What kind of jobs can I get with a Genetics major?


A major in genetics can lead to careers in fields as diverse as agriculture, criminology, and communication. Below is a list, by no means comprehensive, of careers geneticists pursue. Browse through this list to get an overview of each kind of career.

Common careers

Geneticists conduct research in various fields of science, ranging from agriculture to wildlife biology. The list below describes some areas of research, listed in alphabetical order, in these fields.

  1. Agriculture/Plant Sciences
    • Determine the genetic and physiological basis for certain plant traits, for example, vitamin content
    • Use gene modification techniques to develop improved crop varieties such as drought-tolerant maize
    • Study genes involved in development, such as those that regulate flowering
    • Conserve plant genetic diversity, for example, by maintaining germ banks
    • Sequence plant genomes
    • Study the evolution of crop plants
    • Determine genetic relationships among plant species for taxonomic classification purposes
    • Study plant migration patterns

    Education: The minimum educational requirement to be hired as a plant geneticist is a bachelor’s degree in biology, genetics, agriculture, or a closely related field. Since genetics draws heavily on mathematics, statistics, and biochemistry, a solid foundation in these subjects is also important.

    The minimal educational requirement for a plant genetics research assistant position is a bachelor’s degree in genetics, agronomy, crop science, or a related degree. The skill set required of a research assistant varies according to the research project and can include experience in working with certain crops or knowledge of particular plant diseases, ability to maintain greenhouse plants and database inventory records, and ability to analyze phenotypic and genotypic data and perform molecular biology techniques such as PCR and Western blotting.

    A master’s and PhD degree will strongly increase opportunities to conduct independent research.

    Places of employment: Plant geneticists can find work in federal, state, or local government laboratories; agricultural experiment stations; botanical gardens, arboretums, national parks; university laboratories; or private agricultural companies.

    Useful links:

    Careers in genetics and the biosciences: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/education/careers-6new.pdf

    Genetics and plant biology career snapshot: http://nature.berkeley.edu/site/forms/oisa/gpb_career_snapshot.pdf

    How can genetic information be useful in natural resource management? http://www.grcp.ucdavis.edu/projects/GeneticFactsheets/Vol_02_print.pdf

  2. Animal science
    • Identify and understand the functions of genes involved in growth, reproduction, and behavior
    • Develop new breeding methods and parentage verification methods
    • Breed animals with economically advantageous traits such as disease resistance or increased milk production
    • Identify gene targets for drug development
    • Determine the molecular mechanisms underlying diseases
    • Identify the origin of exotic species
    • Analyze genome sequences using bioinformatics tools

    Education and Places of employment: A certificate or an associate’s degree in medical or veterinary technology is the minimum qualification to work as a technician in an animal genetics lab. A bachelor’s degree in science (for example, genetics, biology, biochemistry, or poultry science) followed by a master’s degree in an area of specialization is likely to increase job prospects. If you’re interested in bioinformatics, besides biology, courses in math, statistics, and computer sciences are essential. A PhD is usually required for teaching at the college level or for conducting independent research.

    Places of employment: Animal geneticists can find work in animal biotechnology companies, breeding companies, livestock genetics industries, zoos, non-profit organizations involved in the conservation of endangered species, hatcheries, universities, and the federal government.

    Useful links:

    Texas A&M University Animal Genetics Laboratory: http://catdnatest.org/TexasAM.html

    Texas A&M University Equine Embryo Laboratory: http://vetmed.tamu.edu/equine-embryo-laboratory

    Animal geneticist. Knowing genes. Improving animals: http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/usda/careers/pdfs/AnimalGeneticist.pdf

  3. Entomology
    • Map genes that control pheromone production
    • Study genes responsible for insecticide resistance
    • Study gene flow in insect populations
    • Study the honey bee genome
    • Engineer transgenic insect vectors as a method of disease control

    Education: The minimum qualification required to work as a research technician or a research assistant in a laboratory conducting genetics-based entomological research is a bachelor’s degree in entomology, genetics, molecular biology, or a related field. In addition to a strong science background, some research technician positions require experience in DNA-based techniques and in maintaining insectaries as well as computer skills to collect and analyze data. Master’s and PhD degrees increase opportunities for research.

    Places of employment: These include government agencies, pest control and agrochemical companies, nature centers, and universities.

  4. Environmental conservation
    • Use genetics to develop captive breeding programs for endangered species
    • Study the effect of environmental contaminants on genetic diversity
    • Determine the extent of diversity in endangered populations
    • Use genetics to identify species that need conservation

    Education: For research positions, the minimum qualification is a bachelor’s degree in genetics, biology, environmental science, ecology, botany, zoology, or a related field. Master’s and PhD degrees increase opportunities for research.

    Places of employment: These include federal agencies (for example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), private and non-profit conservation and environmental organizations, nature and forest preserves, zoos, botanical gardens, and universities.

    Useful links:

    Conservation geneticist. A variety of career directions: http://medicine.jrank.org/pages/2097/Conservation-Geneticist-Variety-Career-Directions.html

    Conservation genetics. The University of Utah. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/archive/conservation/index.html

  5. Forensics
    • Use DNA fingerprinting to identify parts of endangered species or crime victims
    • Develop more sensitive methods that will permit DNA analysis of minute crime-scene samples
    • Identify biomarkers that will help determine the age of biological samples

    Education: Refer to the “Forensics” major section

    Places of employment: Refer to the “Forensics” major section

    Useful links:

    National Center for Forensic Science: http://ncfs.ucf.edu/index.html

    Wildlife forensics: http://www.enotes.com/forensic-science/wildlife-forensics

    DNA forensics: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/forensics.shtml

    Forensic genomics: http://www.forensicgenomics.nl//index.php?parentContentID=&contentID=8ba4ff43-d52c-4b56-a975-1ecedcb96ee4

    Research careers in forensics: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/2006_09_15/research_careers_in_forensics/

  6. Human/Medical genetics
    • Develop molecular tools to diagnose genetic diseases
    • Study patterns of genetic variation in human populations, the causes of these variations, and how they influence disease susceptibility
    • Determine the genetic basis of diseases like lupus, autism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes
    • Study gene-gene and gene-environmental interactions (epigenetics) in multifactorial diseases
    • Study chromosomal abnormalities
    • Study gene expression in early human development
    • Study the influence of genes on behavior (Behavioral genetics)
    • Determine methods to deliver genes to target cells (Gene therapy)

    Education: A strong foundation in mathematics and science is good preparation for research in human genetics. Master’s and PhD degrees increase opportunities for research. An MD-PhD degree, which provides training in both clinical and basic science, increases opportunities to conduct translational research.

    Places of employment: These include medical centers, research institutes, hospitals, and biotech companies.

    Useful links:

    The future of genetics. Career opportunities for young scientists. http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2006_09_29/noDOI.6711002142138644027

    National Human Genome Research Institute Research Investigators: http://www.genome.gov/10000297

  7. Microbiology

    Microbial genetics involves studying the genetics of microbes such as bacteria and fungi. Listed below are some areas of research.

    • Study mechanisms of gene expression, transposition, and recombination
    • Study mechanisms underlying the interaction between host defense and bacterial virulence factors
    • Study the genetic basis of the pathogenesis of disease-causing microorganisms, for example, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
    • Study genes involved in the bacterial response to stress, for example, heat treatment and low storage temperature, which are used in food preservation
    • Sequence the genome of economically important bacteria, for example, those that degrade hydrocarbons, or food-borne pathogens, for example, Salmonella
    • Use model organisms, such as the mold Neurospora crassa, to understand circadian clock genes

    Education: An advanced degree in science may not be required for entry-level positions as a research assistant in a microbial genetics laboratory. However, a master’s degree in genetics, genomics, or microbiology followed by a PhD increase opportunities for research.

    Places of employment: These include government agencies, medical centers, universities, pharmaceutical companies, the agricultural industry, and diagnostic laboratories.

    Useful links:

    Bacterial geneticist/genomicist: http://www.genome.gov/GenomicCareers/career.cfm?id=1

  8. Statistical genetics
    • Developing statistical tools to identify genes and genetic variations
    • Develop software to perform genetic analysis, for example, quantitative trait loci mapping
    • Match genes and genetic variations with phenotypes through linkage and association analysis

    (Also, explore areas of research within the fields of bioinformatics and computational genetics as they overlap with those in the field of statistical genetics.)

    Education: Training to become a statistical geneticist can begin with an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, physics, or computer science followed by a graduate degree in statistical genetics. It is also possible to begin with an undergraduate degree in biology or genetics followed by courses in statistics in graduate school. The key is to have a strong background in both biology and mathematics. Computer programming skills are an asset.

    Places of employment: These include biostatistics and epidemiology departments in universities; state or federal genetic, genomic, or health centers (for example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)); and biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and pharmacogenomic companies.

    Useful links:

    Count on it (Article from naturejobs.com on skills required and employment opportunities in statistical genetics): http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/2007/070222/full/nj7130-946a.html

    Carolina center for genome sciences, Bioinformatics and computational biology training program: http://genomics.unc.edu/training/bcb.html

    Statistical genetics short course—featuring Mendel software: http://genomics.unc.edu/events/statgen/ (This course was held in 2010, but check Web site for updates.)

    University of Washington, Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics: http://www.biostat.washington.edu/suminst/sisg/general

    University of Michigan, Center for statistical genetics: http://csg.sph.umich.edu/index.php (Examples of job descriptions within the field of statistical genetics)

    Genetic Analysis Workshop. Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research: http://www.gaworkshop.org/index.html

    A review on the field of statistical genetics: http://schizophreniabulletin.oxfordjournals.org/content/33/1/95.abstract

    Statistical geneticist: http://medicine.jrank.org/pages/2857/Statistical-Geneticist.html

    Nature Reviews Genetics. Computational genetics: http://www.nature.com/nrg/focus/compgen/index.html (Collection of papers on computational genetics)

  9. Veterinary medicine
    • Develop DNA tests for diagnosing genetic disorders
    • Develop genetic tools for genome mapping, for example, the horse genome
    • Develop animal models to study human disease
    • Conduct preclinical trials
    • Develop cloning technology as a way to conserve endangered species

    Education: A bachelor’s degree in genetics, biology, biomedical science or a related field is the minimum qualification for entry-level positions as a research technician in the field of veterinary medicine. Master’s and PhD degrees lead to opportunities to conduct independent research.

    Places of employment: These include veterinary genetic laboratories, private companies that offer veterinary genetic services, universities, animal breeders, biotechnology companies, and medical research institutes.

  10. Wildlife biology
    • Study genetic relationships within and between populations of species to determine genetic diversity
    • Develop DNA tests to determine gender as well as to identify individuals, parents, and kin
    • Use genetic markers to identify migration patterns, reproductive success, and evolutionary origin
    • Use genetic analysis to determine the taxonomic classification of species
    • Study mitochondrial DNA to understand nesting patterns

    Education: For research positions, the minimum qualification is a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, zoology, or a related field. Master’s and PhD degrees increase opportunities for research.

    Places of employment: Federal agencies (for example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), private and non-profit conservation and environmental organizations, nature and forest preserves, zoos, and wildlife genetics laboratories in universities.

    Useful links:

    Conservation genetics: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/archive/conservation/

Clinical Geneticist

Clinical geneticists are doctors who work with patients to identify, diagnose, and treat genetic diseases. They may also conduct research on genetic disorders; teach interns and residents about the diagnosis and management of clinical genetic disorders; and have administrative roles, for example, planning and coordinating large-scale screening programs for genetic diseases.

Education: After obtaining a medical degree, clinical geneticists complete 2 years of residency in medical disciplines approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), followed by a 2-year ACMGE-accredited residency in clinical genetics. They may then obtain certification (which involves passing an examination administered by the American Board of Medical Genetics) in one of four specialties: clinical genetics, clinical biochemical genetics, clinical cytogenetics, and clinical molecular genetics. (Clinical biochemical geneticists, cytogeneticists, and molecular geneticists may have either an MD or a PhD degree in genetics or a related biological science.)

Places of employment: Clinical geneticists work in research centers, hospitals, or medical centers or have private practices.

Useful links:

American Board of Medical Genetics. Training options: http://www.abmg.org/pages/training_options.shtml

American Board of Medical Genetics. Specialties of genetics. http://www.abmg.org/pages/training_specialties.shtml

Clinical geneticist. http://www.bookrags.com/research/clinical-geneticist-gen-01/

American Board of Medical Specialties: http://www.abms.org/who_we_help/consumers/about_physician_specialties/medical.aspx

Careers in genetics. Genetics Society of America: http://www.genetics-gsa.org/pages/careers_fisher.shtml

Clinical Laboratory Scientist/Medical Technologist (CLS/MT)

Clinical laboratory technologists or scientists perform chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests. For example, they may examine body fluids for the presence of bacteria, determine the concentration of compounds such as blood glucose, and prepare blood samples for transfusion. They not only perform laboratory procedures, but interpret test results, conduct research, develop new test methods, perform quality control, and supervise clinical laboratory technicians.

Technologists in large laboratories specialize in a particular field of laboratory science. For example, cytotechnologists examine cells for chromosomal abnormalities.

Education: The minimal educational requirement to qualify for an entry-level position as a clinical laboratory technologist is generally a bachelor’s degree with a major in medical technology or one of the life sciences.

Bachelor’s degree programs in medical technology include courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, statistics, management, business, computers as well as specialized clinical laboratory science courses. These programs are offered by universities and academic medical centers, and graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree are eligible to apply to them.

To find a clinical laboratory scientist/medical technologist program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), refer to http://www.naacls.org/search/programs.asp.

Graduates of a clinical laboratory science program are eligible for national certification as a clinical laboratory scientist/medical technician by passing an exam administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. (For a listing of the certifications and qualifications offered by the board, visit http://www.ascp.org/boc.)

For information on the eligibility criteria for these examinations, visit http://www.ascp.org/FunctionalNavigation/certification/GetCertified/TechnicianCertification.aspx.

Certification and accreditation can also be obtained through the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

Useful links:

Clinical laboratory science program, MD Anderson. http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/clinical-laboratory-science/index.html

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science: http://www.ascls.org/?page=Career_Toolkit

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos096.htm

Cytogenetic Technologist/Cytogeneticist

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomal abnormalities underlying human diseases. A cytogeneticist prepares biological specimens such as blood, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, and tumors for chromosome analysis. This involves preparing cell cultures and staining chromosomes using techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and knowledge of techniques such as PCR, fluorescence microscopy, nucleic acid purification, agarose gel electrophoresis, and immunofluorescence staining. For a detailed list of skills expected of cytogenetic technologists, refer to the PDF prepared by the Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT). You can find it here: http://www.agt-info.org/Documents/Cyto%20Statements%20of%20Competence%202001.pdf

Education: The minimum educational requirement to be a cytogenetic technologist is an undergraduate in genetics, biochemistry, or biology followed by a cytogenetic technology program and certification (which is required by some laboratories). Choose a cytotechnology program that is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

An undergraduate degree in cytogenetics may be followed directly by certification. A national certification exam is offered by the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Places of employment: Cytogenetic technologists may find work in research institutions, hospitals, and medical laboratories.

Useful links:

MD Anderson Cancer Center, cytogenetic technology program: http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/cytogenetic-technology/index.html

Mayo Clinic cytogenetic technology program: http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/cytogen-cytogen.html

Cytogenetic technology program: http://www.uthscsa.edu/shp/cyto/success.asp

Occupational network online, Cytogenetic technologists: http://online.onetcenter.org/link/summary/29-2011.01

Cytogenetic Technologist: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/40/ls05-cytogen-tech.pdf

Health Careers Center, Cytogenetic Technologist:




Association of genetic technologists: http://www.agt-info.org/

Molecular Genetic Technologist

Molecular genetic technologists study DNA for various purposes: to determine familial cancer risk, to diagnose neurological disorders, to identify microbiological agents, to match tissues for organ transplantation, to identify disaster or crime victims, and to determine parentage.

The following are some examples of skills molecular genetic technologists should have, according to the “Statements of competence for molecular genetic technologists.”

Education: Molecular genetic technologists must have a bachelor’s degree in a biological science and a post-baccalaureate degree in molecular genetic technology (or a minimum of one year on-the-job training). For information on The University of Texas MD Anderson Center’s molecular genetic technology program, visit http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/molecular-genetic-technology/program-description.html. (This program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).)

It is also possible to be certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) as a molecular biology technologist. For information on eligibility requirements for the certification examination, visit http://www.ascp.org/FunctionalNavigation/certification/GetCertified/TechnologistCertification.aspx#mp

Places of employment: These include cancer treatment and research centers, pathology labs, pediatric and genetic counseling clinics, chemical industry labs, biotechnology companies, public and private forensic labs, and academic institutions.

Useful links: http://www.healthcareersinct.com/laboratory-sciences/molecular-diagnostic-technologist.php


Molecular genetics technology career overview: http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/mg-career.html

Association for Molecular Pathology. List of programs that offer Molecular Technologist Training. http://www.amp.org/committees/training_educ/molecular_technologist_training.cfm

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors provide information to individuals or families who have or who are at risk of developing genetic disorders. Responsibilities of genetic counselors include analyzing family history and inheritance patterns, evaluating an individual’s risk of developing a particular disorder, and identifying testing or treatment options.

Genetic counselors may work in research labs and study, for example, how genetic disorders are inherited. They may also be teachers and be involved in educating medical students or individuals from other health-care professions or the general public about genetic counseling. Genetic counselors may also work with biotechnology companies that develop genetic tests.

Education: To become a genetic counselor, in addition to an undergraduate degree in genetics or a related subject, a master’s degree in genetic counseling from an accredited program is required. Further, board certification in genetic counseling through the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) is an asset.

Places of employment: Genetic counselors can work in clinical settings such as hospitals, research laboratories, or educational institutions.

Useful links:

Science careers: Genetic counselor: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-engineering-careers/Genom_geneticcounselor_c001.shtml#natureofwork

Genetic counseling: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genecounseling.shtml

List of genetic counseling training programs: http://www.nsgc.org/iframepages/GeneticCounselingTrainingPrograms/tabid/336/Default.aspx

Profile of a genetic counselor: http://science.education.nih.gov/LifeWorks.nsf/Interviews/Barbara+Biesecker

National society of genetic counselors: http://www.nsgc.org/Default.aspx

Forensic DNA Analyst

Forensic DNA analysts analyze biological samples (for example, saliva, skin cells, or hair follicles) submitted for criminal investigation or other legal matters for the presence or absence of DNA. DNA profiles of unknown samples are compared with those of convicted criminals to identify crime suspects or exonerate wrongly accused or convicted individuals. Other duties of a forensic DNA analyst include preparing reports of DNA analysis, serving as an expert witness, maintaining and calibrating equipment, preparing chemical solutions, and ordering supplies. In crime labs, DNA analysts may also be involved in trace evidence or firearms analysis.

Education: Minimal educational requirements for an entry-level position are a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or a related field and coursework in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and statistics. Also, DNA analysts must have good critical thinking, writing, communication, presentation, interpersonal, and teamwork skills.

Places of employment: These include local, state, or federal law enforcement or government agencies; private forensic laboratories; and medical, scientific, and research laboratories.

Useful links:

Interview with a forensic DNA analyst: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080705/news_lz1cz5qanda.html

DNA analyst career profile: http://pagerankstudio.com/Blog/2010/06/dna-analyst-job-description-careers-salary-employment-definition-education-and-training-requirements/

Genetics Research Technician

A research technician assists the main scientists in a genetics laboratory. Duties range from sample preparation to data collection to data analysis.

Places of employment and education: A genetics research technician can find work in a variety of research settings. Knowledge and technical skills will vary depending on the research project. For example, some technician positions require only a bachelor’s degree in any science and no prior laboratory experience and involve tasks such as cleaning equipment, ordering lab supplies, and assisting with laboratory report preparation. Other positions require a master’s degree in science and knowledge of basic anatomy, cell culture, histology, molecular cloning techniques, and quantitative gene expression analysis.

Useful links: http://www.biohealthmatics.com/careers/PID00254.aspx

School Science Teacher

Science teachers for middle- and high-school are in high demand. For more information on how to obtain certification to teach at the middle- and high-school levels, visit the College of Education & Human Development’s “Become an Aggie Teacher” page at http://educate.tamu.edu/articles/High-Need.

Listed below is information about two popular secondary certification programs TAMU offers.

  1. The AggieTEACH program prepares undergraduate students majoring in math or science to become secondary math or science teachers (grades 8—12). The program allows students to obtain secondary teacher certification along with their bachelor’s degree and without the need to take additional credit hours. It also provides hands-on experience in teaching in science classrooms.

    For more information, please visit http://www3.science.tamu.edu/cmse/mass/content.php?id_dir=46

    You can also contact Dr. Carolyn Schroeder, program coordinator, at 979-458-4450 or cschroeder@science.tamu.edu.

  2. The Accelerate Online program allows students to obtain certification to teach Life Sciences at the 8-12 grade level. Certification can be obtained in 12-18 months. In order to be admitted to the Life Sciences Certification program, students need to have completed 24 hours of coursework in designated areas, and 12 of these hours should be upper-level (junior or senior) courses.

    For more information on the program, visit http://accelerate.tamu.edu/index.html. You can also contact Lynn Beason at 979-458-3968 or accelerate@coe.tamu.edu.

Useful links:

For information on the job profile and job prospects for biology school teachers, refer to http://online.onetcenter.org/link/summary/25-1042.00

Teach for America: http://www.teachforamerica.org/

YES Prep Public Schools: http://yesprep.org/

Medical and Allied Health Careers

A major in genetics can serve as good preparation for careers in medicine and allied health. Listed below are some job titles within these fields.

Physician Veterinarian Physician Assistant Registered Nurse
Optometrist Pharmacist Physical Therapist Podiatrist
Occupational Therapist Speech and Language Pathologist Dental Hygienist

Education: Training for careers in this field generally involves an undergraduate science degree followed by a professional degree or certification. Visit TAMU’s Office of Professional School Advising Web site for more information on preparation for health-care careers: http://opsa.tamu.edu/downloads_forms.shtml

Other resources:

Refer to the following books in the Career Center library (accessible through http://careercenter.tamu.edu/docs/library/bookInventory.pdf), for more information on occupations within medicine and allied health.

  • Healthcare Career Directory: Career Advisor Series (Bradley J. Morgan, Editor)
  • Health Care Careers Directory (American Medical Association)
  • Allied Health Careers
  • Therapists and Allied health Professionals Career Directory (Career Advisor Series) (Bradley J. Morgan & Joseph Palmisano, Editors)
Alternative careers
Medical Device Sales Representative

Medical device sales representatives market medical equipment (for example, cardiac equipment) to specialty doctors and surgeons. Individuals need to have thorough scientific and medical knowledge as well as excellent sales skills. A proven sales record and specific product experience are likely to increase opportunities for employment. Work in this field involves a considerable amount of travel and long hours.

Within the medical device sales industry, there are field-based technical support personnel who are experts in a particular device, for example, pacemakers. They are involved in implanting and checking the function of these devices. Since these individuals bring medical devices to operating rooms and assist surgeons during device implantation, they must be comfortable observing surgical procedures.

Education and Training:

A bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical-, healthcare-, or science-related disciplines is good preparation for this career. Certifications in pharmaceutical and healthcare device sales from technical training companies such as the National Association of Medical Sales Representatives (NAMSR), the American Institute of Medical Sales (AIMS), and the Center for Professional Advancement may also be helpful. Internships with medical device companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Philips Healthcare, Medtronic, etc., provide opportunities for medical sales training and increase chances of getting entry-level medical sales representative positions.

Places of employment: Medical device companies such as Medtronic Inc., Stryker, Boston Scientific

Useful links:

National Association of Medical Sales Representatives (NAMSR) program for entry-level medical sales positions: http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/rmsr.html. (NAMSR also has an online quiz, accessible here: http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/doineedtraining.html, to help you determine if you need training.)

For information on other training programs offered by NAMSR, visit http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/rmsr.html


A sales representative at Boston Scientific briefly describes her work: http://www.bostonscientific.com/Careers.bsci/,,/navRelId/1065.1070/method/EMPLOYEE_PROFILE/id/10111411/seo.serve

An interview with a medical device sales consultant: http://www.jobshadow.com/an-interview-with-a-medical-device-salesman/

St. Jude Medical. Careers in Demand. http://www.sjm.com/corporate/careers/for-experienced-prospective-employees/careers-in-demand.aspx#E

Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives

Pharmaceutical sales representatives promote the company’s products to physicians, pharmacists, and hospital personnel. They also make product presentations and organize educational meetings for physicians. The job requires the ability to continuously learn about new pharmaceutical products, good communication and interpersonal skills, willingness to travel, and the ability to withstand stress.

(Other job titles within pharmaceutical sales include sales manager and sales trainer.)

Education: College graduates with a biology degree are usually preferred by pharmaceutical companies for entry-level sales positions, mainly because a biology degree demonstrates a solid foundation in science that will be helpful in learning about pharmacological products. (Prior sales experience acquired through summer jobs or internships is likely to increase job prospects. This sales experience need not be pharmaceutical related. Business-to-business sales experience, for example, with companies like Xerox or Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is especially useful.) However, individuals with a master’s degree in science are likely to be preferred over those with a bachelor’s degree because an advanced degree provides credibility when interacting with physicians. Further, individuals with a master’s degree in business/marketing and a good sales record are more likely to be promoted to management positions.

Places of employment: Pharmaceutical and biotech industries

Useful resources: Please refer to the Career Center library book “Insiders’ guide to the world of pharmaceutical sales” by Jane Williams for more information on this profession.

Also, refer to the Vault Career Guide to Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing (accessible through HireAggies.com. (The path is hireaggies.com—Career Resources—Websites/Databases—Vault/Career Insider) for more information on job titles within this field (chapter 5), education and training requirements (chapter 6), sample resumes and cover letters for pharmaceutical sales jobs (chapter 7) and for questions to expect during interviews for such jobs (chapter 8), and for information on how to transition into a career in pharmaceutical sales (chapter 9).

Other useful links:

National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives: http://www.napsronline.org/default.asp

Scientific Sales Representative

Scientific sales representatives may be involved in selling a range of products, for example, scientific equipment; laboratory chemicals, glassware, and equipment; pharmaceuticals; or environmental science services such as water monitoring.

Education and skills: A bachelor’s degree in science is good preparation for a career in scientific sales. Laboratory skills, for example, expertise in molecular biology techniques or experience with chromatography instrumentation, may be useful in selling certain products. Courses in business and marketing are also helpful.

Places of employment: Pharmaceutical and biotech industries and medical device companies.

Useful links: List of scientific sales’ job descriptions: http://www.oakhurstexec.com/blog/labels/scientific%20sales.html

Patent Agent

Patent agents prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications. To become a patent agent recognized by the US patent and trademark office (USPTO) requires a bachelor’s degree in a technical field of science (recognized by the office) and passing the USPTO registration examination (also called the “patent bar”). A law degree is not required to be a patent agent. For more information on how to become a registered patent agent with the USPTO, visit http://usptocareers.gov/.

Useful links:

Careers in patent law:


Chemists in patent law: http://acscareers.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/chemists-in-patent-law/

A day in the life of a patent examiner: http://usptocareers.gov/Pages/PEPositions/video.aspx

Science Illustrator/Animator

Science illustrators prepare accurate and life-like digital or traditional images of scientific subjects. They combine their training in a specific science, for example, zoology or wildlife biology, with skills in traditional and digital art techniques. (Science illustrators might also begin with an art background and then educate themselves in science.) Science illustrators prepare models and exhibits for museums, design covers of publications, create computer animation for Web sites. Sources of employment include museums, scientific organizations, publishing houses, and pharmaceutical industries.

Useful links:

Profiles of science illustrators: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2005_04_15/noDOI.13852279728145973119

Illustrating nature: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2007_07_13/caredit.a0700101

Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: http://www.gnsi.org/science-illustration/careers-ed

Graduate program in biomedical communications, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas: http://www4.utsouthwestern.edu/biocomm/program_main.htm

Science illustration graduate program, California State University, Monterey Bay: http://scienceillustration.org/graduate_program.htm

Article in Nature on scientific illustration: http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/2005/050623/full/nj7045-1132a.html

The Association of Medical Illustrators: http://www.ami.org/

Medical illustration profile article: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2001_11_23/noDOI.2087075039405483229

Science Writer

Science writers translate complex scientific information into language that is accessible to the general public.

Science writers keep abreast of the latest developments in a specific field, for example, genetics, by reading original research papers, attending scientific conferences, and talking to scientists. They may prepare press releases and articles on research being conducted at a research institute; write popular science articles for scientific journals, newspapers, Web sites, or magazines; prepare television or radio programs on science; prepare educational material for science museums and nature centers; or prepare grant proposals or technical manuals.

Education: An undergraduate degree in a specific science, for example, genetics, biochemistry, or biology, followed by a master’s degree in science journalism or science writing is good preparation to be a science writer.

Useful links:

National Association of Science Writers: http://www.nasw.org/

Profile of a science writer: http://science.education.nih.gov/LifeWorks.nsf/Interviews/Alisa+Machalek

Starting a career in science writing: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/3570/starting_a_career_in_science_writing

Other useful resources
  1. The American Society of Human Genetics (http://www.ashg.org/).

    The “Careers” tab on this site directs you a page full of career resources. For example, under “ASHG Career Resources,” you can read about various traditional and nontraditional careers in genetics (http://www.ashg.org/education/careers.shtml) and the educational requirements for them. Through this Web site, you can also read interviews and watch You Tube videos of individuals who have used their academic background in genetics (or in related sciences) to pursue careers in fields such as medicine, counseling, law, education, and communication.
  2. The Careers tab on the Web site of the Association of Genetic Technologists (http://www.agt-info.org/Careers.aspx) describes the job profile of cytogenetic, biochemical genetic, and molecular genetic technologists and provides information on the skills required to work toward careers in these fields.
  3. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) also provides useful career information. For example, the link http://genetics.faseb.org/genetics/gsa/careers/bro-menu.htm has profiles of geneticists. Read these profiles to learn about different areas of research within genetics, for example, flower development, DNA fingerprinting; to learn what certain genetics careers involve, for example, cytogenetic technology and genetic counseling; and to trace the conventional and unconventional paths these geneticists took toward fulfilling careers.
  4. Ask the GeneticistSM (http://genetics.emory.edu/ask/ask.php): This Web resource created by the genetics departments of Emory University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham has a section titled “Careers in Genetics.” You can no longer post questions on this site, but in the Training in genetics link under Question Topics, you can read answers to career questions posted by other users of this resource.
  5. ScienceCareers (http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/): Type in “genetics” in the search area in this Web site to read articles on genetic-related careers. For example, reading profiles of geneticists may help you identify areas of research. Articles like “Young geneticists making a difference” may give you tips on different paths to a career in genetics.
  6. Look at TAMU’s genetics department Web site http://genetics.tamu.edu/faculty to get an idea of various areas of research within genetics.

Career Center Library (http://careercenter.tamu.edu/docs/library/bookInventory.pdf):

Browse through this directory of the Career Center’s library books. Some useful books for genetics careers are listed below. If you have trouble finding a book or have a question, please contact Patty Sterner, the Career Center librarian.

  • Plunkett's Biotech & Genetics Industry Almanac (Jack W. Plunkett)
  • Guide to North American Graduate and Postgraduate Training Programs in Human Genetics
  • Allied Health Careers
  • Careers in Health Care (Barbara M. Swanson)
  • The Everything Guide to Careers in Health Care (Kathy Quan)
  • Healthcare Career Directory: Career Advisor Series (Bradley J. Morgan, Editor)
  • BioHouston Life Science Directory (Companies, institutions, and service providers in the Houston region)

Networking Resources
  1. Networking resources:
    1. Academic advisors: Meet with an academic advisor within the Department of Biochemistry/Biophysics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to find out about required genetics courses and course descriptions and how to gain research experience.

      Below are some useful pages provided by the Biochemistry/Biophysics department. Going through the information in these pages may help you better structure your appointment with your advisor.

    2. Student organizations/programs: Consider joining student organizations to meet peers with the same academic interests, develop leadership skills, and attend talks by professionals to learn about career opportunities within genetics.
    3. Aggie Network (www.aggienetwork.com): Visit the Aggie Network Web site and create an account free of cost. Once you are able to log in, use the Find an Aggie resource under the Reconnect! tab.
      • You can use the Find an Aggie search area to search for former students by class, name, or year. You can also use the Advanced Search Options to search for students by major, degree, and activity; city, state, and country; or occupation, company, and position. For example, a search for “genetics” majors with a bachelor’s degree yields 902 records.
      • You can then scroll through this list of contacts to see what jobs these individuals have gone on to pursue. This will give you an idea of employers and job titles within this field.
      • You can then begin conducting informational interviews with Aggies on this list whose jobs you find interesting. Remember that the purpose of these interviews should be to seek advice, not to ask for work. The following are some interview topics:
        • Description of job duties
        • Advice on graduate or professional schools to attend
        • Advice on identifying shadowing experiences, internships, or jobs
  2. How to network: For detailed tips on how to network, that is, how to initiate conversations, conduct informational interviews, and maintain contacts, visit Networking under Job Search Prep in http://HireAggies.com.

  1. Find jobs/internships:
    1. “Find jobs”: Search for jobs and internships that match your academic and work profile through HireAggies Jobs and NACElink Extended Job Search in the “Find jobs” section in HireAggies.com. To better understand how to search and apply for jobs, watch the “Jobs Section video tutorial.” (Also, while searching for jobs/internships, remember that many companies will hire students with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and then provide them with on-the-job training. This means that if you are a “genetics” major, for example, in addition to conducting searches using “genetics” as a key word, also use more general key words such as “science,” “medicine,” or “research.”)
    2. CareerShift: You can also search for jobs/internships through CareerShift, which is listed under “Websites/Databases” under Career Resources in HireAggies.com.
    3. Other HireAggies.com resources: Also, look at Vault/CareerInsider, Internships.com. Internships – USA, for job/internship opportunities.
  2. Sciences Internship List (PDF): Access this PDF file of internships by logging into http://HireAggies.com and follow the path: Services for S