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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 or 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. But first…

What is Pharmaceutical Manufacturing?

Traditional pharmaceutical manufacturing is the synthesis and manufacture of medicines on an industrial scale. The process can be broken down into a series of steps such as:

  • Chemical synthesis of the medicine that helps the patient – the raw medicine is known as the API or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient.
  • Formulation or preparation – the medicine is mixed with solvents, binding agents, and pharmaceutical excipients along with milling and granulation.
  • Tablet compression – shaping the medicine into pills.
  • Tablet coating – to protect the pills and make them easier to swallow.

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.

Check out this video from AstraZeneca for an overview of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.

If you’re considering a career in pharmaceutical manufacturing, there are also some related industries that might also be of interest. These industries rely on the same strict regulations and specialist training:

  • 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 usable 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.


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. (0% to 5% of total staff)
  • Production (Process) – the machinery and systems that actually produce the pharmaceutical product. (Approx 50% of total staff)
  • Validation – assess and document all equipment and processes to ensure that an action, process or system leads to a consistent and reproducible result. (Quality, validation, and regulatory affairs combined typically make up approximately 30% of staff)
  • Quality Assurance – monitoring the processes and procedures of manufacturing to make sure they meet predefined standards. (Quality, validation, and regulatory affairs combined typically make up approximately 30% of staff)
  • Quality Control – providing testing and checks throughout the manufacturing process to make sure product standards are maintained. (Quality, validation, and regulatory affairs combined typically make up approximately 30% of staff)
  • Regulatory Affairs – deal with the applications and paperwork surrounding regulations that have to be done before a medicine can be sold to the public. (Quality, validation, and regulatory affairs combined typically make up approximately 30% of staff)
  • Operations – Ensures the continuous functioning of the manufacturing plant and its equipment. (Approx 10% of total staff)
  • Other – Includes areas such as Supply Chain, Logistics, Marketing, HR, Warehouse, Finance, etc. (Approx 5% of total staff)

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.

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 Job Description and Salary Section to get an idea of the typical salaries for pharmaceutical manufacturing related roles where you are.

What is the Typical Career Path?

  • In Manufacturing/Production:
    Operator > Senior Operator > Shift supervisor > Production Manager > Production Director
  • In Engineering:
    Engineer > Senior Engineer > Engineering Manager > Engineering Director
  • In Maintenance:
    Maintenance Technician > Maintenance Engineer > Maintenance Supervisor
  • In Quality:
    Quality Technician > Quality Engineer > Quality Supervisor > Quality Manager > Quality Director
  • In Science/Laboratory:
    Senior Laboratory Technician > Team Leader Technician > Laboratory Manager
  • In Validation:
    Validation Technician > Senior Validation Technician > Validation Engineer > Validation Team Leader > Validation Manager

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 2017 revenue) the biggest pharmaceutical companies are:

  • Johnson & Johnson – US$76.45 billion
  • Roche -US$57.37 billion
  • Pfizer -US$52.54 billion
  • Novartis -US$49.10 billion
  • Sanofi -US$42.91 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
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • Singapore

And in the United States:

  • Pennsylvania, USA
  • New Jersey, USA
  • North Carolina, USA
  • California, USA
  • Massachusetts, USA
  • Puerto Rico

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

What Are The Next Steps?

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

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

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. 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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