How to start a career in the pharmaceutical industry


From antidepressants to vaccines, pharmaceutical companies have created medicines that save lives and improve the quality of life. At the moment, the US is the frontrunner in the pharmaceutical market, contributing 56.6% to the global sales of the best-selling drugs. On a global level, the industry is projected to reach over $1.5 trillion by 2023. 

If you’re thinking about starting a career in this sector, you’re in luck as there are many areas within this industry where qualified employees are in high demand. But how do you get started? What type of education do you need? There are many ways to enter the industry if you have the right education. Whether you want to become a pharmacy technician or work as a quality assurance manager, it’s preferable to have some prior knowledge and background in life sciences.

In this article, we’re offering some useful tips that will help you take the first steps towards a successful career in the pharmaceutical sector. 

Benefits of Working in the Pharmaceutical Industry

People who work in the industry cite being able to have a positive effect on people’s lives as one of the most important benefits. Even though not all pharmaceutical jobs provide face-to-face contact with people, working on finding a cure and creating medicine can potentially bring numerous benefits to an entire population of patients. 

Another upside is that your peers and colleagues are as skilled as you are, if not more, in their areas, which allows you to learn from each other and share best practices. 

The industry operates on a global scale, so working for a pharmaceutical company is also very likely to involve overseas travel. You might also need to work outside your core hours in order to be able to connect with colleagues living in different time zones. 

Careers in the Pharmaceutical Industry

As new breakthroughs continue to emerge, so do new opportunities for job seekers in the pharmaceutical field. Continuous growth means that demand will remain high over the next several years.

In the last 15 years, the global pharmaceutical sector has more than tripled its sales. Considering that it takes more than ten years and millions of dollars to bring a new product to the market, it’s not hard to imagine how long the drug chain must be and, as a result, how diversified the jobs are.

The pharmaceutical industry offers a variety of career opportunities to talented graduates with a background in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, life sciences, and other academic disciplines. 

Some areas in which they could pursue careers include clinical manufacture and supply, pharmaceutical formulation development, regulatory affairs, quality assurance, medical information, project management, commercial business development, sales and marketing, etc. 

Work on Developing the Right Skillset

There’s a range of skills expected from the pharmaceutical sector, depending on the level of responsibility and the specific area. Some of the top skills and abilities that make you an invaluable asset in the workplace include:

  • Outstanding project planning skills. Project planning in the pharmaceutical sector typically involves identification and allocation of resources, cost estimation, and an in-depth understanding of user issues. 
  • Strategic thinking and decision-making are particularly valuable in the pharmaceutical industry. In order to make complex projects successful, you need to be innovative and able to plan far in advance. 
  • The pharmaceutical industry includes problem-solving and risk analysis. As a worker within this industry, you should also have effective delegation techniques and time management skills. 
  • Good communication is definitely one of the most important skills in the sector. Pharmacists often work in cross-functional teams so they should be able to work well with others.

Alternative Ways to Get Work Experience

Finding the first job is often harder than expected due to one simple reason –  many employers expect job candidates to have some work experience. But how can you have experience if you’ve just graduated? Here are some ideas that might help you gain an upper hand.

Internships come in both paid and voluntary variety and usually last three to twelve months. You can complete an internship during a gap year or even upon completion of your degree.

Summer placements with an industrial company typically last for 1-3 months and are an excellent way to gain some longer-term experience.

Shadowing a pharmaceutical professional is a great way to experience life in an industrial environment. These placements usually last one or two weeks, so you might need to complete a few in order to demonstrate your commitment.

Apprenticeships offer education up to a degree level while at the same time allowing you to gain a number of years of industrial experience.

Degree with a year in industry. Students with a year in the industry during their degree are often given priority as potential candidates for entry-level job vacancies.

Experts also suggest that students and pre-registration pharmacists attend pharmaceutical industry events and use them as an opportunity to network and understand what a career in the industry can be like. 

How to Create a CV That Helps You Stand Out 

Recruiters and employers can receive a great number of CVs for every job position they advertise. They are often pressed for time, so you need to make sure yours stands out. Here are a few tips that will help you create a CV that showcases your strengths and demonstrates that you’re the right person for the job.

Tailor your CV to the job opening. Read the job specification carefully and highlight any skills that match those specifications. In addition, make sure your CV is brief and concise. Use good formatting and bullet points to make sure it isn’t too wordy. 

Ensure that your contact details are easy to notice. Place them at the top of the first page and include the following: name, home address, contact number, email address, LinkedIn profile. 

List the educational institutions you have attended, including the dates (starting with the most recent). Include any relevant projects and dissertation work you’ve completed, as well as a list of any other interests or activities that have helped develop your team-working and leadership skills, and include any volunteer work you’ve done.

When listing your work experience, begin with the most recent position to make it easy for the reader to see whether you have the right experience and if you’ve gained it recently. Include the name of the company you worked for, job title, location, and responsibilities. You should also 

include 2 employer references (if possible), along with their address, email address, and phone number. 

Before sending the CV, check that you haven’t included any unnecessary information or made silly grammar mistakes. 

Interview Tips for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Once an interview is booked, it is important to prepare well and do your best to get the job. Here are a few tips that will help you be confident and stand out from the crowd. 

Research the company. Knowing as much as you can about your potential employer is important as you’re very likely to be asked why you want to work with them (along with other company-related questions). Check the company site, their LinkedIn profile, as well as their other social media pages. This way you’ll learn what the company does and what their values are. 

Go through your CV one more time to make sure you don’t get confused under pressure. In addition, the interviewer might ask about your strengths and weaknesses, so try to do a personal SWOT analysis before the interview. 

Prepare questions to ask. This will demonstrate that you’ve done the research and are genuinely interested in the position. 

Choose clothes that are smart and give you confidence. Finally, be sure to arrive on time for the interview. Any delays might increase the stress and make you look sloppy. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve chosen to work in drug safety, clinical research, regulatory affairs, or any other job within the pharmaceutical industry, the important thing is to make the first step. Get to grips with what’s expected of you and then start planning what you will need in order to achieve your goal. 

No matter how long the process might seem, try to not lose sight of why you wanted to get into the pharmaceutical sector in the first place and stay focused on making your career as fulfilling as possible.