Many entry-level biotech job descriptions include lab experience or an internship as a requirement. But until you've gotten your first internship or part-time lab job, meeting this requirement seems almost impossible. You can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job. What do you do?
Don't give up.
It may seem impossible, but there are some paths that can lead to success.
Here are a few methods that I've seen work.
1. Plan for an internship before choosing your college. Community college biotech programs work hard to find internships for their students. Other colleges might not. Ask about internships before you apply.
2. If you are enrolled in a community college biotech program, talk to the faculty. Many community college biotech programs have strong relationships with industry and active internship programs. Biotech faculty can be a big help. Some community colleges set up mailing lists or LinkedIn groups so they can notify students about open positions. Other colleges have job fairs and speed networking opportunities where students can meet people from industry. I've seen industry representatives ask for resumes at these kinds of events.
3. If you attend a four-year college or University, the best way to find an internship is still by talking to the faculty at your college. Talk to the faculty in all the bioscience related departments. Tell them you want to do undergraduate research and ask them about internship possibilities. They may know of companies that are looking, too.
A. Click the US map.
B. Click the “Yes” button under Internship information. This will show you all the US companies in our database that have internship pages on their websites.
C. Click the blue map marker for any company you want to look at.
D. Click the link to the company from the map marker to go to the company page.
E. Click the link from the company page to the internship page.
6. Pay attention to the calendar. Some institutions like the National Laboratories and National Institutes of Health post internships around the same time every year. Look at their websites to see when they've accepted applications before and mark your calendar so you can check back and be ready for the next application deadline. Many of these organizations have internship programs especially for community college students.
A. Dept. of Energy Internships at National Labs: https://www.innovatebio.org/blog/student-internship-opportunities-with-national-laboratories
B. NIH Internships: https://www.training.nih.gov/programs
7. Look for an NSF REU opportunity. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates every summer (REUs) at several Universities.
You can use this tool from the NSF to look at different subject areas and see the colleges that have REU programs in that subject. Many REUs have application dates that start in January, but some will have openings as late as May.
8. Apprenticeships. Apprentices are another option.
- GSK has an apprenticeship program that looks really good. https://us.gsk.com/en-us/careers/apprentices-students-and-graduates/apprenticeships/
9. Conferences, Poster Sessions, and Professional organizations
- Dr. Karen Leung from the Biotechnology program at the City College of San Francisco says that poster sessions are a great opportunity for networking and learning about internships. You can also learn about opportunities through local chapters of Women in Bio, and SACNAS.
10. Build your resumé.
- Dr. Judith Kjelstrom from the UC Davis Biotechnology program says that it really helps to build a strong resume that showcases both technical skills as well as soft skills. Understanding team science and basic business are a real plus. Never forget to network with alumni from your school, who are now employed in biotech.