The pharmaceuticals sector is the scaffolding supporting the medical world, drip-feeding hospitals, pharmacies and patients in need with the medicine and treatment that keeps our nation fighting fit. However, there's more to the question, "what is the pharmaceutical industry?" Pharmaceuticals goes a lot deeper than the dispensaries you encounter when you pick up a repeat prescription. Behind the scenes, an army of scientists, engineers and researchers work hard to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare. You might consider them unsung heroes, because the quality of their operations gives millions of people the chance to lead a normal life, or recover from illness.
How is the pharmaceutical industry different to other science and medical sectors?
Pharmaceutical careers are often seen as the attractive middle ground between science and medicine. This sector is changing the world as we know it, without requiring you to be a GP, surgeon or nurse to make a difference. Likewise, it’s a popular path for science and engineering graduates who want to make a real difference with their skills, lending you an enviable feel-good factor.
While there is invariably crossover between the work in all three sectors, pharmacy appeals to graduates looking for a job that’s well paid, but also extremely rewarding on a day-to-day basis.
Roles in pharmaceuticals
The pharmaceutical industry is a potent cocktail of skills and expertise, leaving plenty of opportunities for graduates of all disciplines to break into this fascinating sector.
Chemical engineer: Ground-breaking developments are led by chemical engineers, who develop new medicines and treatments based on scientific research.
Scientist: Pharmaceutical scientists dedicate their careers to research that lays the foundation for medical breakthroughs, enhancing our understanding of the human body, diseases and how to treat them.
Research assistant: Research can take months, or even years, which is why professionals rely on research assistants to help them see a project to fruition. This can be an entry-level job or a rewarding career path in itself.
Pharmacist: Perhaps the role we all associate with the industry, pharmacists prepare and dispense medicines for patients, either within a hospital, GP practice or pharmacy.
Pharmaceutical sales: Not got a background in science and medicine, but fancy a career in pharmaceuticals? Sales roles allow you to dive into the industry and meet inspiring people every day, without an in-depth knowledge of medicine.
Learn more about what kind of pharmaceutical roles there are.
Skills pharmaceutical firms look for
- Keen researcher: Compiling and analysing reams of data doesn’t phase you.
- Problem solver: You love searching for answers where they’re least expected.
- Empathy: You’re patient and comfortable dealing with sensitive issues.
- Attention to detail: Diligence is part and parcel of every project you undertake.
- Specialist skills: For roles such as chemical engineering, you have a relevant degree to back it up.
Learn more about what pharmaceutical firms look for in successful graduate applications.
Key pharmaceutical companies
It goes without saying that the NHS is a big player in the pharmaceutical market, but before new medicines hit the shelves, pharmaceutical firms have a lot of work to do. Here are a few of the top dogs:
Did you know?
- The most expensive drug available on the NHS is Eculizumab, also known as Soliris, which can cost up to £10 million per patient over a typical treatment period.
- Penicillin was the first antibiotic to be discovered in 1928, by Alexander Fleming.
- According to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the role of pharmacists is set to grow significantly over the next few years.
Use our handy application deadline list if you're looking for the latest pharmaceutical industrial placements to kick-start your career.