Pharmaceutical Careers Guide

By some estimates, the pharmaceutical industry is set to be worth $1170 billion by 2021, so if you’re looking for a career in a thriving industry now is a great time to consider pharma. Origin play a small role in a huge process that gets valuable life-changing medicine from concept through to sales and supply. It’s a lengthy process that requires hard work every step of the way from multiple organisations.

To inspire the next generation we have researched some of the most enticing careers for anyone with a passion for science, engineering, supply chain management, and packaging/product development. We hope the below is both useful and informative for budding students looking for a future in pharma!

R&D Scientist

Scientists in medical Research and Development (R&D) are usually involved in the discovery and development of new drugs. They’re also involved in researching other medical-related products and treatments. R&D scientists carry out experiments in labs in universities, hospitals and industry. Many, but not all R&D roles require a PhD, with opportunities in both public and private sectors.

CAD Technician

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is software that allows the creation of technical drawings on computers rather than on paper. CAD technicians use this software to produce both 2D and 3D designs. All stages of a project, from initial cost estimates to manufacturing and installation, use these designs. A broad range of industries need CAD technicians, including manufacturing, construction and engineering. You can also use CAD skills in more creative industries like interior design.

  • Salary: £15,000 – £50,000
  • Entry Requirements
    • Relevant degree (engineering, architecture, manufacturing, IT or design)
    • Or an apprenticeship (require 5 GCSEs A* to C/ 9 to 4)
    • Higher-level qualifications in computer-aided design are an alternative
  • Typical Tasks:
    • Creating and modifying technical drawings in 2D and 3D using a variety of CAD software
    • Providing technical advice to manufacturers
    • Checking feasibility of projects by calculating costs of manufacture and production
    • Producing drawings for all the project stages, including manufacturing and installation records
  • Career Progression
    • Working on larger projects after gaining experience
    • Senior Technician: managing a team and overall project management
    • Chartered Engineer (with a relevant engineering degree) or EngTech status
    • Progression to other roles such as product designer and civil engineer
  • Useful Resources

Product Designer

Product designers create things to ensure they meet consumer needs. This includes how a product looks, feels, and how easy it is to use. Product design involves designing, modelling and testing products. Depending on your specialisation, these items could be everyday products, large industrial equipment, or even mobile apps.


Materials Engineer

Materials engineers use their expertise to design and develop new and existing materials. They are specialists in understanding the properties of different substances. Materials engineers work in a range of industries. They use their expertise to combine or modify materials to improve their performance. The job area is also known as materials science or materials technology.

  • Salary: £20,000 – £60,000
  • Entry Requirements
    • STEM degree, especially materials science, chemistry, physics, and engineering
    • If STEM degre
      e outside materials, postgraduate qualification may help
    • HND entry possible, though longer training and limited progression opportunities
  • Typical Tasks
    • Selecting materials for specific purposes
    • Testing materials for various properties
    • Developing prototypes
    • Supervising production process
    • Liaising with other departments to discuss manufacture, purchasing and marketing
  • Career Progression
    • Junior engineer
    • General management role
    • Technical specialism
    • Consultancy or contracting possible
    • Teaching or lecturing in universities and colleges
  • Useful Resources

Production Engineer

Production engineers are responsible for managing and maintaining production lines. They ensure that manufacturing processes produce goods efficiently. As nearly all industries involve production lines to some extent, you can work across a wide range of sectors. Sustainability is set to become a major trend in the near future, so reducing the impact of production on the environment will be a key aim. Production engineers are also sometimes called ‘manufacturing engineers’.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers work

with pictures, typography or moving graphics to present pieces of design in a visual way. These can be for print or electronic media for a variety of purposes. Websites, marketing, packaging, and branding are all examples of products that might need a graphic designer. The work demands creativity to present information visually in an eye-catching and memorable way.

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

Pharmaceutical or medical sales representatives sell medicines, prescription drugs, and medical equipment to healthcare professionals. They are a key link between drug production and patients. They also work to increase awareness of their company’s products by organising conferences and presentations. They are usually based in one area and specialise in a particular product.

  • Salary: £18,000 – £40,000 plus bonuses/commission
  • Entry Requirements
    • Degree, especially dentistry, life sciences, medicine, nursing, or pharmacy
    • Business or marketing degrees also useful
    • Foundation degree entry possible
  • Typical Tasks
    • Arranging appointments with doctors, pharmacists, and medical teams
    • Making presentations to doctors, nurses, and pharmacists
    • Winning and developing customer relationships
    • Organising conferences for medical staff
    • Meeting and (hopefully!) surpassing sales targets
  • Career Progression
    • Promotion depends on ability to meet sales targets
    • Can move into area or product management, NHS liaison, sales training or marketing
  • Useful Resources

Quality Control Officer

Quality control is a profession that controls the safety of pharmaceuticals and other medical products. It is also called regulatory affairs. Quality control officers ensure the licensing and marketing of a product conforms with all the appropriate legislation for the area it’s sold in. They’re involved in the launching of new products throughout the process from the beginning.

Operations Coordinator

The operations area of a business involves the production of goods and the provision of services. An operations coordinator oversees these activities to ensure efficient running of the organisation. Any improvements to these processes will also be their responsibility. An operations coordinator is a vital part of any business.

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