Atlanta Ranks as 3rd Most Favorable Market in New CBRE Life Sciences Talent Report

Staff Report

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

A new analysis conducted by CBRE identified Atlanta as the third most favorable market for life sciences employees based on how far their salaries stretch compared to the local cost of living.

At an average annual salary of $49,752, those employed as biochemists, biomedical engineers, chemists, and biophysicists easily earned more than the average cost of living, sometimes even double, according to the analysis. This placed Atlanta just behind Raleigh-Durham and Houston in terms of favorability.

“There are many great things to love about Atlanta, from its business friendliness, diversity, culture, growing population, and the large number of great universities nearby,” said Steve Barton, Senior Vice President of CBRE in Atlanta. “It’s no wonder why a number of out-of-state life sciences firms are now looking at Atlanta as a possible option.”

The CBRE analysis tracked the top 25 U.S. life sciences labor markets - ranging from established hotbeds like Boston to emerging hubs like Pittsburgh - illustrating that the fast-growing industry extends well beyond the coastal research hubs for which it is mostly known. Job growth in life sciences professions – from bioengineers and biochemists to microbiologists and data scientists – expanded by 79 percent since 2001 to roughly 500,000. In comparison, the overall U.S. job growth rate in that span was 8 percent. That surge in life sciences jobs boosted mainstay markets such as Boston and San Francisco as well as emerging hubs including Atlanta.

The Gate City ranked 14th in the U.S. for life sciences research talent with 6,980 total life sciences employees as of 2020. This represents a 58.2 percent increase since 2015. The number of biochemists and biological technicians in Atlanta saw an even higher jump over the same period, rising 93.3 percent  and 92.6 percent respectively. Of all life sciences employees based in Atlanta, a majority were data scientists (1,810) and medical scientists (1,720). Of all Southeastern metros, only Raleigh-Durham is home to more life sciences employees. 

One factor behind Atlanta’s life sciences job growth has been record VC funding. In 2021, the city saw $231 million invested into the sector, more than any other year to date. 

Another factor reflecting the sector’s growth nationally: the number of graduates receiving degrees in biological and biomedical sciences reached nearly 164,000 in 2020, twice as many as 15 years earlier. Atlanta produces over 2,000 graduates in the biological and biomedical sciences annually, roughly the same as the more established Raleigh-Durham market. Even with that influx of talent, the national unemployment rate for life, physical and social sciences was less than 1 percent as of April 2022.

“Quality and availability of labor are key considerations for any expanding industry, and that’s certainly the case for life sciences,” said Ian Anderson, CBRE’s Americas Head of Life Science and Healthcare Research. “Lab vacancy rates are tight in most markets, even amid strong construction activity. Expanding life sciences companies can choose from dozens of U.S. markets depending on their labor and real estate needs.”

CBRE assessed each market against multiple criteria, including its number of life sciences jobs and graduates, life sciences’ share of each market’s overall job and graduate pool, its number of doctorate degree holders in life sciences, and its concentration of jobs in the broader professional, scientific and technical services professions. The analysis produced CBRE’s inaugural ranking of the leading markets for U.S. life sciences talent.

To read the full report, click here.