Industry / Function information
Pharmaceutical / Biotechnology
Pharmaceutical companies produce and market drugs, from familiar over-the-counter compounds like aspirin to exotic prescriptions that inhibit, activate, or otherwise affect individual molecules involved in specific medical conditions. They also produce livestock feed supplements, vitamins, and a host of other products.
The pharmaceutical drug discovery and development industry has grown to become one of the most profitable in the world. During the last 30 years, the industry has blossomed, with billions of dollars spent on research in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, genetics, and information technology—and billions of dollars in profits earned by drug companies. Indeed, in 2003, the pharmaceutical industry sold some $466 billion in drugs.
Biotechnology is a relatively new kid on the block. Simply put, biotechnology, the applied knowledge of biology, seeks to duplicate or change the function of a living cell so it will work in a more predictable and controllable way. The biotechnology industry uses advances in genetics research to develop products for human diseases and conditions. Several biotech companies also use genetic technology to other ends, like the manipulation of crops.
Biotech opportunities largely mirror those in the pharmaceutical industry. The key difference is that biotech firms are much more focused on research because they are still developing their initial products. Biotech firms tend to expand their marketing and sales forces when—and if—a viable product nears FDA approval. And it’s become common for small companies to seek alliances with larger companies that already have the requisite infrastructure in place for these functions. This means that jobs for nonscientists are scarcer in biotech than in pharmaceuticals.
Medical device companies develop, manufacture, and market medical apparatus, equipment, instruments, devices, and supplies. Medical devices have become an increasingly important health care area in relation to their impact on health and health care expenditure. The sector covers some 8000 types of products, ranging from simple bandages and spectacles, to pacemakers, defibrillators, knee, hip and other orthopedic implants, diagnostic imaging equipment such as ultrasound, computer tomography and MRI machines as well as diagnostic tests that detect disease.
Medical device is similar to biotech and pharmaceuticals in that most products are subject to FDA regulation, are marketed to physicians and are paid for via health insurance. However, the product life-cycles of medical devices are much quicker that those of drugs, resulting in a higher focus on short-term new product development and a relatively less intensive FDA approval process.
In the simplest terms, insurance is the transfer of risk, from the insured to the insurer, in exchange for a premium. In other words, insurance equals peace of mind. In exchange for a payment or payments to the insurer, the insured knows that, should some unpredictable ill befall him or his property, the insurer will be responsible for resolving some or all of the problem (depending on the terms of the insurance agreement).
While what happens to the individual insurance customer is unpredictable, the insurer stakes its viability on its ability to predict losses that will be incurred on a macro level. Typically an insurer covers many policyholders for a given kind of loss, and so is able to predict what its costs to cover those policyholders' losses will be over time. Insurance companies make a profit by charging more in premiums than they predict they will have to pay out over time for losses.
Providers and Services
Providing 13.5 million jobs and 8 out of the 20 fastest growing occupations, health care is the country’s largest industry. Compared to other industries, the health care industry as a whole is expected to realize a relative increase in the number of career opportunities across the spectrum of its many specialties. In addition to hands-on occupations such as nurses and physicians, this trend applies to technical and administrative jobs, as hospitals continue to focus their energies on more efficient management and profitability.
Medical facilities are being run increasingly like other for-profit organizations, with a focus on driving profits higher, frequently by through cost-cutting measures. At the same time, many people are attracted to the health care industry for its human touch and service-oriented aspects.
The individual physician is often the consumer's (or patient's) primary point of contact with the health care system. However, it is the health care organization itself—that is, the hospital or health management organization (HMO)—that finances much of the industry today; it represents the preponderance of the physician's revenues. The lion's share of these revenues, in turn, comes from employee health insurance plans, Medicare (health insurance for Americans over the age of 65), and Medicaid (health insurance for Americans on welfare).
Consulting firms are traditionally among the largest employers of top MBA and college graduates. More than half the people in top MBA programs flirt with the idea of becoming a consultant after graduation. It’s a high-paying, high-profile field that offers students the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility right out of school and quickly learn a great deal about the business world.
In essence, consultants are hired advisors to corporations. They tackle a wide variety of business problems and provide solutions for their clients. Depending on the size and chosen strategy of the firm, these problems can be as straightforward as researching a new market or as complex as totally rethinking the client’s organization. No matter what the engagement, the power that consultants wield is hard to scoff at. They can advise a client to acquire a related company worth hundreds of millions of dollars, or reduce the size of its workforce by thousands of employees.