What Kind of Jobs Can Petroleum Engineers Get in the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industry?

By: Donagh Fitzgerald B.Prod Eng and Gerry Creaner B.Chem Eng. Last Updated: October 2023

As a petroleum engineer, you are reasonably well-positioned to apply for chemical engineering or process engineering roles within the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

You could also look at roles in medical device manufacturing as well.

Engineering consultancies could also be another option.

Your undergraduate qualifications and work experience should equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to apply for entry-level or higher-level types of roles. It is difficult to anticipate how HR or Hiring Managers will react to your qualifications or your lack of experience working in a GMP-regulated manufacturing environment. For some, this may prove a stumbling block though so you may need to take a Good Manufacturing Practices course on that. 

A second option would be to retrain for validation and qualification roles as your background in engineering design and interpreting P&ID technical drawings are highly relevant to this field.

Another option would be to retrain for plant engineering or maintenance-type roles.

Apart from the general “Process Engineer”, “Chemical Engineer” or “Senior Process Engineer” job titles, here are some typical subcategory job titles we often see advertised.

  • Process Engineer – Tech Transfer – the focus is generally on managing the move of a production process from one facility to another.
  • Process Engineer – Upstream – Upstream activities are stages of biopharmaceutical processing up to the cell culture or fermentation process that is used to make the target proteins.
  • Process Engineer – Downstream – Downstream activities are the stages of processing that come after cell culture or fermentation. These stages include separation and purification to achieve the required drug product.
  • Process Engineer – Fill Finish – the focus is on formulating the licensed product using the drug substance and other excipients, filling, lyophilization and testing, including ongoing stability testing.

Other subcategories – a lot of the job descriptions for these job titles tend to overlap with other engineering disciplines such as mechanical, plant or validation engineering.

  • Process Engineer – EHS – focus on environmental, health and safety
  • Process Engineer – Facilities – the focus is on the design and maintenance of HVAC, air handling, water and steam systems within a plant
  • Process Engineer – C&Q – the focus is on commissioning and qualification of equipment and systems and populate validation protocols
  • Process Engineer – Equipment – the focus is on the maintenance, qualifications and documentation to keep process equipment up and running and in regulatory alignment.

So you would have roughly 3 broad options.

Option 1

Apply for process or chemical engineer roles as you are with engineering consultancies or pharma companies.

Reframe and polish up your CV/Resume and apply as you are. You could apply for advertised positions or you could send out speculative job applications. 

For a list of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and engineering consultancies, click here if you are in Ireland and here if you are in the United Kingdom. Read this article to see the Top 10 Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Industry Hubs in the USA. For other locations, do a search for engineering consultancies for the pharma of med device sector.

As mentioned, it is difficult to anticipate how HR or Line Managers will react to your qualifications or your lack of experience working in a GMP-regulated manufacturing environment. For that reason, you might consider bolstering your qualifications by taking our GMP training course

Option 2

Retrain for validation roles in both pharmaceutical companies and engineering consultancies. 

Take our 15-Week Online Starter Validation program and learn to populate an IQ OQ PQ Qualification Protocol.

IQ OQ PQ Validation Protocols form a crucial part of pharmaceutical plant projects and having a fundamental understanding of how these protocols are put together and interpreted is a fundamental skill set of any petroleum engineer cross-training to work in this area.

Options for further study

Take our 30-week online Certificate in Validation program for Senior Validation, CQV and C&Q Roles to get a level 7 university qualification from Technological University Dublin, Ireland and a more interesting job with a higher salary such as;

Some companies might call this role: 

  • Validation Specialist
  • CQV Specialist
  • C&Q Specialist

Take our Computer System Validation Training Course and extend your role to CSV Projects. Round out your qualifications and give yourself a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Option 3

Retrain for plant engineering or facility engineer roles in pharmaceutical companies.

Pharma needs purified water and clean air systems to manufacture safe medicines which are used for injections. These aseptic processes have to be designed, validated, monitored, maintained and updated in FDA-regulated manufacturing facilities.

Here, you’d need to take the following programs.

Take our 18-week online Conversion Course into Engineering Roles in Pharma to learn GMPs and how safe medicines are made in a regulated environment. You will also learn the air, water and steam systems that underpin aseptic/sterile processing.

You will receive a strong grounding in the modern pharmaceutical science and engineering concepts of the environmental controls (air) and clean utility systems design that underpin an aseptic manufacturing facility and the quality systems.

Then take our 10-Week Online Starter Validation program to learn how those systems are validated.

About the Author

Our Team

Donagh Fitzgerald

Head of Marketing & Product Development
Mechanical/Production Engineer

Donagh looks after the marketing and product development including the training and pedagogical elements of our programs and makes sure that all GetReskilled’s users can have a great online learning experience. Donagh has lived and worked in many countries including Ireland, America, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Donagh has also served as the Program Manager for the Farmleigh Fellowship based out of Singapore.

Donagh holds Degrees in Production Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from South East Technological University, Ireland.

Photo of GetReskilled President Gerry Creaner

Gerry Creaner

Senior Lecturer with GetReskilled

Gerry Creaner has over 30-years of experience in the Life Sciences Manufacturing industry across a range of technical, managerial and business roles. He established a very successful engineering consultancy prior to founding GetReskilled, an online education and learning business, with offices in Singapore, Ireland and Boston (USA), focussed on the manufacture of safe and effective medicines for the public.

He is also a founding Director of two Singapore based philanthropic organizations, the Farmleigh Fellowship and the Singapore-Ireland Fund, both of which deepen the well established and historical Singapore – Ireland relationship and deliver long-term benefits to both countries.

Gerry has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering (UCD, 1980) and an MSc (Management) from Trinity College Dublin (2003) and is currently doing research for his Ph.D.