Taking a Step Back in Salary for a Step Forward in Your Biotech Career 

Consider taking a strategic step back in your biotech career to gain new skills and improve work-life balance. Lateral moves and lower-level roles can strengthen your professional profile long-term.

4 min read

aking a Step Back in Salary for a Step Forward in Your Biotech Career

Assess Your Career Goals and Values 

Deciding if a lateral move or step down could benefit your career is never easy. In an industry like biotech that is so driven by ambition and prestige, it can feel counterintuitive to pursue roles that may be seen as “lower level”. However, when approached strategically, taking a step back in title or salary could actually fast-track your professional development and ignite your passion. 

When considering taking a step back in your biotech career, the first step is to carefully assess your career goals and values. This will provide clarity on whether a lateral move or lower role could potentially be a strategic career investment. 

Reflect on your long-term career aspirations in the biotech field. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? What types of positions or job responsibilities are you working towards? 

Gaining a clear understanding of your overall career objectives and professional future is key. 

Next, determine what work conditions and values matter most to you at this stage of your biotech career. Consider creating a table to compare factors: 



Less Important 

Work-life balance 

Salary level 

Ability to learn new skills 

Prestige of job title 

Progressive company culture 

Number of direct reports 


Ask yourself probing questions like: 

  • Is work-life balance critical for me currently? 
  • Am I willing to sacrifice some salary in exchange for better work-life integration? 
  • Is learning new skills through diverse biotech experiences important to me even if the role is at a lower level? 
  • Do I want to avoid extensive managerial duties at this point in time? 


Really dig deep and be honest with yourself. This provides a baseline for assessing if an opportunity truly aligns with what matters most to you right now.  

Consider lateral or lower roles 

Once you have clarity on your priorities, consider whether there are any lateral or lower-level roles that could potentially help you gain new skills and broaden your biotech experience. 

For example: 

  • Could a role in quality assurance allow you to gain regulatory expertise? 
  • Might a position at an emerging biotech firm provide exposure to more diverse projects? 
  • Could coordinating clinical trials give you the chance to deepen trial management knowledge? 


Create a table to brainstorm options: 

Potential Role 

Skills Gained 

Clinical Research Coordinator 

Clinical trials management 

Associate Quality Engineer 

Regulatory process knowledge 

Medical Writer 

Scientific communication abilities 

The goal is to think creatively about roles that could expand your capabilities and capacity in other ways, even if not a direct step up. 

Evaluate work-life balance needs 

Honestly assess your current work-life imbalance and how stepping back could improve your quality of life. 

Consider a work-life balance comparison: 


Current Role 

Potential Step Back Role 

Work Hours/Week 



Work Location 


Hybrid or remote options 

Travel Required 



Determining if decreasing responsibilities could create more personal/lifestyle equilibrium is key. For example, a lateral role with less travel could allow greater work-life integration. 

Leverage your background 

Assess your career goals and values When interviewing, proactively communicate how your background is an asset. Highlight specific skills and accomplishments that make you uniquely qualified. Get ahead of “overqualified” concerns by emphasizing your passion, commitment, and desire to expand your skillset. 

Address employer concerns 

Be prepared to explain your motivations transparently. Emphasize how the move aligns with your skills, interests, and priorities right now. Reassure them of your commitment to professional development.

View as a strategic move 

Remember lateral/lower roles can provide valuable skills to boost expertise. Keep your eyes on your long-term vision. This may be a short-term play to skill-up, relieve burnout, or achieve work-life integration. 

With the right focus, you can leverage these roles to propel your biotech career to new heights. A step back today can mean a leap forward tomorrow. 

In summary, taking a temporary step back does not have to inhibit your biotech career progression. When strategic, lateral moves or lower-level roles can enable you to ultimately advance your career from an even stronger foundation. 

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