NewsMaking It In San Diego


Making it in San Diego: Biotech industry is booming, hiring and attainable for anyone

Six-figure salary can be just a certificate away
Posted at 5:57 AM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 22:07:48-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As the biotech industry grows in San Diego, many companies are hiring, offering people a chance at high-paying jobs in an emerging field.

"The jobs that are in demand are the ones most difficult to fill," says Lisa Bozinovic, Executive Director of the Biocom Institute, a trade association for the industry in California.

According to Biocom's most recent survey of the companies across the state, 88 percent say they plan to expand and hire in the next 12 months. The average salary is $117,000.

"They need people skilled in IT, HR, administration, accounting, sales," Bozinovic says. "There's a wide variety of opportunities to enter the industry."

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As demand for employees grows, Biocom is working to let people know they don't need to be a lab scientist or have an advanced degree to qualify.

Most companies want someone to have 190 hours of practical lab skills experience before they start. But they're willing to train on the job, and are also partnering with local colleges to help people get that experience.

MiraCosta College offers a 4-year degree in Biomanufacturing that teaches students how to combine the science with areas like quality control and regulatory compliance.

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The Southern California Technology Center has programs at several Community Colleges across San Diego offering starter classes that can help people get their foot in the door.

Mesa College's Bridges to Baccalaureate program helps minorities and underrepresented groups get into the industry.

Biocom has workforce development programs and special programs for veterans.

"A couple of courses at a community college will help someone get enough skills to transfer into the industry from something totally different," says Bozinovic. "We're lucky that San Diego has that life-science industry and we have that opportunity."

Ashley Reynolds, who works in Regulatory Affairs at Tandem Diabetes, says programs like these helped her find a place in the industry, even though she had no interest in lab work.

"There's no one way to do something," she says.

Reynolds got a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Riverside and a master's degree in regulatory affairs at San Diego State. She also went to Cal State San Marcos for a lab tech certificate. She says it was a lot of work, but it's been worth it in the long run.

"You make a path to get there and don't even worry about all the other obstacles in your way," she says. "If you're determined to get there, you will."

That's the message Bozinovic has as well. It may take returning to school, but it's an investment in your long-term future.

"For $10,000, you can get a four year degree and slide right into a job," she says of the program at MiraCosta. And, remember, you don't always need a full four year degree.

Bozinovic and Reynolds both say someone looking to make a change should take some time to learn about the industry first, and see what part of it interests them. The best way to do that is to go to career fairs or science expos and talk to people at the booths. There are also trade associations and professional groups to join, even if you're still looking for a job.

"Whatever you put into it is what you'll get out of it," says Reynolds.

Anyone interested in a career change can get connected in San Diego through the San Diego Biotechnology Network. The group has events and job postings on its website.