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Overview of the Biotechnology & Life Sciences Industry


British Columbia has one of the largest biotechnology and life sciences sectors in Canada. The province plays an important role in the growing global life sciences industry.

Sectors of the Biotechnology and Life Sciences Industry

sectors of the biotechnology and life sciences industry

Chart from

LifeSciences BC published an overview of British Columbia’s life sciences industry in 2012. Some facts about the industry:

  • Number of life sciences organizations in British Columbia: 310
  • Total estimated expenditures: $902 million
  • Total estimated employment: 14,000 people
  • Total estimated wages and salaries paid: $570 million
  • Average annual life sciences industry wage: $68,000
  • Total estimated impact on provincial GDP: $1.03 billion

The life sciences sector in British Columbia includes a broad range of companies, government agencies, healthcare research organizations and academic partners.

Some of the more prominent companies and organizations in B.C. include:

  • Genome British Columbia
  • Amgen Inc.
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
  • Centre for Drug Research and Development
  • Zymeworks Inc.
  • Wavefront
  • BC Cancer Agency

Studies report that hiring and retaining workers has become a serious issue for employers. Across Canada 33% of biotechnology and life sciences employers report skills shortages and 20% have job vacancies in their companies. In addition, many more workers are soon to retire.

Newcomers to Canada are seen as a key source of talent as employers seek to meet their hiring needs. The industry has responded by creating a number of programs to attract new workers.

One such initiative is the Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants Program program. This program helps you understand how to obtain credential recognition, education and association membership in order to establish your career. It also provides assistance in overcoming language and cultural barriers in order to succeed in the Canadian workplace.

BioTalent Canada has a Foreign Professionals webpage that provides links to career tools, training opportunities and information about the local labour market to help you prepare for a career in the biotechnology industry.

For more information on the Biotechnology and Life Sciences sector see:

Occupations in Biotechnology & Life Sciences

The biotechnology and life sciences sector is made up of numerous occupations spread across multiple industries including:

  • Healthcare
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing

The majority of BC companies focus their business on research and development and there are many jobs in these areas.

Jobs in High Demand:

Unfilled Jobs by Employment Level

Non Supervisory/
Senior Management/
Preclinical Research 23.1% 38.5% 38.5%
Clinical Research 48.5% 42.4% 9.1%
Research & Development 7.9% 50% 42.1%
Manufacturing 49.0% 49.0% 2.0%
Distribution 7.1% 85.7% 7.1%
Quality Control/Assurance 17.4% 78.3% 4.3%
Marketing/Sales/Communication 31.6% 44.7% 23.7%
Human Resources/Accounting/IT 18.8% 68.8% 12.5%
Business Development 14.3% 35.7% 50.0%

Source: Buildforce Canada

Jobs being filled by Internationally Educated Professionals, 2013

Research and Development 25.0%
Preclinical Research 11.4%
Senior Management/Executive 8.9%

Common occupations in the industry include:

  • Biologists & Related Scientists (NOC 2121)
  • Chemists (NOC 2112)
  • Biological Technologists & Technicians (NOC 2221)
  • Chemical Technologists & Technicians (NOC 2211)

When looking for work, these occupations may be listed under different titles.

Comparison of NOC Code Titles with Actual Occupation Titles Given

Biologists and Related Scientists
(NOC 2121)
Assay Development & Testing Scientist
Bioinformatics Programmer/Analyst
Environmental Scientist
Field Biologist
Food Scientist
Native Plant Ecologist
Support Scientist
Toxicology Technician
Chemist (NOC 2112) Quality Control & Research Chemist
Research Chemist
Chemical Technologists & Technicians
(NOC 2211)
Assistant Flavour Technologist
Chemical Technician
Chemistry Preparation Technologist
Controlled Substance Officer
Lab Analyst
QA/QC Technician
Research Technologist
Technician (Toxicology)
Biological Technologists & Technicians
(NOC 2221)
Analyst Immunology
Aquaculture Technician
Necropsy Technician
Research Technician
Science and Technology Product Specialist

Sources: Sequencing the Data. BioTalent Canada, Opening the Door: Building Careers for New Grads in Biotech. BioTalent Canada

For detailed information on many of the occupations in the biotechnology and life sciences sector, including job description, educational requirements for working in BC, salary, and more, see:

Hiring Forecast by Region

Approximately 70% of British Columbia’s biotechnology and life sciences industry is based in Metro Vancouver

The largest numbers of jobs in this industry are located in Metro Vancouver. Employment opportunities can also be found on Vancouver Island and in the Thompson-Okanagan regions.

For more information about British Columbia’s 7 economic regions see:

Finding Jobs

Online Job Postings

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers in the biotechnology and life sciences industry in British Columbia. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “biotechnology” and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Additional Resources

Still looking for more information? Try looking at the following resources: