The Shifting Talent Landscape for Associate Scientists

It’s. About. Damn. Time

Recently I had one of those moments during a conversation where you pause and think, “ya know, you’re absolutely right”.   

I was talking with a client about how difficult it had been to find BS and MS-level candidates in this super-heated and active job market for Senior Associate Scientist and Associate Scientist roles.  I know what you may be thinking, “well, maybe they are not paying enough, maybe the leadership is wacky…”.  Not the case here.  They are a 150-person, public, drug discovery company located within a 5 minute walk of Kendall Square in Cambridge with well-respected and liked leadership.  Also, for a company of their size to already have a therapeutic in clinical trials is a testament to what they have done so far. 

So, what are we missing? 

Having both been in Talent Acquisition for 20 years, we had been through hiring booms and busts and started reminiscing about the time when anyone who had taken a CompSci class would get hired as a Software Engineer during the pre bust days of the late 90s/early 2000s. My how times have changed. 

I’ve always worked in the biotechnology & pharmaceuticals industry and I mentioned how I had often had conversations with software engineers that suddenly found their love of life sciences and wanted to leverage their actual degree in Biology or Biochemistry to land a role in the rapidly expanding Life Sciences market in Boston & Cambridge.  There was always the point in the conversation when it felt like the air was let out of a balloon when I had to set their expectations that an annual salary for a recent BS or MS graduate would be more likely in the $40s or 50s and not the $85,000 and above range they were accustomed to in the days of and other internet start-ups. 

If you came to me 3-5 years ago and said you completed your BS or MS degree and had a couple of years experience in the biotech/pharma industry and you wanted 85K, I would have chuckled.  Not anymore. We were discussing how much, and how quickly, things have shifted. 

And that’s when it happened.   

My client said, “It’s about damn time”.  He had worked in those internet start-ups and moved over to the Life Sciences several years ago and was shocked at how little folks were making, given their education and expertise.  “These are our essential workers, often going into the lab every day, to keep the wheels on the bus moving and driving our therapies forward.”  He further added, “I may not be happy about how quickly the adjustment is happening but I’m glad that it’s happening.   

He was right, it’s about damn time.   

Nuno Goncalves is a Vice President at HireMinds, specializing in the areas of biotechnology & pharmaceutical recruiting. He is responsible for strategic leadership of our life science practice and connecting the most innovative Life Sciences companies with top talent.