Pharmaceutical industry

If you have completed a PhD or a postdoc, making the transition into the pharmaceutical industry could be a career option for you.

There are a wide range of career areas available in the pharmaceutical industry both inside and outside the lab. Not all roles will essentially require a PhD, but the skills that you develop during your PhD such as data interpretation, analysis and scientific writing can put you in a good position. Furthermore, if you are interested in progressing to manage research projects and teams in this industry, a PhD will enhance your chances of progression. There are key differences between academia and working in industry; whilst the academic community values thoroughness and accuracy, industry is much more focused on efficiency and getting projects done.

If you are interested in being involved in pharmaceutical research and development or commercial functions (e.g. sales) but would prefer to work on a range of projects for different client companies rather than for one large corporation, working for a contract research organisation could be of interest to you. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has a very comprehensive careers site that you can use to explore your options. 

There are many different types of roles available in this industry meaning that there are opportunities for PGRs from a range of scientific backgrounds and disciplines. Often, work is done in interdisciplinary teams and job roles focus in on one particular part of the drug development, manufacturing and taking-to-market process. As a result, it can be useful to think about which part of the process you would like to be involved with and which particular activities are undertaken in different roles. Some of the principal areas of work in the pharmaceutical industry are as follows:

Research and Development


  • Engineering & Manufacturing: includes chemical engineering/ process engineering, production engineering and plant engineering
  • Commercial: includes healthcare communications, medical information, sales and marketing, market research and business intelligence 

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