Recent college grads and students pursuing technical degrees tend to set their career sights on Silicon Valley, but that's not the only place where innovation happens — or the only industry. There are many ways to use a tech degree outside of "traditional" career paths in tech startups or with big-name tech players.
Specifically, there's a burgeoning market for technological innovators in the healthcare field: The dynamic medical device research and diagnostics industry needs people who are passionate about tech, making a global impact and saving lives.
When people think about technology in healthcare, they typically think about computers, patient databases, clinical apps and other administrative tools. But now, advances in computing have created new markets for exciting innovations that rely on next-gen technology.
Technological Innovation in Healthcare
Healthcare has evolved rapidly in the last century. In less than two decades, medical scientists have cracked the human genome; learned how to edit and splice DNA; introduced surgical robotics; designed wearable and implantable medical devices; and created new diagnostic tools that help physicians quickly and precisely diagnose everything from rare diseases to viral infections to heart disease.
None of these exciting medical advances would have been possible without cutting-edge technology and the people who understand how to build it, use it and improve upon it. That includes people who have training and experience in bioengineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, software development, app development, information systems and many other skill sets that come with a tech degree.
5 Benefits of Using Your Tech Degree in Healthcare R&D
Why should new tech grads take a close look at medical research and development (R&D)?
1. Robust job opportunities
Medtech is a thriving industry. Global sales have increased 5.6 percent each year since 2017 and are expected to reach $595 billion by 2024. As medical R&D firms continue growing rapidly, the race is on to attract and retain new talent. That means more and more job openings for tech-savvy employees who can help develop the next generation of medical devices and diagnostic tools.
2. Career stability in a recession-proof, high-paying industry
If there are two industries where employees feel a strong sense of job security in the face of an economic downturn, it's healthcare and high-tech. These industries — and job opportunities within them — will continue to grow as technology inevitably evolves, and the rapidly aging population boosts demands for innovative new solutions to help people live longer, healthier lives.
3. Fast-paced, innovative environment
Medical R&D today is anything but boring. John Frels, Vice President of Research and Development at Abbott Diagnostics, puts it this way: "What makes diagnostics and this industry in general so exciting is that it brings together multiple engineering and life science disciplines in an incredibly fast-paced and innovative environment. The instrument systems we create need to run hundreds of different tests very rapidly – and each test is designed with its own unique biochemical properties. All of this comes together through the application of new technologies by talented teams of engineers and scientists. From a scientific and technological standpoint, it's fascinating — and very hard to do."
4. Emotionally rewarding work experience
There are many exciting and meaningful ways to put a tech degree to use, but not many of those jobs involve improving quality of life for people with Parkinson's or designing innovative solutions to reduce chronic pain and help address the national opioid epidemic. "It's rewarding to see your product go on the market and make medically significant results for patients," says Frels.
5. Ongoing professional growth and development
The learning opportunities never stop in medical R&D. As the technology evolves, so do the job descriptions. As Frels notes, the most successful Abbott employees understand how the different disciplines interact and work together: "Maybe you start as a mechanical engineer, but over time, you will learn about software coding, biochemical interactions, manufacturing, regulatory compliance, etc., and start to bring that back to your own area and be better at what you do. People who don't want to be siloed and who want to learn more and to always develop their skills do very well in this field."
Jobs in Medtech: The Future Is Bright
Despite all of the medical advances in recent years, the current landscape only hints at what will be possible in the near future. Equipped with ever-improving tools for data integration, artificial intelligence, mobility, IoT enablement, wearables and robotics, medtech firms are ideally poised to design next-gen solutions to the most pressing healthcare challenges, now and in the future.
But to get there, they'll need teams of talented technologists with a passion for science, a love of learning and the kind of skills most people only get with a tech degree.