San Diego, CA

San Diego Ranks Fifth in US for Life Sciences Research Talent

CBRE analysis: density of talent, influential universities and private/public funding sustain metro among fierce competition for talent

June 13, 2022

CBRE Life Sciences Research Talent Report 2022

Media Contact

A new analysis conducted by CBRE identifying the 25 top U.S. life sciences labor markets ranks San Diego fifth for life sciences research talent, among the flagship life sciences clusters. The metro’s density of talent, influential universities and institutions, and private and public funding play a part in its position as a key life sciences cluster.

Nationally, 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. The surge in life sciences jobs played out similarly in San Diego, where the number of life sciences research jobs rose from 12,555 to 14,077, or 12.1 percent, between 2016 and 2021.

CBRE assessed each market against multiple criteria, including the number of life sciences jobs and graduates, share of overall job and graduate pool, number of life sciences doctorate degree holders, and 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.

 Rank  Market  Score
 1  Boston/Cambridge  138
2  Washington, D.C./Baltimore  129.8
3  San Francisco Bay Area  126.2
4  New York/New Jersey  124.3
5  San Diego  120.3
6  Raleigh-Durham  114.8
7  Los Angeles/Orange County  113.8
8  Philadelphia  113.5
9  Seattle  109.4
10  Chicago  107.6
11  Denver/Boulder  106.9
12  Minneapolis/St. Paul  106.4
13  Houston  104.1
14  Atlanta  103.5
15  Worcester, MA  102.6
16  Dallas/Fort Worth  102
17  Sacramento  101.8
18  Austin  101.5
19  Salt Lake City  101.4
20  New Haven, CT  100.8
21  Portland, OR  100.7
22  Miami  100.7
23  Nashville  100.6
24  Albany, NY  100.3
25  Pittsburgh  100

“Life Sciences real estate is really all about how to attract the right talent to push companies’ milestones forward,” said CBRE’s Ted Jacobs, Vice Chairman and regional life sciences leader. “San Diego is fortunate to have great research institutes and universities grooming the next generation of STEM grads for the industry.”

San Diego’s density of talent helped propel it to the No. 5 spot. The metro has the highest density of biochemists, biophysicists and other biological scientists than any other market in the country. Additionally, San Diego has the second-highest density of chemists in the country, behind only Raleigh-Durham.

Further reinforcing the metro’s place among flagship life sciences clusters, the percentage of San Diego’s labor force employed as life sciences researchers is the third highest, topping the San Francisco Bay Area and behind only Boston/Cambridge and Raleigh-Durham.

Graduation rates in life sciences-related academic disciplines also reflect the sector’s growth nationally and in San Diego. The number of U.S. graduates receiving degrees in biological and biomedical sciences reached nearly 164,000 in 2020, twice as many as 15 years earlier. Even with that influx of talent, the unemployment rate for life, physical and social sciences was less than 1 percent as of April 2022.

For its relative size, San Diego produces a disproportionate number of biological and biomedical sciences graduates. In 2020, the metro’s universities conferred 2,713 degrees, 235 more than the San Francisco Bay Area, which ranked No. 3 in the report. Moreover, San Diego issued 3.9 percent of all biological and biomedical sciences PhDs in the nation’s largest markets.

San Diego’s preeminent universities, institutions and their researchers position the metro as a top life sciences cluster as much as its density of talent and educated workforce. Scientific advancements by researchers at the University of California San Diego and Scripps Research underscore the potency of that influence.

Moreover, record levels of venture capital (VC) and public agency research funding have buoyed San Diego in recent years. The life sciences cluster benefitted from VC funding to the tune of approximately $3.5 billion in 2020 and $3.75 billion in 2021. San Diego also saw more than $1 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health in both 2020 and 2021.

“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.”

To read the full report, click here.

About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2023 revenue). The company has more than 130,000 employees (including Turner & Townsend employees) serving clients in more than 100 countries. CBRE serves a diverse range of clients with an integrated suite of services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at