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Seeking a path from nursing to biochemistry

By Patricia Hunt Sinacole
Globe Correspondent / November 13, 2011

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Q.I am currently in my first year of nursing school. I think I would be more interested in exploring biochemistry careers. I have been told that, unless I attend medical school, this major is limiting. I see lots of biotech companies hiring recent grads with this type of major. What opportunities are out there? Is there a reasonable career path?

A. You are thinking about fields that are expected to grow - which is a good thing. Graduates with a bachelor’s in nursing have other opportunities outside the traditional clinical role. Nurses can pursue opportunities in teaching, research, or even at pharmaceutical companies. The National Institute of Nursing Research website is worth exploring. Their website is www.ninr.nih.gov.

According to the US Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Biotechnological research and development should continue to drive much faster than average employment growth.’’ Most scientists, working in research labs, hold undergraduate or graduate degrees in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, or a similar major.

David Bernstein, general counsel and chief intellectual property counsel at NABsys Inc., a Providence life sciences firm, offers the following advice: “As a general rule, entry-level research positions are filled by individuals with backgrounds in specific areas of science in which the industry is focused. Examples include biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and relevant engineering disciplines. Additionally, many research positions require an advanced degree.’’

Bernstein continues, “You may want to consider transferring into a program where you can receive training in biomedical research or taking additional science classes while you continue your nursing studies. Some biotech companies offer internships or co-op positions, and these can provide an excellent opportunity to gain experience and make important connections in the industry.’’

Most research positions that we fill for clients almost always require (or strongly prefer) a master’s degree or higher.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.