By Leah R. Singer
One of the fastest growing industries in Southern California is biotech and pharmaceutical research, and San Diego is a magnet to a considerable number of these companies. The local job market offers multiple opportunities for life science professionals as biotech and pharmaceutical companies work everyday to create successful products and place them in the marketplace.
Until recently, it has been the job of the scientists and researchers to shepherd the research and development efforts. While these individuals have the academic and scientific background, they may not have the management and communication skills and training necessary to assure the products go to market in a timely manner and meeting budget goals.
This is where the field of biotech project management has come to fruition. Project managers are hired to oversee the process of developing products from start to finish. They determine the project scope, timelines, budget and procurement, quality controls, communication strategies, human resources, and risk management. The project manager oversees the teams of people responsible for putting the product on the shelves.
Dr. Yves Theriault, president, CEO and founder of Performance Project Management LLC and UC San Diego Extension instructor, points out that the most successful project managers must have some experience in the biotech field in order to make decisions and understand what information is being provided to them. In addition to the biotech experience, Theriault suggested that communication skills and the ability to work with multiple people and teams are also critical since project managers typically spends 90 percent of their time communicating with others.
There are many different types of jobs available for project managers, within both large and small companies. For example, Theriault notes on the pharmaceutical side, there are fifteen different project manager roles in the drug discovery cycle alone.
The Career of a Project Manager
According to Theriault, the average salary of a project manager in the United States ranges from $75,000 (beginning career professional) to $130,000+ for an experience manager. The pay varies by location, company, and project factors. The industry trend has been for companies to hire internal project managers, rather than outsourcing the role to an individual on a contract basis.
The number of projects a person oversees varies by the project scope. If it’s a large project, the individual typically will only oversee that effort. However if the project is smaller, they may oversee multiple assignments. Project managers often start their careers in a small company or oversee one aspect of a larger project. If the work is done well, those individuals are typically promoted to larger projects and given roles with greater responsibility.
The route to a project management career takes three forms. First, a person will have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field and then go on to earn a Master degree in Business Administration (MBA). The second candidate has a Master degree in science and then goes on to earn a project management program certification. The third candidate may have a Ph.D. and the project management certification.
The Biotechnology Project Management specialized certificate, offered through UC San Diego Extension, helps to bridge the current industry hiring gap by educating qualified candidates for biotech businesses. Certificate program participants learn to manage various discoveries, development, testing, and manufacturing processes in a highly regulated environment. The program is ideal for individuals who are trying to move into the biotech industry by learning project management processes for completing and delivery of a biotech product within budget and on schedule. Which is exactly what the San Diego biotech sector needs to thrive in this rapidly growing, highly competitive industry.
(Updated April 2021)