At last, career planning in India is waking up and taking notice of the life sciences. Newspapers are dedicating entire sections to the breakthroughs in the biological sphere — from advancements in stem cell technology to GM foods and oil-spill cleaning bacteria, this field is making waves like never before, with a wide variety of career options. So, if your teenager is passionate about biology, medical college is not the only career option to consider!
What is life science? What are the various career options?
Life science is defined as the branch of science that deals with living organisms – plants, animals and human beings. It encompasses several fields – botany, zoology, pharmacology, biochemistry, etc.
A wide spectrum of organisations including healthcare, cosmetic and food-processing companies, NGOs, environment consultancy firms, and drug manufacturing companies hire specialists in life sciences. There are jobs available in areas such as management, administration, sales, legal support, writing and illustrating.
“It’s a common misconception that much of the work in life sciences is research-based and limited to just laboratories,” explains Dr. Raj Rajur, Chairman and CEO of CreaGen Biosciences, USA. “Research work, publications and new inventions eventually take you to executive positions. Also, once you have training in life sciences’ research, you can even become an advisor or consultant to venture capital firms who fund new companies. If you have entrepreneurial inclinations, then you can establish your own company, as I did.” Adds Sucharita Jayakar, Associate Scientific Manager at Biocon India, “Those with a business bent of mind can take up an MBA after a degree in any of the life sciences to get into pharma/biotech project management and strategy planning. The healthcare field is also rife with opportunities: for example, clinical research companies are always on the look-out for talented clinical trial managers.”
Useful attributes for careers in life sciences
Analytical, communication and interpersonal skills are valuable skills that every aspirant should cultivate. “In my opinion, humility is the first attribute that one requires. It is a truly humbling experience to see the immense body of work and advances that have already taken place, and yet there is so much we do not understand! Therefore, a thirst for knowledge is required in order to keep oneself updated; in research, a determination to succeed is certainly a required characteristic,” contributes Sucharita. “The most important attributes students need to have is interest in biological sciences and creative thinking. Computational skills and IT experience can also be helpful,” says Dr. Rajur.