Advance your scientific career by working for a contract research organization

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By Harvey Yau

The global life sciences industry remains focused on expansion and innovation. In order to remain competitive, biopharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are under pressure to develop new drugs and bring them to market at a faster pace than ever before—yet while still containing costs. As a result, they need to be agile while still having access to cutting-edge equipment and top talent. That’s why there’s a growing trend towards outsourcing specific components of research service functions to contract research organizations (CROs) and other functional service providers.

The benefits of working for a CRO

Many scientists who want to work in research are still under the impression that working full-time at a biopharmaceutical company is the best way to work on interesting projects and advance their careers. Yet with the rising trend of outsourcing research functions, this isn’t necessarily true anymore. Working for a CRO can have the following benefits:

  • CROs and other R&D service providers are looking for talent with high levels of expertise. The most in-demand areas are bioassays analytics, protein analysis, and data management. Because the best CROs put together expert teams, they’re in high demand, which means there’s a certain amount of job security. In addition, working with other experts allows scientists to hone their skills and broaden their horizons.
  • There are many opportunities for dynamic, diverse work. Since CROs often work on three to four different projects at a time, the work is highly diverse. It’s a good way to learn new skills and earn experience in many different areas.
  • Scientists learn how to work with the latest technology. Advanced automation is becoming more widely adopted in lab settings, with an increasing number of companies using robotics and benchtop automation for certain repetitive tasks. Although learning how to work with these new technologies requires a certain amount of time and effort, they allow scientists to become more productive in their jobs. Moreover, scientists who know how to use these tools are in high demand in the marketplace.

Working for a CRO isn’t like working for a conventional biopharmaceutical company. Of course, if you’re serious about your career, you should definitely consider this option. And remember: If you’re uncertain about how to find a job with a CRO, a staffing firm can help you find opportunities that match your skills, interests, and career objectives.

All things considered, while the need to work for a CRO might be driven by industry trends, it can be a brilliant career move that can help you expand your knowledge, advance your career, and continuously be in demand for the work you’re passionate about.

Harvey Yau

Senior Director, Science Global Practice Consultant, Professional Services Outsourcing

Harvey Yau is the Senior Director & Science Global Practice Consultant, Professional Services Outsourcing Group of Kelly Services, Inc., (NASDAQ:KELYA, KELYB), a leader in providing workforce solutions headquartered in Troy, Michigan. Harvey is responsible for Kelly Services’ science practice strategies, working in conjunction with Kelly Services’ industries facing, delivery and implementing teams to develop innovative customized scientific workforce solutions for the global scientific marketplace.

For almost two decades Harvey has worked in the scientific workforce verticals in the US and Canadian markets and fulfilled different roles within Kelly Services® to drive the Science Talent Supply Enterprise. Prior to joining Kelly in June 2002, Harvey held leadership and scientific roles at Day & Zimmermann Inc. and Brown and Caldwell Laboratories.

Harvey holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Calif. He is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Associations of Clinical Chemists, and the Southern California Institute of Food Technologists (SCIFT). He holds advisory roles in various universities and community colleges in the US.


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