Pharmaceutical jobs: Top tips on getting ahead

Pharmaceutical jobs: Top tips on getting ahead

If you've already decided that you want a job in the pharmaceutical industry, then you might assume you're a step ahead of the competition. After all, many people struggle to choose a field in which to specialise even after completing a degree or having their heart set on a career change.

However, the pharmaceuticals sector is wide and varied, with a number of different positions, specialisms and options. For example, would you prefer to work in a research role for a company that produces medicines, or in the community where you'll deal directly with members of the public?

Of course, some of these questions will already have been decided by your training, but there can still be plenty of choices to make before you start firing off CVs and speaking to HR representatives.

With this in mind, we thought we'd gather together some top tips from experts already working in pharmaceuticals that might clear up at least some of the confusion you could be experiencing. 

Think about what you want - but don't assume it's rigid

Speaking to the Pharmaceutical Journal, Nick Lowen of GlaxoSmithKline said he worked as a community pharmacist and then as a pharmaceutical adviser in the NHS before becoming part of a commercial company, so nothing you choose is set in stone.

Going into research and development of drugs may not provide that interaction with people who directly need your help, but Mr Lowen pointed out that working on medicines "has the potential to bring benefits to a whole population of patients".

It's important to think about where you'd like to start and what you want from your career, then go from there in terms of fitting roles around your requirements.

Qualifications might not be the be all and end all

You might assume that a degree and then a PhD will be essential for all parts of the pharmaceutical industry, but that may not be the case at all.

Director of research and development at Ferring Janet Halliday told the Pharmaceutical Journal that actually, a PhD is only likely to be necessary for research opportunities. Indeed, other soft skills may be more important to the companies you're applying to.

"Often in the industry you are working in cross-functional teams so you need to be a good communicator - you need to be able to work well with others," she pointed out.

Meeting deadlines, time management, problem-solving and creativity could be other skills potential employers will be looking out for, so don't focus solely on education and qualifications at the expense of them.

Work experience is a good idea

Ms Halliday also revealed that almost all pharmaceutical companies of all sizes will offer summer work placements that can provide vital work experience, but they might not be as easy to find as those for other sectors.

She recommended that instead of looking for centralised platforms, interested parties should apply directly to individual companies for summer placements, preferably the Christmas before if it's with a larger company or at Easter time for smaller firms.

Networking can pay dividends

Networking is recommended for anyone looking for any kind of job, but it can be especially important in the world of pharmaceuticals. Ms Halliday explained in her magazine interview that many job advertisements will not directly list pharmacy qualifications, so it isn't always immediately obvious that you may be suitable for a role.

She suggested contacting pharmacists already working in the industry to see if they know of any vacancies, as they may have insider knowledge concerning the firms they deal with. This might be daunting, but the expert insisted many pharmacists are extremely helpful and encouraging to others in their profession.

Don't expect big money right away

A good salary may be vital for jobseekers who have student debts to pay off, but Ms Halliday warned that pharmaceutical industry jobs might not command quite as big a wage as many people expect - at least, not at first.

"When you start in the industry, you do not come out with the same starting salary as somebody starting in hospital or community," she explained.

However, with opportunities to upskill and grow as time goes on, this disparity is likely to even out. Patience, therefore, may be a virtue for someone looking to get a foot in the door of this particular industry.

Get even more expert help

To find out more about jobs in clinical pharmacy, data management, pharmaceutical project management and a range of other areas, get in touch with a member of our team at Apex Recruitment. We have more than 20 years of experience in matching candidates to their ideal positions as a specialist recruitment company in the pharmaceutical industry.

You can register quickly and easily by uploading a CV and answering a few questions, plus you can browse a list of currently available vacancies here.