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How is the Job Outlook for Bioinformatics?

How is the Job Outlook for Bioinformatics?If you’re considering earning a degree in computer and information science related to the collection and analysis of biological data, you may want to know, “How is the job outlook for bioinformatics?”

This kind of information is vitally important as you plan your collegiate studies because it can guide and direct you toward more in-demand careers in this field. The more demand there is for a job, the more likely you might be to land a job. By contrast, low-demand careers have increased competition for the few positions that are open. This means that even highly qualified graduates might not be able to find employment.

As you likely already know, bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary field that includes influences from computer science, statistics, engineering, biology, and biotechnology, to name a few. As the need for more data-driven information has risen in recent years, bioinformatics has enjoyed particularly rapid growth.

But why?

Bioinformatics is valuable because it gives us improved methods by which biological data can be stored, organized, retrieved, and analyzed. With the sheer amount of data that’s being produced in the fields of biology, biotechnology, and medicine, having systems in place that allows for the processing of huge amounts of raw data is vitally important.

Likewise, bioinformatics allows researchers to extract useful information from data sets, enables textual mining of literature, and improves researchers’ ability to analyze information.

The question is, will bioinformatics continue to be in demand? Or is this a career field that has already seen its peak?

Current Employment Statistics and Job Outlook for Bioinformatics Jobs

Current Employment Statistics and Job Outlook for Bioinformatics JobsEvery two years or so, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes estimates of job growth for a variety of career fields. While these estimates might change drastically from one report to the next, they still give you a good idea of what the job market is doing now and what it might do in the future.

For jobs in the bioinformatics space, it’s helpful to examine job predictions for a couple of different careers. This is necessary because bioinformatics jobs can take many different forms in a variety of industries.

First, let’s look at the job outlook for computer and information research scientists.

As of May 2020, the BLS estimated that there were over 30,200 people employed as computer and information research scientists. Most of the workers in this field live and work in three states: California, Virginia, and Maryland.

But the BLS predicts that job growth will occur in this field at a rate of 15 percent through the end of the 2020s. This is much, much faster than the average growth for all jobs in the United States. If you want to begin a career in bioinformatics, computer science might just be the way to do it.

Biological technician is a popular career field that might lead to a job in bioinformatics. In 2020, the BLS estimated a workforce of over 80,000 people nationwide in this particular line of work. The three states with the highest concentration of biological technicians in their workforce are: California, Texas, and Massachusetts.

Unlike jobs in the computer and information research sector, biological technician jobs are not expected to see explosive growth in the coming years. In fact, the BLS estimates job growth at just five percent, which is just slightly faster than average for all career areas.

Yet another career path you might take to get into bioinformatics is computer hardware engineering. This is a field that employed 64,710 workers in the United States as of 2020, a large portion of which work in California, Texas, and Colorado. 

The number of workers in this field is expected to rise, however, at a very slow rate. The BLS estimates that this field will experience a growth rate of just two percent through 2029, which is slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment in Bioinformatics by Industry

Employment in Bioinformatics by IndustryCertain industries in the United States economy will have more growth in bioinformatics than others, as evidenced by the data discussed in the previous section.

But even within these three separate industries, there are varying levels of employment in a wide range of areas.

For example, the industries that employ the most computer and information research scientists are the federal government, computer systems design companies, research and development firms in the life or physical sciences, public and private colleges and universities, and software development firms.

These five industries account for the vast majority of the jobs in computer and information research science. The sectors of the economy with the most opportunity for growth in bioinformatics jobs include research and development firms in the life and physical sciences and software and computer systems design companies.

Biological technicians are employed in the largest numbers in the scientific research and development services sector. In fact, over 28,000 people are employed as biological technicians in this field.

The second-largest employer of biological technicians is in education – colleges, universities, and professional schools. All told, nearly 18,000 people work as biological technicians in education.

Other primary employment industries for biological technicians include the federal government, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing.

With a background in computer hardware engineering, you might find a bioinformatics job in any number of career fields.

The largest employer of computer hardware engineers is computer systems design and related services, and it’s not even close. Nearly 15,000 computer hardware engineers are employed in this field, compared to just under 8,000 that are employed in the semiconductor manufacturing space, which comes in at second on the list.

Other common industries in which you might find employment in bioinformatics include scientific research and development, federal government agencies, and instrument manufacturing.

Number and Concentration of Bioinformatics Jobs by Location

Job Outlook for BioinformaticSome geographic locations have a higher total number of jobs and a higher concentration of jobs in bioinformatics than other areas. This information is helpful because you may want to focus your job search on areas with the most available jobs.

According to the BLS, the five states with the highest total number of jobs in computer and information research include California (7,170 jobs), Virginia (3,430 jobs), Maryland (2,630 jobs), Washington (2,190 jobs), and Texas (1,270 jobs).

The five states with the highest concentration of bioinformatics jobs in this industry are Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Mexico, and Washington. The cities with the highest total number of jobs in this field are:

  • The District of Columbia
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle-Tacoma
  • San Jose, California
  • New York City
  • Baltimore
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Dallas-Fort Worth

Meanwhile, biological technician jobs are most prevalent in California (8,600 jobs), Texas (6,070 jobs), Massachusetts (5,560 jobs), Ohio (4,160 jobs), and Pennsylvania (4,110 jobs). The states with the highest concentration of biological technician jobs are Oregon, Massachusetts, Idaho, Maryland, and Hawaii.

In terms of specific cities that have a large number of biological technician jobs, the following are at the top of the list:

  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Houston
  • Denver
  • Philadelphia
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle-Tacoma
  • Portland, Oregon
  • The District of Columbia
  • Chicago

Finally, jobs for computer hardware engineers are most commonly found in California (15,140 jobs), Texas (4,670 jobs), Colorado (4,350 jobs), Florida (3,930), and Maryland (3,170). The highest concentration of these bioinformatics-related jobs is in Colorado, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, and the District of Columbia.

Cities with the highest concentration of computer hardware engineering jobs include:

  • San Jose, California
  • The District of Columbia
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Boston
  • New York City
  • Denver
  • Atlanta
  • Seattle-Tacoma

In looking at this data, we can see some common threads between the three primary fields that lead to jobs in bioinformatics.

First, some states appear on all three lists as having the highest number of these jobs – California and Texas. Second, in terms of states that have the highest concentration of these jobs, Maryland appears on all three lists. Colorado and the District of Columbia appear on two of the three lists.

Lastly, it’s evident that the highest concentration of these careers is in large cities, which makes sense given the significant population in urban areas. The District of Columbia, Seattle-Tacoma, New York City, and Los Angeles are particularly popular cities for jobs in bioinformatics.

Factors Fueling the Rapid Job Growth in Bioinformatics

It is important for you to be aware of what is fueling the rapid job growth in the bioinformatics specialty, particularly in computer and information research science, which has the highest predicted growth of the three areas we’ve discussed.

One factor is the high demand for genetic information for medical research. Individuals are also increasingly turning to genetics data for their own health and knowledge.

Additionally, the research and development sector is turning to high technology more and more often. As a result, technologies continue to evolve and become more prevalent, so the need for computer scientists will grow as a result.

The processes of data collection and analysis are also rapidly growing. With so much data collected and in need of analysis, it makes sense that companies are looking for qualified computer scientists to organize, sort, and interpret all that data. This is especially true in the bioinformatics space, which has more data available now than ever before.

Of course, with new technologies emerging seemingly by the day, there is a growing emphasis on security of all the information that these technologies are generating. Again, this is good news for you if you intend to seek out employment in bioinformatics by using your background in computer science.

As noted earlier, job growth for computer hardware engineering and biological technicians is expected to be less impressive over the next few years. Nevertheless, normal processes of people moving into new jobs or retiring will open up some opportunities for employment in these areas.

Income Data for Bioinformatics

Depending on which career path you take to get into bioinformatics, you’re looking at a highly varied income potential.

For example, the BLS reports that the median annual wage for computer and information research scientists is $126,830. The pay range extends from a low of $72,210 per year up to a high of $194,430 per year. That makes this a highly lucrative career with significant upside in terms of earnings.

Comparatively, biological technicians earn a yearly median salary of $46,340, which is roughly one-third of what computer and information research scientists earn in the same period. The pay scale for biological technicians runs from a low of $30,440 per year up to a high of $74,600.

Computer hardware engineers might expect to earn a yearly salary in the range of $119,560. The pay range for this job extends from a low of about $70,000 per year up to $192,110 per year.

Clearly, if you want to maximize your earning potential, concentrating in computer and information research or computer hardware engineering is the way to go. While work as a biological technician can be very interesting and highly rewarding, it simply does not pay nearly as well as computer-related careers.

Bear in mind that these income numbers are the median, so there is potential to make far more (or far less), depending on your education, experience, and the industry in which you work, among other factors.

Which Path is Right for You?

People who earn a degree in computer and information science, learn several programming languages, and take some courses in biology, biochemistry, genetics and related areas should have excellent career prospects in bioinformatics. Of the three career areas discussed here, it certainly has the most upside.

But, with a background in biological science or computer hardware engineering, you can make the transition into bioinformatics fairly easily. Jobs might be a little more difficult to come by for the foreseeable future, though.

Keeping up with new knowledge will also be important, so you might want to take a class now and then or attend conferences related to bioinformatics. Doing so will help you hone your existing skills, learn new skills, and stay on the leading edge of knowledge in this field.

Data Science Degree Programs Staff

Updated May 2021

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