CAREER PROFILE: Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals/Medical Devices


Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies are involved with the research, development, and manufacturing of drugs, medical diagnostics, or medical devices.

In general, biotechnology/biopharmaceutical companies are smaller start-ups while pharmaceutical companies are larger well-established entities that have grown through mergers of US and international firms. Successful biotech start-ups are often acquired by pharmaceutical companies seeking new pipeline drugs or technologies.

Career paths

Job seekers with a BS degree typically enter the field by working as a research assistant in the laboratory of a PhD scientist. Master’s degree research scientists may have slightly more responsibility than those with BS degrees but often hold similar roles.

Depending on the degree field, it is sometimes difficult for PhD graduates to obtain high-level research positions without post-doctoral experience and publication history.

In addition to research, this industry offers numerous positions in business and management. Familiarity with industry-specific issues (e.g., regulatory affairs) is of great value in obtaining non-research positions.

Geographic locations

Two main biotech “clusters” are located in the Bay Area in Northern California and in the Cambridge/Boston area in Massachusetts. Other headquarters for major US pharmaceutical companies are in New Jersey and New York.

Gaining experience while at MIT

Undergraduate research positions are offered at MIT through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). For positions in the biotechnology field, it’s recommended that undergraduates gain laboratory experience to help them determine a specific research interest. It may be helpful to work with multiple laboratories to explore different research areas.

These are examples of labs at MIT whose work is particularly relevant to biotechnology:

In addition, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies often have summer internship programs that can provide valuable industry experience.

Interview questions

Behavioral – use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) approach to answer questions. Be specific rather than general in your answers, and quantify the results whenever possible.

  1. Why do you want to work at this company?
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to resolve conflict within a team.
  3. Have you ever encountered unexpected challenges in your research? How did you resolve them?
  4. What is a technical accomplishment you are most proud of and why?

PhD candidates will be asked to prepare a talk as a part of the interview process.

Expect to be asked about your research, lab skills and familiarity with certain equipment and techniques. For entry-level research positions, companies often expect a baseline level of familiarity with the most common techniques such as pipetting, measuring/weighing chemicals, assays, etc. You can acquire these skills in laboratory classes and in an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

What to include on a resume

Research experience: You should include all relevant research and laboratory classes that demonstrate your skills, techniques and familiarity with using equipment.
Publications: These are very important in this field since they prove your work was reviewed and respected by your peers. Include complete citations.
Presentations: The ability to create and deliver a presentation is also a skill that should be highlighted.

If you have a PhD, industry positions typically want a 2 page resume.

For business positions, as well as research positions, highlight your management skills, teamwork experiences, communication skills, collaboration, leadership, etc.