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Midwest Life Sciences: Trends Driving the Candidate Market Across Leading Sectors

Midwest Life Sciences - Short

Growing up in “America’s Heartland,” I’ve always been surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Even today, working in a local life sciences talent resourcing capacity, I’m no stranger to the Midwest! I’ve witnessed this vast industry grow tremendously over the past decade. Recently, this growth has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, technological advancements, investments in research and development (R&D), and demand to solve pressing medical and biological challenges.

Today, the US’s Midwestern region shines in the spotlight as a life sciences market leader. With 127M+ acres of land to build upon, the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin comfortably nest nearly 300K life sciences companies. In particular, my hometown of St. Louis is one of the region’s fastest-growing cities for the industry!

However, for those hiring in Life Sciences, a crowded candidate and job pool present challenges in finding the right experts. If you’re seeking qualified candidates in the Midwest, staying current on hiring trends is the first step toward securing great talent. The below insights may come in handy.

3 Leading Life Sciences Sectors Hiring STEM Talent in the Midwest

Pharma, food, and agriculture are a magnetic force attracting today’s most high-caliber STEM talent to the Midwest. Industry shifts within manufacturing and production, quality control and assurance, and R&D have created many job opportunities for qualified candidates. Skill sets within regulatory affairs, research science, data sciences (computational biology/statistics), engineering and product development, and process development continue to litter the market and experience high demand.

1. Pharmaceutical

Next to Europe, the US is leading the worldwide pharmaceutical market in drug demand and development. The nation’s ambitious pharma landscape is projected to grow from $560.00 billion in 2021 to $861.67 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 6.3%.

While the coasts are most commonly known to bustle with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, the Midwest states are often slept upon (yet prolific) players in the market. Pharma hiring and job demand in the region are at an all-time high, and luckily, job opportunities are ample. Each year, hundreds of students graduate from specialized pharmaceutical education programs at local universities such as the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, Northwestern University, Midwestern University, and Washington University. These educational bodies, and many others, help entice STEM talent to move to the area, earn a degree, and seek employment.

With so many pharma roles and candidates on the market, narrowing your talent search to the right roles and qualifications is no easy feat. The below positions are the Midwest’s most common and in-demand pharmaceutical titles.

  • Quality Control Analyst
  • Quality Engineer
  • Research Associate
  • Laboratory or Scientific Technician
  • Associate or Principal Scientist (I, II, III)
  • Automation Engineer
  • Biopharmaceutical Process Analyst
  • Drug Device Quality Analyst
  • Operations Director, Pharma
  • Head of Research and Data

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2. Food Science

Food science is a unique sector that overlaps agriculture, nutrition, and animal science, and it’s easy to understand why it’s a leading life sciences sector in the Midwest. From food manufacturing to scientific R&D to data and analytics, many skill sets are needed to power this space. In addition, regulatory roles and bodies oversee the scientific aspects of food safety and processing, as well as the development of food technology, to keep our foods safe, palatable, and healthy.

The Midwest also houses several local universities and colleges with specialized food science programs. For example, Mizzou's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources offers a Food Science BS Program. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville also has a unique research facility called the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC), equipped with a fermentation lab/suite, pilot plant, and analytical lab..

Clearly, there are many angles and perspectives for candidates to consider within the food science space, and job opportunities in the Midwest are abundant. The below food science roles are the most common titles in the region.

  • Food Safety and Regulation Specialist (FSQR)
  • Food Safety Quality Laboratory Technician
  • Food Scientist & Technologist
  • Food Science Technician
  • Import Compliance Analyst
  • Quality Technician & Control Analyst
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Quality Control Lab Technician
  • Food Research Associate
  • Sample Receiving Technician
  • Reliability Engineer
  • Regulatory Affairs Specialist

3. Agriculture

Last but not least, the region is an agricultural hotbed. The Midwest’s agriculture scene makes up a $76 billion sector. According to the USDA, “The Midwest represents one of the most intense areas of agricultural production in the world and consistently affects the global economy.”

Ag hiring has increased in recent years to meet growing demands in the sector. Niche programs and organizations have paid attention to successes within the agricultural space and set out to train and develop tomorrow’s talent to drive ag’s lucrative future. For instance, Mizzou's College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources offers an Agriculture BS Program. In addition, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, an independent nonprofit, strives to “improve the human condition through plant science” and generates roughly $412M annually to impact the St. Louis region and the globe.

Today, agricultural talent is needed across many vital areas, including agriculture production and management, plant science, R&D, data and analytics, and more. Some typical ag roles hiring in the Midwest include the following skillsets.

  • Import Compliance Analyst
  • Quality Technicians & Control Analyst
  • Seed Technician
  • R&D Specialist
  • Regulatory Compliance Data Analyst
  • Systems Analyst
  • Automation Engineer


Hiring in pharma, food, and agriculture is only positioned to become more arduous in the near future. The best course of action is to identify gaps in your hiring strategy and work towards securing the experts who can solve your needs. With insider knowledge of Midwest life sciences trends, I’d be happy to point you in the right direction and help secure your dream team. Otherwise, be sure to plan ahead and stay updated on local life sciences hiring trends and best practices.

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