How to Get a Biopharma Internship

Students and professionals who will one day work in the biopharmaceutical industry probably already know the importance of internships in this field. Almost all entry-level job descriptions in biotechnology or life sciences will list an internship as a requirement.

But knowing how to get a biopharma internship and selecting the right internship for you can be a daunting task. So, if you are looking for an internship in the biopharmaceutical industry, you have come to the right place.

Working in this industry encompasses many more positions than many realize. Potential biopharma internships could include research, diagnostics, communications, clinical trials, vaccines, immunotherapy and more. Whether you’re an undergraduate student or trying to transition into the biopharmaceutical field, internships are the best way to gain hands-on experience before applying for your first job.

Where to find biopharma internships

Your search for a biopharmaceutical internship will likely be similar to a search for an entry-level job; you want a role that interests you, but also challenges you to grow and hone your skills in the industry. Networking within your life sciences community is a great starting point for finding the best internship opportunity for you.

Attending poster sessions or other research-oriented presentations is a great place to meet active members of the community. There might also be opportunity announcements aimed at undergraduate students looking for internships.

You can also take the search into your own hands by searching online job sites such as BioSpace, a job site exclusively for jobs in the life science, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. If you are interested in the sales industry, you can use MedRepsa job board exclusively for job seekers interested in medical and pharmaceutical sales.

Some universities with a strong biopharmaceutical focus will even fund internship programs through the college. the University at Buffalo is one of these colleges, as well as Arizona State University, george washington university and many others.

Alternatively, there is what is called a “life sciences superclusterin the northeastern United States, where several research facilities, clinical trials and biopharmaceutical focal points are located.

Cities like Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York will all have plenty of internship opportunities at the biotech companies based there. For example, InternBio is a biopharmaceutical hub exclusively for Boston-based internship opportunities.

If you are interested in the search route, you can search a national science foundation (NSF) opportunity. The NSF funds research opportunities for undergraduate students through the Research Experience Program for Undergraduates (REU). You can search for specific internships by subject or location and then apply directly to the individual program.

Skills you will need to succeed

Whether you already know what your dream job is or are still figuring it out, there are many skills you need to focus on development during school and internship practice in order to succeed in the pharmaceutical industry. These skills will not only make you a great candidate for the internship, but they will carry over to your post-grad job or entry-level position in the field.

To start, you need to focus on your project planning skills and your strategic thinking. Whether your internship is for a research writer, pharmacist, or something else, you’ll need to use problem-solving strategies from time to time to stay afloat and productive in your position.

Staying up to date on industry news and trends is an easy way to stay in the biopharma loop. As an intern, you have the opportunity to learn as much as you want, which is why it is important to enter the internship with a basic knowledge of what to expect. Your peers will also be impressed with your knowledge and understanding of the industry.

Professional communication and other transferable skills are also beneficial for interns in all employment sectors, not just pharmaceuticals. You’ll need to conduct yourself professionally, ask intelligent questions, and learn from your mistakes along the way. The more receptive you are to learning, the more you will grow, both personally and professionally.

Remember that successful completion of your internships may come with an offer of an entry-level job application after graduation, so be sure to do your best.

What to know before applying

Choosing where you want to apply and preparing your resume for the application are just two parts of the internship process. You’ll also need to think about the best time to apply and what you can do to stand out from other applicants at that time.

As for the schedule, several internships in the pharmaceutical sector will stop accepting applications for the summer around January. Although it seems long, you often won’t hear a response if you’ve been accepted for the internship before mid-spring, so it’s best to send out plenty of internship applications during your search.

Although some deadlines extend into mid-spring, you should do your research on internships nearly two semesters before the internship begins to make sure you don’t miss the application deadline.

When you’re at the point in your career where you’re looking for an internship, you probably won’t have much other technical experience to show for it. But it is okay! Biotech companies know that interns come to them to learn, so they look at your soft skills the same way they might look at the management experience of a management candidate.

Showing that you are a team player, that you have a passion for biopharmaceuticals and that you are willing to learn will go a long way with companies in this sector. If you are involved in clubs or extracurricular activities related to the field, be sure to note this on your application or resume. An employer often prefers to hire someone with no experience, but with a lot of potential and personality, rather than someone with many technical skills, but no personal communication strength.

Key points to remember

Applying for your first biopharma internship can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone in this experience. Thousands of undergraduates and professionals looking to change careers before you felt the same way, but were able to complete internships and continue working in the pharmaceutical industry.

At this point in your career, you shouldn’t waste time blaming yourself for not having more experience. Consider the internship as your first job where you will learn more about the field and begin to define what field of study you would like to continue. Every entry-level job in the pharmaceutical industry requires previous experience or an internship, so this process only brings you one step closer to achieving that goal.

Plan ahead, do your research, and network with people who are interested in the same things. You’ll be sure to land an internship in no time and come out of it having learned more about the field and about yourself.

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