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5 Great Reasons to Choose a Pharmaceutical Career

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Is It Time To Change Your Career?… And Could The Pharmaceutical Industry Be What You’re Looking For?

  • Do you feel like your career is stuck in a rut? Are you are wasting time with your current job or don’t think your salary reflects your current value?
  • Is your current industry struggling?
  • Are you living with the constant fear of losing your job?

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty common situation these days.

If you’ve found yourself out of a job or are looking to make a change to an industry that offers more stability, the pharmaceutical industry is definitely worth serious consideration.

The pharmaceutical industry researches, discovers, develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products. These are the drugs and other products prescribed by doctors or sold over the counter to be used as medicines by patients.

The bonus is, if you have a technical background, you may be much closer than you think to being an ideal candidate.

Reskilling into pharma or medical device manufacturing gives you a way to use all your experience in a productive way, enhancing your career prospects.

But why exactly would you consider working within the pharmaceutical industry rather than other technical-focused options?

What is Pharmaceutical Manufacturing?

…and what does working in this industry actually look like?

Pharmaceutical companies make medicines. That’s a pretty big responsibility.

All stages of pharmaceutical industry operations are closely regulated and monitored by bodies such as the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This level of regulation ensures that products are made safely and correctly, every single time.

Because of this, pharmaceutical manufacturing is a unique and highly regulated environment.

We’ve tracked down a couple of videos to give you an idea of what working in pharmaceutical industry manufacturing might actually look like.

Check out this video from the ‘Naked Scientists’ (no actual nudity involved!) that talks through what kind of ingredients actually go into making tablets.

Or check out this “How it’s Made” episode, it’s also focused on manufacturing pills, which shows a bit more of the machinery involved.

Types of Roles Within The Pharmaceutical Industry 

There are a huge variety of roles available within the manufacture of safe medicines. Departments in a typical pharmaceutical company include:

  • Research & Development – typically working in labs to identify molecules that could be used in medications, or on current medications to improve them.
  • Regulatory Affairs – deal with the applications and paperwork surrounding regulations that have to be done before a medicine can be sold to the public.
  • Validation – assess and document all equipment and processes to ensure that an action, process or system leads to a consistent and reproducible result.
  • Quality Assurance – monitoring the processes and procedures of manufacturing to make sure they meet predefined standards.
  • Production (Process) – the machinery and systems that actually produce the pharmaceutical product.
  • Quality Control – providing testing and checks throughout the manufacturing process to make sure product standards are maintained.

The size of these departments depend upon the size of the pharmaceutical company (smaller companies may outsource some of these roles altogether) but they are all ultimately critical parts of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.

Here are 5 Reasons Why You Should You Consider Reskilling Into This Area

1. The Industries Are Growing

Worldwide pharmaceutical industry revenues have shown excellent growth for many years. The graph below shows the growth in revenue since 2001 (at $390bn) and also shows the projected revenue for 2018 and 2021 ($1.4tn).


In 2016, worldwide pharmaceutical revenues were over $1.1 trillion.

Even during difficult financial times for other industries, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have been resilient.

At a company level (based on 2016 revenue) the biggest pharmaceutical companies are:

  • Johnson & Johnson – $71.89 billion
  • Pfizer – $52.83 billion
  • Roche – $50.00 billion
  • Novartis – $48.50 billion
  • Merck & Co – $39.80 billion

Click here for more information about the world’s 15 largest pharmaceutical companies.

2. This Growth Has Led To Well Paying Jobs

Worldwide employment across these industries have grown from 3.64 million in 2006, to 4.91 million in 2016.

Here you can see a breakdown of current direct and indirect employment from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries across both USA and Europe.


And, possibly more importantly for those considering a mid-career change into pharmaceutical manufacturing, these jobs pay well.

In 2011, the total compensation for US biopharmaceutical industry employees averaged $110,490. The national average, across all industries, was $54,455.

In Ireland, people working in these industries earn approximately 30% more than the national average salary.

3. They Don’t Suffer From Cyclical Ups and Downs

As previously mentioned, even in the most difficult of financial times, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries have maintained success. A good measure of this success is how much money is invested in research and development.


The relatively high amount of money being allocated to research and development compared to other industries, is a good sign of industry stability.

And that investment into R&D is necessary when you consider that to get a new drug to market takes 12-13 years and costs an estimated $2,556 million.

4. They Offer Rich Opportunities For Career Growth

With so many companies operating within the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, there is a great scope to progress in your new career if you want to.

Companies in these industries also tend to be found in clusters. This is when many companies grow within a small geographic location. Some of the biggest pharmaceutical industry clusters include:

  • Ireland
  • Pennsylvania, USA
  • New Jersey, USA
  • North Carolina, USA
  • California, USA
  • Massachusetts, USA
  • Puerto Rico
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Singapore

Being near such a cluster means that once you are “in” and skilled, there are likely to be a number of companies close by that you’d be suitable for.

5. You Can Leverage Your Previous Work Experience

There can often be a misunderstanding about the skills needed to successfully begin a career in pharmaceutical or medical manufacturing.

Not necessarily needed:

  • Science degree
  • Multiple years of pharmaceutical industry experience
  • Experience in a lab

Also welcomed:

  • Engineering experience from another industry
  • Manufacturing experience from another industry
  • Experience in maintenance
  • Demonstrated technical skills

You might need some additional industry-specific information before you can land your first job. But once you’re familiar with the rules and regulations of this sector, you could work for companies making:

  • Medical Devices – a wide encompassing term for any product, instrument or item which is used to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure health conditions without any chemical or pharmacological action on or within the body. Examples include machines to monitor blood glucose, surgical equipment or even contact lenses.
  • Nutritionals – a segment of the pharmaceutical industry that involves the research, development, and manufacturing of nutritional products (such as milk powder for babies).
  • Pharmaceuticals – medicines made using chemical synthesis. Making small active molecules and ‘packaging’ them in a way the body can use (like in a tablet).
  • Biopharmaceuticals – medicines made using biotechnology. Producing larger, naturally occurring molecules such as proteins, genes and cells, and finding a way to make them into a useable treatment. For a closer look at manufacturing biologics specifically, check out the video below, from Amgen. It’s a little science-heavy at the very start but gives a great overview of the manufacturing process as it progresses.

What Are The Next Steps?

Retrain for a New Career in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing in 8 Months.

Our Academically Accredited Certificate in eBioPharmaChem  is a 30-week conversion course and will help you get a start in the industry.

If you’re still unsure about whether this is the industry for you, or what your career in pharma could actually look like:

  1. Check out this “Is a Pharma Career For Me?” tool to see how suitable you are for a career in pharma or medical device manufacturing based on your career and educational history.
  2. Then use this tool to figure out what kind of job you might be suitable for
  3. Check out our blog post series on job roles – you’ll find out what each job actually involves and what skills are needed, as well as links to local salary information
  4. And for more localized industry information and news, have a look at our Job Hunt Resource Centres for the UKthe USA, and Ireland.

If you’ve decided that you want to start a career in pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturing:

  1. Check out our blog post on the minimum requirements needed to successfully make that change.
  2. This will also show you which course you need to get your brand new career started.
  3. We know you’ll probably still have a lot of questions, so check out the sections on our blog about:

Of course, if you have any questions that you can’t find the answers to, get in touch with us for a chat about your particular circumstance.

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