Why Everyone Wants To Work In Biotech

Companies like Celgene, Biogen Idec, and Gilead Sciences all took top spots on our list of the Best Employers in America. Clearly there are a lot of people who love working in biotech — but why?

Biotech companies have plenty of perks, sometimes including top-tier benefits like sabbaticals, unlimited vacations, three meals a day, free yoga classes, and more.

Industry salaries also reflect the number of people in biotech who are highly educated and creative. (At Celgene, the No. 1 employer on our list, the median salary for an experienced employee is $US116,000.)

But while many companies treat their employees well, employees at biotech companies have something else going for them, too: The work is fascinating — and potentially lifesaving.

The work matters

There are few things more satisfying to an employee than doing engaging, meaningful work that also pays well.

“These people are mission-driven. They’re not manufacturing nuts and bolts,” Jeanne Nicholson, an executive at CBG Benefits who founded HR Biotech Connect, told Business Insider. “They’re looking to cure incurable diseases.”

Katie Watson, Gilead’s Senior Vice President of HR, said that’s exactly why the company tries to keep all employees in the loop about big-picture goals and progress.

“All of our employees have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to our mission: bringing new treatments to patients with life-threatening diseases around the world,” she wrote in an email.

Biotech companies, especially those that develop pharmaceuticals, are not always regarded kindly, and some criticisms of the industry are valid. But many are responsible for cures and treatments that have helped millions of people — and that’s something their employees, especially the scientists in the trenches, are proud of.

“I get very passionate about my work, and I believe in what I do,” Violet Lee, a scientist who currently works in biotech, told Business Insider. “At least some little part of what I do is eventually translating into greater good.”

Celgene, for example, estimates that 40% of its employees are “directly involved in bringing solutions to patients.”

The work is interesting

For scientists who take pleasure in research itself, biotech is an ideal place to be. Scientists who go into academia often find that much of their time is spent writing grants, teaching, and managing administrative duties.

In biotech, meanwhile, “you have a job to do and you have the resources to do it,” Gloria Kreitinger, who worked at Gilead for two years, told Business Insider. “You can focus on solving problems.”

Academic science can be freeing: People may be chasing grant money, but at least they don’t have to respond to investors. Profit is not the primary goal. But sometimes academic researchers — whose vital efforts plenty of pharmaceutical researchers rely on — don’t get to see how their work affects people outside of their small area of research.

In biotech, for better or worse, it’s all about results.

“You actually see how science plays out in real life and is used to produce products that can help people — making that connection was huge for me,” Kreitinger said.

When the science itself is engaging, and scientists are given the room to investigate it, the potential to help patients registers as an additional bonus — not the only driving force. (Compare this to the nonprofit world, where even the most devoted employees sometimes burn out on low-pay and daily drudgery.)

“The most important thing was that I enjoyed the immediate work I did,” said Kreitinger. “The fact that some of the drugs were lifesaving was a huge perk.”

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