality Control (QC) & Quality Assurance (QA)
In QC & QA you ensure products are of good quality and safe for use. This can include e.g. assuring that there are no impurities in a drug; the safety of a food product; or the compliance to both company and/or governmental quality and safety standards.
While QA addresses mostly existing problems in products and solves them, QC follows processes to prevent problems and bugs in the system.
In these roles you monitor, adjust and advise on production processes. You work together with staff in R&D, product development and customers.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc.
+ Examples of job titles: QA/QC Technician, QA/QC manager, QC/QA Officer, Auditor

Application scientist
Application scientists are the customer support for all the technical aspects of a product. Here you provide for example trainings to customers on how to use certain equipment; or help them hands-on to fix issues they encounter. Moreover you support them in solving a particular scientific problem by suggesting the right equipment and protocols.
You are also involved in helping the product development team to come up with new, better or more user-friendly products. In this role you have frequent customer contact but are also still in close contact with lab and scientific work.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Application Scientist, Application Expert, Field Application Scientist

Commercial roles
When working in sales you are the link between your company’s products or services and the customer. You sell the products/services to other companies, individuals, medical doctors or governmental institutions. This can be e.g. pharmaceuticals, lab equipment, chemical substances, food products or consulting services.
Depending on the function you identify customers, initiate contact with them, convince them to buy your product, present your product at conferences and provide other outreach activities to convince stakeholders to purchase your product. This position often involves a lot of travelling, as you are in frequent contact with the customers.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Sales Representative, Account Manager, Account Lead, Sales Manager, Sales Support Officer, Sales Specialist, Sales Engineer, Customer Service

Business Development
Business Developers are engaged with improving and expanding a business. You want to establish a match between product and market segment, customer or other stakeholder. Often you do this by developing ideas for new products, identifying market segments or customers to target for the sales team or partners to collaborate with.
+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Business Development Manager, Business Developer, Business Development Associate

Marketing & Public Relations
Working in marketing or public relations you help improving the exposure, image and brand awareness for a product or company. You achieve this for example by presenting at conferences, visiting health care professionals, writing press releases, updating website or social media content, writing brochures, information leaflets or other external communications.
You strategize and run campaigns and promotions on different media platforms, optimize and nurture relationships with clients, and/or manage products and brand.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Medical Science Liaison, Medical Affairs Officer, Marketing Manager, Marketing Director, Marketeer, Brand Manager, Communications Manager, Customer Engagement Specialist

Writing & Communication
Science journalism
As a science journalist you make science available and easily accessible for the general public, i.e. for non-scientists. Your job may entail producing video content or writing articles for a newspaper, popular scientific journal, website or blog regarding recent developments in science.
Companies employing science journalists are for example KIJK, Quest, New Scientist, governmental institutions or NGOs interested in making their science known to a broader audience. Many science journalists also work as freelancers.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Science Journalist, Communication Specialist, Content Writer, Content Marketing, Editor, Science Writer

Medical/Technical writer
Another job involving writing is as a medical or technical writer. You gather and write specialist information regarding pharmaceuticals, medical devices, chemicals or other products and services. This information often describes how a product or service works, what side effects or dangers are there, and other important information. You write for example user manuals for lab products, reference material for chemical or medical products, instructional and training documents or medical leaflets accompanying pharmaceuticals.
In this job you need a thorough understanding of the technical background of a product and the relevant regulations regarding the content.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Medical Writer, Technical Writer, Medical Compliance Officer, Medical Document Manager, Medical Communications Manager, Medical Information Associate

Interpersonal jobs
Career coach
Career coaches support others in their career decisions and career development. This can be either students or young professionals, but also people at later career stages who want to accelerate their career or switch careers. You help by setting up a personal development plan, provide feedback on resumes or cover letters or give advice regarding useful courses. In addition you may write articles or give presentations about career advice, provide up-to-date information regarding the chances and opportunities on the labour market.
You can work for universities or other educational institutes, large companies with personal development programmes, or as an entrepreneur for your own career coach company.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Career Coach, Career Advisor, Career Counselor, Study Advisor, HR Advisor, HR Assistant, HR Administrator, Personal Development Coach

As recruiter your job is to identify competent people and connecting them to companies that are looking for employees. You write job ads, identify good candidates through networking, review cover letters and CV’s, interview candidates and help them with the onboarding process. If you work for a recruitment agency instead of as an internal company recruiter, you also establish contacts with companies looking for new talent and convince them to take on your candidates.
+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Recruiter, Recruitment Consultant, HR officer, HR Consultant

Educational jobs
High school teacher
Do you want to pass on your fascination for science? As a high school teacher in Biology, Chemistry or other subjects you help teenagers in their development and shape their future. You prepare teaching plans, give lessons, prepare your students for their exams, create and grade exams. Furthermore, you are in close contact with parents and others involved in the development of the teenagers such as mentors and career advisors.
+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Teacher

Lecturer in vocational education
If you prefer working with people a little older, you might consider lecturing in vocational education. You prepare students for their later careers by teaching them a specific trade. Similar to teaching at a high school you prepare lesson plans, give lessons to the students, prepare students for their exams, create and grade exams. You guide students in their internship projects and grade theses.
+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Teacher, Lecturer

Teacher or course organizer in the private sector
Besides high schools, vocational education and universities there are also many other organizations offering courses and trainings. Usually these are shorter training programmes dedicated to specific skills or skill areas. The courses are usually taught by experts from academia or industry.
Your responsibilities are similar to the teacher functions mentioned above, but furthermore include marketing, sales and project management aspects. You promote and advertise the courses to fill the classes with participants. Usually input and speakers from multiple sources are combined in creating the courses.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Training, Lecturer, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Training Manager, Development Manager.

Organizational roles
Project/Programme Manager
In a project manager role your task is to ensure the project or product is executed in time, within budget and scope and as efficiently as possible. You ensure the right people and resources are at the right place at the right time. Your tasks can include initiating projects, checking feasibility, setting goals, executing and monitoring the project.
Projects have clear start- and end dates as well as budget and time constraints. Your success is measured by product quality and cost effectiveness, compliance, customer satisfaction and/or timeliness. While programme managers use similar methods and share similar responsibilities as project managers, their focus is more on long-term development by combining sets of linked projects complementary to each other.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Project Manager, Programme Manager, Project Assistant, Project Coordinator

Clinical Research Manager
A specialized form of project management is clinical trial management. When working in clinical trial management you develop trial protocols, have them approved, design the data collection methods, choose where to conduct the trial, establish connections with physicians on site, ensure appropriate and timely collection of the data and write the trial reports.
+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Clinical Trial Associate, Clinical Research Associate, Clinical Trial Manager, Clinical Trial Coordinator, Clinical Site Manager, Clinical Trial Assistant, Clinical Project Manager, Clinical Project Leader

(Management) Consultancy
Consultancy, or essentially providing advice, can come in many different forms. In management consultancy you give advice regarding the strategic course of a company based on extensive operations and market research. Management consultants use business skills and life science expertise to provide objective advice to maximize the growth and business performance of a company.
In this role you analyze a company and the corresponding sector based on quantitative and qualitative data, write and present reports and business proposals and oversee their implementation. You can work for a consultancy firm or in-house for strategic advice within a company.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: (Junior/Associate) Consultant, Management Consultant, Business Improvement Consultant, Partner, Principal, Engagement Manager

Technical consultancy
Technical consultants provide expertise for a specific product or topic, such as for example grant writing, regulatory affairs or certain scientific knowledge. You provide and use your specialized knowledge to help companies tackle certain problems which they are unable to solve themselves because they lack the expertise or manpower.
In this job you identify and scope the problem the company is facing, solve it or provide guidance on how to solve it, document and report the process and evaluate the outcome of the project.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: (Junior/Associate) Consultant, Partner, Principal, Technical Consultant

Patent Attorney or Patent Examiner
If you fancy a career in the law sector, you can work as a patent lawyer on filing patents (Patent Attorney) or examine and evaluate the patents that are filed (Patent Examiner).
As a patent lawyer you usually work for a private company or university, helping companies or researchers through the patent application process. You evaluate whether an invention is new, useful and innovative based on previously filed patents, draft the patent application and submit it to the relevant authorities.
As a patent examiner you usually work as a civil servant at a patent office. You receive patent applications and evaluate whether patents are novel, inventive and clear.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Patent Attorney, Patent Examiner, Patent Trainee, Patent Lawyer

Regulatory Affairs
When working in regulatory affairs your main task is to ensure compliance to all the regulations concerning a pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural or chemical product. You are the contact person for the regulatory authorities and make sure that the products or services produced and sold by your company comply to the legislation.
In this function you need to provide scientific and legal background for license applications, read up on the relevant national and international laws and guidelines, ensure documentation, leaflets and labeling of the products are according to the appropriate legal standards and make sure (clinical) trials adhere to the regulations.

+ Required education level: MSc. / PhD
+ Examples of job titles: Regulatory Affairs or Compliance followed by the terms Assistant, Associate, Consultant, Coordinator, Expert, Manager, Officer, Project Manager or Specialist

When starting your own business, regardless of which type, you do a bit of many of the job profiles discussed above. You handle the commercial, technical, legal and organizational aspects of your company.
You can use some of the skills you learned during studies, PhD or postdoc such as critical thinking, presenting, managing your (research) project. However, you need to be willing to continuously learn and develop yourself to learn the skills that your business needs at that moment.

+ Required education level: BSc. / MSc. / PhD.
+ Examples of job titles: Director, Owner, CEO, Managing Director

Image by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free

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