Do you have transferable skills within the life science industry?

Monique Ellis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 30/11/2016

If you’ve ever felt that your current profession is no longer for you, you’re certainly not alone. It’s likely that you’ve found yourself in a job that you feel unsuited to or the career path ahead is not as you’d hoped. Although it’s true that some careers within the life science industry require a very specific skillset and are therefore vocational, there are several crossovers that might allow you to move into a more suitable position, or even from one vertical to another.

Please be aware that this is not always possible, but this guide might help to pinpoint the transferrable skills that could get you where you’d like to be.

I work in clinical research but would like to move into business development or medical affairs.

Those working in clinical research have several transferrable skills that can be useful when moving to another vertical. If you work in a smaller CRO, you may find it easier to branch out and diversify your skill set, which would increase your chances when transitioning. Aside from your clinical expertise, the strongest transferable skills to take forward are communication, organisation, teamwork and conflict resolution. These will serve you well within verticals such as regulatory affairs, commercial and medical affairs.

If you have project management experience, you may find that your commercial skills help when applying for business development roles such as business manager, bid defence manager or business development director. Those in clinical contract negotiation positions could apply for commercial contract manager jobs. The crossover between clinical and regulatory can be seen above.

Clinical research professionals working in phase IV clinical trials in an observational role in which they handle real-world data could consider a business development or drug safety/pharmacovigilance (PV) position. Those who possess high scientific qualifications (MD or PhD) and have a lot of therapeutic knowledge, may find a move into medical affairs fulfilling. Indeed, to become a medical advisor or medical science liaison (MSL), you need academic excellence, a wealth of scientific experience and exceptional communication skills.

I am a sales/business development professional wanting to move into medical affairs (or vice versa).

There is a very strong link between medical affairs and commercial professions, with many solid transferable skills. Being a confident communicator, having scientific expertise and being able to negotiate, network and build relationships is fundamental to both career paths. It is very common for medical advisors, medical directors and medical science liaisons (MSLs) to have a commercial background. However, moving from commercial to medical affairs is only possible when the individual has a strong academic history and expert knowledge of a disease or therapy area. Common paths involve key account managers (KAMs) and hospital sales reps, who have built relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and are used to a customer-facing role, moving into MSL jobs. This is ideal for those who would like less sales and more scientific and field-based career.

Those coming from a medical background who wish to take on a commercial role may go into senior management within a biotech or pharma company. Jobs that involve building business in a region, developing/implementing the medical strategy, training MSLs or ensuring targets are hit for the company, would be suitable for medical professionals, especially medical doctors.

I would like to move from regulatory affairs or clinical into a quality assurance (QA) job.

For those seeking quality assurance/control positions, there are opportunities to transition from a CMC role within regulatory affairs into QA manufacturing. Another common crossover involves clinical research associates (CRAs) or clinical project managers moving into Good Clinical Practice (GCP) clinical or GCP compliance roles within QA. Their hands-on experience monitoring and/or overseeing clinical trials equips them with clinical expertise that is needed when working within GCP.

I’m looking to leave my quality assurance job and move into clinical or regulatory.

If you’re a quality professional, chances are you already know that quality assurance and control is needed throughout the drug or product lifecycle. This means that you could potentially move from one stage to another and find a better-suited role without having to move to another vertical. For example, if you work in distribution you could explore manufacturing.

However, if you are interested in other verticals, you can consider some clinical, training or regulatory affairs roles. Regarding clinical research roles, you will find better success with clinical operations or project management positions, especially if you have a clinical or compliance QA background. If in clinical QA, there is the option to work internally and deal with internal compliance and training. Alternatively, if you are in a QA coordinator position, you could seek a similar position within regulatory affairs. Please note that moving between quality assurance and regulatory affairs is usually easier within a CRO (Contract Research Organisation).

I work in regulatory affairs but would like to move into a clinical or quality role.

As an RA specialist or consultant, your understanding of legal and regulatory matters within pharma/ biotech or medical devices is your most transferable skill when it comes to crossing over to other verticals. As mentioned above, there is a lot of transition available between regulatory affairs and quality, especially in less technical, document-focused roles, but this is usually more feasible when working in medical devices within a CRO. Pharmaceutical crossover is less common due to the scientific, technical skills needed for these roles.

If you are interested in clinical research and have experience in regulatory submissions, you may be able to get an entry-level clinical trial administrator (CTA) or clinical trial coordinator role. Additionally, a regulatory specialist can use their legal/regulatory expertise to undertake a clinical role that involves working with regulatory bodies, for example, a submissions coordinator. Another path to consider for regulatory affairs personnel is to go from a regulatory start-up or feasibility position into a clinical start-up role.

I’m in a scientific/ lab-based role looking to move into a quality.

If you are currently in a scientific or lab-based role, this is usually a strong position to be in. As you possess valuable knowledge of how drugs or devices are made and how they work, your academic expertise will be very sought after within several life science professions. These include regulatory affairs and quality assurance/ control. For example, if you are an analytical scientist and don’t mind starting near the bottom, opportunities could include working within quality control in pharma, becoming a validation engineer or going into a CMC (Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls) role. Stability analysts are also good candidates for entry level regulatory and CMC roles. Aside from scientific expertise, working in scientific/laboratory role develops other crucial transferable skills such teamwork and problem solving.

Do you have the transferable skills needed for a career change within the life sciences industry? If so, send us your CV and tell us about the types of roles that you’re interested in!

New Call-to-action