KGI student in at presentation 80

Can I Advance My Career Without a Graduate Degree?

Traditionally, if you were interested in a healthcare career, you followed a set path. Upon receiving your bachelor’s, you would either continue to medical/pharmacy/dental school or pursue your master’s, PhD, and possibly a postdoc for a career in research or academia.

However, today you have infinitely more options. You can enjoy an exciting, lucrative career in the healthcare and biotech industries without spending years in school. Best of all, an industry career can be gratifying, enabling you to directly bring affordable, life-saving medications to those who desperately need them.

Biotech typically refers to using technology to craft biological organisms into therapeutics such as stem cell biologics, vaccines, and gene therapy. However, it encompasses many industries, including petroleum, environmental, and food. Many everyday items, from cosmetics to beer, are products of biotech. Here are a few biotech jobs that do not require a graduate degree:

  • Biological technician: provide laboratory support—including set-up, maintenance, conducting experiments, and collecting data—to scientists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay is $39,750 per year.
  • Clinical research coordinator: provide support for clinical trials and help researchers gain approval for trials from regulatory and ethics committees. Clinical research coordinators earn a median wage of $88,580 per year.
  • Animal research associate: From caring for mice in medical experiments to testing vaccines explicitly made for livestock, this field encompasses many aspects of animal research. With a bachelor’s degree (combined with additional experience in a veterinary or research setting), expect an average salary of $28,031 annually.
  • Process development associate: help engineers to improve and streamline laboratory processes, primarily on the manufacturing side. The median pay is $78,860 per year, and you will need a bachelor’s and at least two years of experience in manufacturing.
  • Assay analyst: test or analyze cell or tissue samples, preparing them for use in studies and experiments. The median pay is around $35,00 per year.

Additionally, you can pursue a range of healthcare jobs with only a bachelor’s degree—and in some cases, only an associate’s degree or GED. These include the positions of medical scribe, medical assistant, ultrasound technician, and medical coder. They pay, on average, $30,000 – $50,000 per year.

Why You May Benefit From a Graduate Degree

As you can see, you can work in biotech and healthcare without a graduate degree. However, you should still consider graduate school if you wish to progress to jobs with higher salaries and increased opportunities for leadership. In fact, graduate science programs are expected to educate you in your area of study and train you to lead teams of scientists.

Thus, earning an advanced degree makes you more likely to reach the upper echelon of earners within your field. For instance, a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics report cites the median annual wage for biomedical engineers as $88,550. However, the top 10% of biomedical engineers make more than $144,350 per year, as their roles require the increased responsibilities that come with leading others and delegating tasks.

A leadership role in your field can also lead to greater job satisfaction. Often, these roles offer more opportunities for innovation and can be creatively and intellectually stimulating.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graduate Program

While a graduate science program should educate you in the fundamentals of science and conducting research, it should also equip you with the leadership and communication skills necessary to advance in your field and thrive in your profession. Does the program provide ample opportunities—such as team projects—that would enable you to develop these skills?

Another essential factor to consider is networking opportunities. Are faculty and alumni well-connected to the industry, and are they invested in supporting you when navigating this competitive industry?

A final question to ask yourself is, Does the program offer hands-on experience in the healthcare and biotech industries? This could be an internship or on-site project at a hospital, organization, or pharmaceutical company.

Consider Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) for a complete immersion in the healthcare and biotech industries and a dynamic, hands-on education. At KGI, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Complete a paid internship with leading companies such as Amgen, Gilead, and CVS
  • Participate in team projects where you address real-life issues in your field and interact with industry leaders
  • Learn from faculty actively involved in the biotech and healthcare industries
  • Access an extensive network of alumni—movers and shakers in the industry who are eager to support current students

Most of KGI’s graduate programs are two-year master’s programs, offering the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the benefits of an advanced science degree without the added time commitment from pursuing a PhD or professional healthcare degree (such as medical school).

KGI graduates earn an average annual income of $80,000 within one year of graduation, while earnings rise to $158,000 within ten years. Learn all about KGI’s graduate programs here.

An Alternative to a Graduate Degree: KGI’s Certificate in Applied Genomics

If you are already working in the industry and would like to advance your career without pursuing a graduate degree, consider KGI’s Certificate in Applied Genomics (CAG). This executive education program is specifically tailored to bioscience industry and healthcare professionals who wish to gain expertise in the rapidly growing field of applied human genomics.

Human genomics is an exciting field, offering constant breakthroughs when treating conditions once deemed incurable. Even if you don’t plan to pursue a career in genomics, becoming versed in the science will enable you to thrive in your profession as you gain a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms and available treatment options. Foundational knowledge of genomics and its applications for healthcare and drug discovery is becoming increasingly vital for many healthcare and biotech professionals.

The 15-unit program will bring you up-to-date in clinical genomics, pharmacogenomics, gene editing technologies, nucleic acid sequencing, epigenomics, and more. You will also delve into these advances’ ethical and legal issues.

While the CAG is designed to be completed in two years, it is a part-time, fully online program geared toward working professionals. It offers dynamic, live classes led by KGI faculty and genomics subject matter experts, supplemented by hands-on activities emphasizing learning objectives. The program culminates in a capstone project.

Are you ready to become a leader in your field, armed with the information and technologies that are revolutionizing the future of medicine? Apply to KGI’s CAG program here.

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