Science and pharmaceuticals sector profile

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Do you have an inquisitive mind? Are you passionate about science? If you always want to know how something works or always have a strategic plan for making something new, working in the science and pharmaceuticals sector could be ideal for you.

Are you interested in the science and pharmaceuticals sector? Learn about what the pharmaceutical industry is.

Different areas of the science and pharmaceuticals sector

Science and research

Science encompasses all areas of the scientific world that you could go into, whether this is biology, chemistry or physics. The science field is much broader than doing experiments in test tubes. You could study the impact of climate change on the natural world, work in forensics for the police or even study volcanic activity. Jobs in science and research require very high-level knowledge in the field you want to work in plus excellent critical thinking and researching skills. 


Pharmaceuticals are the medical drugs that you use to get better. This is anything from the paracetamol that you might take for a headache to antibiotics for infections to complex drugs intended to fight rare diseases. When working in pharmaceuticals, you may produce the drugs, following detailed recipes and making very precise measurements of components to produce the pills and medicine that the public needs. You could work in a pharmacy, weighing out medicine and providing specially prepared orders for patients. You could even be on the research side, making new drugs and conducting experiments about the most efficient ways to treat people.

Typical roles in science and pharmaceuticals sector

Since the sector is broad and encompasses everything considered ‘science’, there are many jobs available that you might be interested in pursuing. Here are the career paths available to you in the science and pharmaceuticals sector:


As a chemist, it’s your job to conduct research through your experiment to make progress in the world of chemistry. You typically work for a university being paid to research and teach students on the main advancements in the field. You write up your work into research papers that you publish in academic journals and attend conferences at which you speak if you make recognised advancements in the field.


As an astronomer, you use your scientific knowledge to study the universe. The phenomena that you study in the universe could be anything from gravitational fields to supernovas but the great part of a research-based job like this is that you choose the area of astronomy that you’re interested in. Having an in-depth understanding of mathematical principles, physics and how astrological bodies interact with each other is necessary for this job. Part of your work is often using large telescopes either on earth or in space to make observations about the universe. You write up your research into research papers and present at conferences when you make a recognised discovery. Most astronomers are employed by universities or space agencies like NASA.

Biomedical Engineer

In a biomedical engineer job, you design medical equipment to make advancements in healthcare. This includes everything from biomedical equipment to help make surgery safer with shorter recovery times and life support machines down to technology to monitor heart rates. Being a biomedical engineer requires a combination of high-level engineering skills with medical understanding to produce an efficient and helpful piece of equipment. 

Clinical Scientist

As a clinical scientist, you help treat and prevent disease and illness. This is by developing testing procedures that doctors and medical staff can use to test for diseases then treat them if necessary. Like biomedical engineering, you need high-level medical knowledge and engineering ability.

Chemical Engineer

When working as a chemical engineer, you combine your understanding of chemistry and engineering to make new industrial equipment. This could be for producing all manner of products that we use on a daily basis from food to cosmetics to chemicals. In this role, you conduct research on the best methods to manufacture products, maintain health and safety standards and write up the best methods of dealing with hazardous chemicals. Your job is designing and building the equipment then working out any issues that the end-user might have. Your working environment as a chemical engineer is spread between a lab, an office and various industrial plants. 

Crime Scene Investigator

As a crime scene investigator, you are responsible for collecting evidence from a crime scene. In this role, the evidence you gather could be anything from clothing to hair follicles. You secure the crime scene and make sure that none of the officers present accidentally remove or damage any of the evidence. Having really good attention to detail helps you in this role so you can meticulously search the crime scene for anything that could help with the investigation or be used in court. As such, you may attend a court hearing and give evidence to explain to the jury what the evidence you gathered means.

Pharmaceutical Sales

Your job in pharmaceutical sales is to bring new products to doctors either in hospitals or local surgeries and pitch to them the benefits of using those products over the ones already in rotation. You could sell anything from drugs to treat illnesses to equipment designed to make treating patients easier for the medical staff. Being in pharmaceutical sales means being confident and persuasive but also having a good understanding of illnesses and how the products you’re selling treat them. 

In pharmaceutical sales, part of your work is attending conventions where you sell the products and meet and network with high-level medical professionals who make decisions on the type of drugs and equipment used in the hospital or practice. 

Learn more about what kind of pharmaceutical jobs there are.

Skills and qualifications

Getting ahead in the science and pharmaceutical sector requires having a combination of key skills and qualifications. Here’s what you need to succeed in the sector:

Hard skills

  • Good understanding of your field. Producing great work in the science and pharmaceutical sector means being an expert in your field. You need to have a top-notch understanding of the work that’s already been done in the field and take the time to keep up with developments by going to conferences and reading research papers.
  • Lab work. Many jobs in the science and pharmaceuticals sector require some lab work. Understanding the safety techniques that you need to use in a lab alongside all the equipment that you need to use helps you work safely and effectively in the field.

Soft skills

  • Risk analysis. Working in the science and pharmaceuticals sector requires being able to analyse risks. For jobs like chemical engineer, chemist and biomedical engineer, you’re often working in labs with potentially harmful chemicals so creating a risk assessment for yourself, your colleagues and the end-users of the products you’re making is important for everyone’s safety.
  • Research. Many of these jobs require you to conduct your own research. For chemists, astronomers, biomedical engineers and clinical scientists, conducting research and coming to your own conclusions helps you make the most up to date products thatmake a real difference to the field. All these jobs plus pharmaceutical sales also include doing secondary research and learning about what other people have concluded.
  • Critical thinking. Science jobs require great critical thinking skills so you can get to the real meaning behind the research you conduct. As an astronomer, thinking critically about why a planet, star or other astronomical body is behaving in the way it is could help you make amazing scientific discoveries. Similarly, as a biomedical engineer, understanding the impact of a disease or illness on a patient helps you produce the best equipment to manage and treat the patient.
  • Written skills. Jobs that require research often require written skills. If your work as a chemist or astronomer involves making your own discoveries, you’re usually expected to write up your discoveries as a research paper. Having great written skills means your work is more likely to be published in higher profile journals meaning it will have a wider readership and more acclaim. 

Are you interested in a career in this sector? Learn about what pharmaceutical firms look for in a successful graduate application.


Many jobs in the science and pharmaceuticals sector need high-level qualifications. For astronomers and chemists, having a PhD and postgraduate research in the relevant discipline is a requirement. 

Biomedical engineers typically only require an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject like biomedical engineering, biomedical science or mechanical engineering. Similarly, clinical scientists require an undergraduate degree in biology, genetics, biochemistry or biomedical science. If you choose to, completing an NHS scientist training programme qualifies you to work in the clinical science field. Chemical engineers typically only require an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering or biochemical engineering. 

Crime scene investigators either require an undergraduate degree in forensic science or criminology or a direct application to the police force then a course to become a crime scene investigator from the college of policing

To get into pharmaceutical sales, you could work towards a degree in biology, pharmacy or a related subject. Alternatively, you could have an apprenticeship in sales. You can explore the apprenticeships available right now with the government’s apprenticeship search tool or see the apprenticeships available by searching with UCAS.


The range of salaries that you might expect from jobs in the science and pharmaceuticals sector varies based on the job, the industry and the weight given to the project you’re working on. Here are the salaries that you could reach in the sector:

  • Science and research. As a biomedical engineer or a crime scene investigator, you could earn between £20,000 and £45,000 per year. Astronomers earn £28,000 to £75,000 per year where chemical engineers and clinical scientists earn £30,000 to £65,000 per year.
  • Pharmaceuticals. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you earn between £28,000 and £55,000 per year whilst chemists earn from £20,000 to £40,000 per year.

Do you want to know more about salaries in the sector? Here is a guide to pharmaceutical salaries.

Key employers

Does working in the sector look great to you? Learn more about who the big pharmaceutical companies are.

The application process 

CV and cover letter

Getting your dream job in the science and pharmaceuticals sector means writing a great application. Your application begins with a tailored CV and cover letter. Writing your CV for the job you’re applying for means a hiring manager is more likely to recognise your great experience. When writing about your work history, instead of mentioning your responsibilities, you should write about what you achieved in the role. If you need some help writing a great CV, read this article to learn how to write a CV.

Alongside your CV, you should have a great cover letter. Your cover letter should be individual and directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. To make your cover letter stand out, try using the information from the job description. If a hiring manager wants someone with great research skills, show them the previous experience of where you gained research skills and how they’ve helped you in your work. Be cautious not to oversell your skills to the point that what you’re writing isn’t true. If you want to learn more about writing a great cover letter, you can follow this guide on how to write a cover letter and impress prospective employers.

Some jobs in the sector require a more specific application. When applying for research-based jobs like astronomer and chemist, you should list the publications you’ve been involved with during your PhD and any postdoctoral research, the summary of all your research so far and the contributions you’ve made to the field, your proposal for future research, why this is of interest and how it could progress the field and reference letters. Success in this stage leads to interviews with your prospective employers.


If a hiring manager likes the look of your application, they will invite you in for an interview. Interviews often involve responding to specific questions which test your understanding of the industry and the job. Preparing yourself for the interview means learning about the organisation including its work and outputs, learning about what’s involved in the job and refreshing yourself on your own education and work history. You should also prepare some questions about the job and the organisation that you want to be answered during the interview. Remember, an interview is a time for the organisation to sell itself to you, not just the other way around. If you want some helpful tips, here’s how to tackle face-to-face, phone and video interviews.

Do you want to join this exciting sector? Learn about the top pharmaceutical graduate schemes you should be considering.

Science and pharmaceuticals sector graduate jobs and schemes

Browse graduate opportunities in science and pharmaceuticals

Interested in working in the science and pharmaceutical sector? Browse graduate opportunities available to you and take the first step towards your future career.