A guide to pharmaceutical careers & job opportunities

Perhaps when you think about the pharmaceutical industry, a person in a white lab coat and all kinds of fluids in weird-shaped glass containers are the first images that come to mind. Whilst lab work is definitely done within a lot of pharmaceutical companies, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The industry has grown considerably in the past few years, and pharmaceutical careers are available for people with many different backgrounds. In this article, you'll learn about 7 potential career paths available for professionals today. But first, let’s take a short look at the global pharma industry.  

Figure 1: Source: IQVIA Market Prognosis Global, September 2019

How big is the pharmaceutical industry?

The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science estimates that the global pharmaceutical market is worth 1,3 trillion USD in 2020. This number will grow with at least 4% annually, according to their research. For professionals, this means careers at pharmaceutical companies can be a good and durable choice. 

Top career opportunities within the pharmaceutical industry 

To help you get a better overview of the pharmaceutical industry, we have listed 6 of the most interesting jobs within the field. Read them carefully and learn more about these possible career paths.

1.  Medical scientists

Medical scientists within Pharma mostly conduct research aimed at medicine development. Besides that, other research regarding  human health is done. Working on new medicine can be done both by developing new medicines and by examining existing medicines. In which groups is a particular drug effective, and in whom not? What are possible side effects? Answering such questions is vital in order to safely bring new medicine to market. Medical scientists will continue to be needed because they contribute to the development of treatments and medicines that improve our health. You can apply for such jobs if you have a background in (molecular) biology or another life science study.

2.  Quality assurance manager

Quality managers or quality officers examine products and materials for defects or deviations from specifications. This work is very important both for all kinds of products. As a quality manager, you could either check products coming into a company or products leaving a company.

For instance, a large hospital buys 1.000.000 medical masks for its personnel to use during the 2020 pandemic. The selling party has done tests and tells the hospital that the masks are safe to use. However, because of the severity of the situation, the hospital asks an independent research centre to examine the masks as well. If you work as a quality manager for the test centre, it is your job to make sure the masks protect doctors from possible virus particles.

Another example of the work of a quality manager is done at a medicine development company. Before sending new  batches of medicine to pharmacies all over the world, the drugs are tested to make sure they comply with international regulations and meet the required quality standards. .

3. Clinical researcher

Clinical laboratory researchers collect samples and perform tests to analyse body fluids, tissue, and other substances. They play an important role in the diagnosis of patients. Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories or doctors' offices.

The work of clinical researchers consists of the following:

  • Analyse bodily fluids, such as blood, urine, and tissue samples, and report normal or abnormal findings;
  • Study blood samples for use in transfusions by identifying the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and compatibility with other blood types;
  • Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters;
  • Use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of further analysis of the material, for instance to compare data from the sample to benchmark data;
  • Log data from medical tests and enter results into a patient's medical record;
  • Stay in close contact with healthcare personnel such as doctors to discuss results of laboratory tests and procedures.

4. Regulatory affairs officer

Regulatory affairs officers act as a link between companies and regulatory authorities, ensuring that products are manufactured and distributed in compliance with appropriate legislation. Especially within the pharmaceutical industry, this is very important. because medicine must meet a lot of different requirements.

Having the right information is crucial to the work as a regulatory officer. You need to be able to read and interpret complex texts from national and international regulatory institutions. These texts often contain medical terms, so a background in medicine is often a prerequisite for working in this role.

An important task of a regulatory officer is to write reports regarding the products developed by a company. If you have good language skills and you have a background in medicine, this might be the perfect job for you.

5. Supply chain & logistics planner

Working as a supply chain planner is all about the balance between supply and demand. You need to keep a clear overview of all incoming orders, in order to prevent a shortage of products. . At the same time, you also need to avoid any surpluses.  This is especially true with products that have a limited shelf life.  In order to effectively manage your inventory you need to:

  • Develop business relationships with suppliers and clients
  • Direct the allocation of needed materials and supplies
  • Understand clients' needs and how to meet them

Besides planning the manufacturing of goods (for example prescription drugs), supply chain managers are also responsible for logistics. Together with account managers, you make sure that clients receive the products they ordered in time. 

If you like working in a fast-paced environment, working as a logistician or supply chain manager can be the perfect job for you. 

6. Sales representative

Sales representatives and managers can be found in almost all different fields and Pharma is no exception. Some sales representatives focus on generating new business for their company, others are responsible for account management and focus on growing the revenue realised through these existing clients.

The first type of sales representative is primarily responsible for identifying, collaborating and helping develop new partnerships with universities, hospitals, biotech and medtech companies.

The second type will also support existing clients in developing new collaborations and supports the development and implementation of the business development strategy together with with the management team.

Of course, in a lot of companies these two tasks are combined into one role, but it is good to know the distinction if you want to start working as a business developer or sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry.

How to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry?

This list of 6 possible careers is already quite diverse, and yet, these are only some examples of interesting opportunities. The amount of possibilities is even larger. Find the right match for you by scrolling through the current open vacancies here. Next, follow these general guidelines:

  • Have an up-to-date resume.
  • Carefully read the vacancy. What appeals to you? Are there any questions you would want to ask the recruiter?
  • Think about why you want to work at the company you are applying for. Write this down, so you can better remember it during your job interview.
  • Think about why you are a good fit for the role described.
  • Write an amazing motivational letter that answers why you would want to work at that specific company and why you are a good fit for the role.
  • Now… Let’s hope you get invited for an interview. Don’t hear anything back from the company? Reach out to them after a week or so to make sure they received your application.

Pharmaceutical careers at Brunel

If you are looking to take your career to the next level, Brunel might be able to help you. Our large network of clients consists of industry leaders who want to work with bright and ambitious professionals. The pharmaceutical industry has grown significantly over the past years, and so also the number of pharmaceutical career opportunities as grown. If you want to work in a rapidly changing and prominent industry, please take a look at our pharmaceutical jobs.