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The Biotech Industry Is Thriving in Westchester County

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Photo courtesy of Regeneron

The biotech industry is booming in Westchester, and the need for employees goes far beyond just doctors and scientists.

It has been a banner year for the biotech industry. The rollout of the COVID vaccines developed by industry leaders, followed by a wave of successful IPOs, underscores that biotech is a booming business.

Experts project the global biotechnology market value will reach $727.1 billion by 2025. Additionally, the biotech employment rate is expected to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is noticeably faster than the 7% average for all fields. While the greater Boston area and Silicon Valley are often thought of as biotech hubs, Westchester County is an attractive option for jobseekers looking for employment in the biotech/biosciences industry. In fact, the county represents 20% of the state’s biosciences employment and has more than 8,000 jobs spanning across 200 companies, from startups to large manufacturers in this sector.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND BEYOND WHITE COATS

If you thought biotech jobs were only for white coats and scientists studying samples, think again. There are also opportunities in the many fields that support this burgeoning industry, from consulting and financing to marketing and communications. Jobs exist at not only biotech companies but also medical device manufacturers, nonprofits, and academic institutions all located within the 914. While many employers do require at least a four-year degree in a bioscience-related field, some positions do not.

Bridget Gibbons, the director of economic development for Westchester County, established the Bioscience Industry Task Force, which she now co-chairs with Deborah Novick. Novick also works in the Westchester County Office of Economic Development as the director of entrepreneurship and innovation. Gibbons notes that the county is dedicated to growing the bioscience industry and views it as a priority sector.

The bioscience field is an interesting sector, notes Gibbons, because “when businesses are just starting out, a small handful of scientists are working in R&D mode.” They may be coming up with solutions or therapeutics to help patients, but as the company grows, they start to bring on one or two people to complement their business objectives. Gibbons notes that the Bioscience Industry Task Force has businesses of all sizes on board, from the smallest startups to industry leader Regeneron, which employs approximately 4,400 workers in the county.

“Not everyone that works for Regeneron is a scientist,” Gibbons points out. “You have accountants, a legal department, maintenance crew, groundskeepers, administrative assistants, HR workers, and IT specialists.” Gina Thomas, executive director of talent acquisition at Regeneron, echoes Gibbons’ sentiments. “There are so many opportunities in biotech/bioscience — from pricing and patient access to therapeutics, general and administrative, medical affairs, procurement, accounts payable, HR, corporate communications plus facilities and maintenance.”

While many jobs do call for a four-year degree, Gibbons stresses that from speaking with employers, certain positions do not necessarily require it. For example, if you can demonstrate skills in IT such as managing a network, you might be a suitable candidate for an IT support position.

According to the New York Department of Labor, positions for chemical and life science technicians are set to grow significantly by 2028 in the Hudson Valley. For example, the department predicts a 15% growth in openings for chemical technicians, who require only an associate degree. Entry-level salaries in the Hudson Valley for such positions average $36,000, but experienced workers can earn close to $75,000. For life, physical and social science technicians, openings in the Hudson Valley are set to grow 8.8%, with similar entry-level and experienced salary figures.

Other job opportunities at biotech/bioscience companies and their entry-level salaries include administrative coordinator ($35,000), accounts payable associate ($32,000), animal care technician ($35,000), biological technician ($36,000), IT support specialist ($38,000), marketing and communications associate ($43,000), and shipping and receiving clerk ($29,000). Many of these professions offer tremendous opportunities for salary growth down the line. And no matter what your annual salary is, workers within this industry gain the personal satisfaction of knowing they might be helping millions of Americans overcome or prevent diseases.

A lab scientist works in Regeneron’s Infectious Disease lab, where the company discovered its COVID-19 and Ebola antibody medicines. Regeneron employs approximately 4,400 workers in Westchester County. Courtesy of Regeneron

REGENERON: A PLACE WHERE BIOTECH CAREERS BLOSSOM

In the region, Regeneron is the leading biotech employer, with offices in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. The company plans to add 1,000 new employees in 2022. Hiring that many employees is a large undertaking and the company encourages students as early as high school and even middle school to pursue STEM careers to help fill their talent pipeline.

The company is also committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts and recruits for entry-level positions from various Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as local colleges such as Pace University, Mercy College, SUNY Westchester Community College, and the CUNY system. While job fairs are key to recruitment efforts, Thomas notes that openings are also posted on LinkedIn and employer referrals serve as an important tool in recruiting viable candidates.

Regeneron’s commitment to STEM education is exemplified in its robust internship program for college students. In 2021, the company had 424 summer interns, which was a smaller cohort because interns couldn’t work in the labs due to COVID. This year, the company is planning on 513 summer interns and 80 co-ops, which usually last a semester and often continue through the summer. Thomas notes that Regeneron now has a steady stream of alumni interns and co-op participants; some have even been offered full-time employment a few years post-internship. Additionally, the company converts many contract workers who work in general or administrative roles. “It is a great opportunity to learn and see different parts of the business, gain exposure and then make an educated decision about the right department for you,” adds Thomas.

“Not everyone that works for Regeneron is a scientist. You have … groundskeepers, administrative assistants, HR workers, and IT specialists.”
—Bridget Gibbons, Director of Economic Development, Westchester County

Thomas notes that while candidates at all levels are expected to come to Regeneron with the skills listed in the job description, the company also provides in-house career development and has a dedicated group focused on learning and training. Entry-level candidates take online classes through a system called Regeneron U to learn different facets of the company, plus the LinkedIn Learning website helps employees brush up on skills such as Excel if needed. The most important quality that Thomas looks for in candidates is agility. “Our workplace is ever changing and we need people who can thrive in that environment.”

And workers who thrive in that type of environment and perform well are rewarded handsomely. While Regeneron, like several other biotech companies in the region, does not publish salary ranges, all full-time workers receive a base salary, plus an opportunity for bonuses and equity in the company, whether through restricted stock or options. “We are all shareholders and this helps all our full-time employees build wealth,” Thomas says.

Related: Regeneron’s Tarrytech Campus Receives Approval in Westchester

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