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What’s the Outlook for Hiring in Clinical Trials?

White coats hanging in a laboratory

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies are growing at a fast clip, due to strong spending on research and development, the rise of biopharmaceuticals and the increased health care needs of an aging population. These factors have led to a booming demand for access to talent for the clinical trials needed to ensure product safety and effectiveness.

The industry landscape

Globally, there are more than 250,000 open clinical trials, up from around 100,000 in 2010 — an increase of more than 150 percent. In the U.S. alone, there are currently more than 105,000 open clinical trials, most involved in investigating a drug or biologic, behavioral intervention, surgical procedure or device.

The industry, coming off a robust year in 2016, is predicted to grow at a rate of 5.5 percent annually until 2025. The positive outlook has also driven increases in merger and acquisition activity, growing use of functional service providers and contract research organizations, and even more funding and investment. A more streamlined Food & Drug Administration approval process adopted in 2016 has also had an impact.

In this robust environment, most companies have multiple product lines in development, increasing the opportunities for a successful new breakthrough in the marketplace.

“The financial advantage of being first-to-market with new products is considerable,” notes Kevin McKenna, Aerotek Clinical Solutions director of business development. “That’s why every company is looking for that blockbuster drug or treatment, and why we continue to see strong demand for access to clinical trials talent.”

Other current trends in the industry include pharma companies expanding into medical device manufacturing and the development of genomics and drugs tailored to the unique genetic profiles of individual or specific diseases. McKenna notes that data security is also of extreme interest among companies that sponsor clinical trials.

Demand for skilled talent

The positions most often needed include clinical research associates (regional and in-house), program/project managers and trial managers, as well as data management and drug safety professionals. Wages across the board are rising as supply tightens, and employers realize the value of securing the highest quality employees.

“The most sought-after talent comes with specific alignment to the therapeutic needs of the project — experience with specific areas, like oncology,” McKenna notes. “When you find the talent that meets your project needs, you’re likely to pay a premium.”

Changes in the length and duration of clinical trials are also affecting hiring. “Contracts are running at a minimum for a year, often with a renewal option, and we are finding projects that will run for three to five years for our employees. Increased demand and companies’ interest in accessing the ideal talent has created a very competitive landscape for all service providers in this evolving marketplace.”

In order to accommodate the growing volume and need for specific high-end talent, more life sciences companies are turning to strategic services for support. “For our clients, achieving business goals means retaining control of their critical projects,” says McKenna. “We partner with them at the highest levels, helping with alternative resourcing models that allow them to grow, develop and manage their clinical trials the right way.”

Education at all levels is sure to continue having a strong emphasis on science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) studies, meaning that careers in the pharmaceutical industry will benefit from renewed interest and a gradual increase in the talent pool.

“Workers are drawn to this industry in part because of the opportunity to be involved in something that really helps people,” notes McKenna. “For everyone involved in the process, helping a new product get to market where it could cure illnesses or even save lives is a powerful motivator.”

Want to learn more about the hiring outlook for clinical trials? Contact Aerotek now.