What Types of Jobs are There in the Pharmaceutical Industry?
There are a huge variety of job roles available within a pharmaceutical company, and almost any skillset will find a place in this industry.
The specific types of roles can generally be broken down by department. Let’s think of the departments we’d need to make a brand new drug, and the order we’d need them…
Research & Development:
Typically working in labs to identify new molecules that could be used in medications, how known molecules can be “packaged” into medicines, or on improving currently available medications.
Job roles include – Scientist, Senior Scientist, Principal Scientist, Research Scientist (it’s likely a specialism will be mentioned in the title — e.g pharmacology, neuroscience, oncology etc.) Biochemist, Microbiologist, Product Development Scientist, BioMedical Scientist
Clinical trials are research studies performed on a drug to establish or check its safety and effectiveness.
Before a medical product can be prescribed by doctors or sold to patients, it needs to be approved by regulatory bodies (such as the FDA). These bodies give approval based on the outcomes of clinical trials – a company needs to show that their product is safe to be used, and has the desired effect.
Early clinical trials are done in labs, then with a small number of people (to test safety), then with a larger number of patients who have the condition the product aims to treat (to test effectiveness).
Job roles include – Clinical Scientist, Clinical Research Associate, Epidemiologist. People with a background in pharmacy, pharmacology, or healthcare (e.g. nurses) can also often find roles here.
This department deals with the applications and ongoing paperwork surrounding regulations that have to be done before/when a medicine is sold to the public.
Job roles include – Regulatory Affairs Specialist, Regulatory Affairs Officer, Regulatory Affairs Associate, Qualified Person
This area deals with monitoring and reporting the effectiveness and any side effects of pharmaceutical products after they have been released to the public.
Job roles include – Pharmacovigilance Officer, Drug Safety Officer
The team of people who operate the machinery and systems that actually produce the pharmaceutical product. In a typical manufacturing plant, this is approximately 50% of total staff.
Job roles include – Process Engineer, Production Supervisor, Manufacturing Engineers, Instrumentation Engineer, Process Technician, Chemical Process Technician, BioProcess Technician, Cleanroom Operator, Manufacturing Technician, Production Operator, Manufacturing Operator, Packaging Operator
Science Roles that Support Development and/or Manufacturing:
Development roles include the “D” part of “R&D”. Development is the phase after research where the creation of a proven drug is moved from the lab to the manufacturing plant.
Job roles include – Tech Transfer Scientist Jobs, Process Technology Transfer Scientist, Transfer Scientist, Product and Process development scientists
Other science roles support the manufacturing process and work within multidisciplinary teams to produce medicinal products.
Job roles include – Microbiology/Particle Analyst, Process Sciences Manager-Upstream, Environmental Microbiologist, Bioprocessing Scientist, Production Scientist, Senior Scientist Technical Support, Process Scientist / Specialist – Purification
The department that assesses and documents all equipment and processes to ensure that an action, process, or system leads to a consistent and reproducible result. (Check out this article for a much more detailed look at pharmaceutical validation).
Job roles include – Validation Engineer, Validation Technician, Validation Team Member, CQV Engineer, CQV Specialist, Validation Specialist, Senior Validation Specialist, C&Q Specialist, Cleaning Validation Engineer, Process Validation Engineer, Process Validation Specialist, CSV Engineer, CSV Specialist.
QA is process-oriented and focuses on removing any variation from the processes of manufacturing. This is achieved by creating, revising, and strictly implementing a set of precisely defined procedures and quality standards that, when followed exactly, ensure the final quality of the product.
Quality Assurance is preventative by nature and makes sure things are done “Right first time”.
Job roles include – Quality Engineer, Quality Assurance Specialist, QA Technician, Documentation Specialist, Document Controller, Documentation Coordinator, Quality Assurance Associate, Quality Associate Manager, Plant Quality Assurance Senior Associate, QA Specialist – Raw Materials, QA Compliance Specialist, QMS/QA Specialist, QA Internal Auditor, QA Compliance Manager, Quality Systems Coordinator
QC is product-oriented and focuses on testing samples from the manufacturing process to make sure they meet the required specifications and standards. In pharmaceutical manufacturing, the sample testing is done in a laboratory so people who work in QC usually have a science/laboratory background.
Job roles include – Quality Control Analyst, Quality Control Specialist, Senior Quality Control Analyst, QC Associate, QC Technician, Quality Control Microbiology Analyst, Quality Control Analyst FTC, QC Analyst, QC Scientist, QC Micro Technician, QC Microbiology Analyst, QC Drug Product Technologist, QC Specialist -LIMS
The group of people that ensures the continuous functioning of a manufacturing plant and its equipment. People in this department often come from a wide range of backgrounds, bringing specific skills sets with them.
Job roles include – Maintenance Technician, Calibration Technician, Electrical and Instrumentation Technician, Facilities Engineer, Automation Engineer, Project Engineer, Maintenance Engineer
Sales and Marketing:
This department is focused on advertising and promoting the company’s pharmaceutical products in line with all relevant rules and regulations.
There are still many other job roles within a pharmaceutical company, including areas such as:
- Supply Chain
- Human Resources
- Finance, etc.
The size of any of the departments discussed above will depend upon the size of the company (smaller companies may outsource some of these roles altogether), but they are all ultimately critical roles within a successful pharmaceutical company.
Click here for more in-depth information on the structure and departments in a pharmaceutical manufacturing company.
How Much Can I Earn in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing?
Check out our pharmaceutical job description and salary section to get an idea of the typical salaries for roles within pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Or click on one of the links below jump straight to salaries related to different work experience backgrounds…
What Qualifications Do I Need to Work in the Pharmaceutical Industry?
The type of qualification you need is going to vary hugely on the types of roles you wish to pursue.
For Science/Laboratory roles you’d generally need a Degree or Masters in Chemistry, BioChemistry, or Microbiology (or related fields) and may also need a doctorate, depending on the role.
For Clinical Research/Clinical Trials roles again, you’d typically need a Degree, Masters, or Phd in Chemistry, BioChemistry, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, or Microbiology (or related fields). Medical doctors or those with healthcare qualifications (e.g. nursing) are also needed here.
For Engineering roles, you’d generally need a Degree or Masters in an engineering discipline such chemical, mechanical, process, project, automation/instrumentation & calibration, quality, or manufacturing engineering.
For Manufacturing/Production operator roles, you might previously have gotten these jobs without any third level qualifications but more recently pharma and med device companies are looking for people with academic qualification at a certificate or diploma level in science or manufacturing discipline. Please note that this requirement does vary widely between companies.
For Validation roles, you’d typically need a qualification in an engineering discipline such mechanical, process, quality, or manufacturing engineering, or related field. A background such as pipe welder/fitter or in instrumentation, supported by an appropriate certificate can also be an accepted.
For Maintenance roles, you’d generally need a Diploma Degree or Masters in an engineering discipline such mechanical, automation, instrumentation, calibration, process, project quality, or manufacturing engineering. For entry level technician roles the requirement will be lower, relevant work experience accompanied by knowledge of the industry can be accepted.
For Quality Assurance roles, you’d generally need a Diploma Degree or Masters in an engineering discipline such chemical, mechanical, process, project quality, or manufacturing engineering.
For Quality Control roles, you’d typically need a Diploma, Degree or Masters in Chemistry, BioChemistry, or Microbiology (or related fields) depending on the role. A background in lab/science can also be sufficient, when supported by specific knowledge of the industry rules and regulations.
What are Typical Pharmaceutical Industry Career Paths?
Operator > Senior Operator > Shift supervisor > Production Manager > Production Director
Engineer > Senior Engineer > Engineering Manager > Engineering Director
Maintenance Technician > Maintenance Engineer > Maintenance Supervisor
Quality Technician > Quality Engineer > Quality Supervisor > Quality Manager > Quality Director
Senior Laboratory Technician > Team Leader Technician > Laboratory Manager
Validation Technician > Senior Validation Technician > Validation Engineer > Validation Team Leader > Validation Manager