Last Updated: August 01, 2021

Careers in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Pharmaceutical science is a dynamic scientific discipline that involves a detailed understanding of drugs and medicines. It is an extensive study on designing and developing better approaches each time to formulate medicines or treatments that aid effective healing. A career in the Pharmaceutical industry offers many benefits. For one, it is a stable industry to be a part of. There will always be people who need medicine, and medical companies have continued to thrive over the years, no matter the economic climate. A career in pharmaceuticals can be more than just being a pharmacist.

Terms like pharmacy, pharmacology, and pharmaceutical sciences are often used interchangeably. Therefore, it should be understood that there are minute differences in these terminologies as well as the course in itself. A career in pharmacy involves medicine and healthcare distribution and management based on the needs of patients. Pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology are similar to a great extent as they are both research-intensive. The difference being, that pharmaceutical science deals with the creation, preparation, and development of different kinds of drugs or treatments, whereas pharmacology involves monitoring and understanding the uses of drugs, and their reactions on the living organism and vice-versa. The pharmaceutical industry is also responsible for the research and development that go into making these products, manufacturing them, and marketing them for sale to pharmacies, drugstores, and doctors. One can be a pharmacy assistant with a high school diploma or GED, and even a pharmacy technician with a high school diploma or associate degree, but any other position in the pharmaceutical industry requires a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Career Opportunities for Undergraduates

Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, the BSPS program, is where students will focus on the scientific aspects of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. After the core classes required by the institute, some of the courses one can expect to take are organic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, calculus, statistics, and of course, pharmacology. This is a 4-year program and during the final year, the students will complete an internship where they will receive hands-on experience, hopefully helping to land a job after graduation. Students of the BSPS program can also qualify to further their education in graduate school for veterinary medicine, dental, and optometry. With the BSPS degree, students can focus on a few different careers within the pharmacy and healthcare industry. The B.Pharm degree or Bachelor of Pharmacy is a four-year program that lays the foundation to become a pharmacist. This gives the option to work as a technician or assistant in a pharmacy. Some popular career options include Pharmaceutical Salesperson, Community Pharmacist, and Hospital Pharmacist.

Career Opportunities for Graduates

Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, or the MSPS degree program, focuses even more closely on the science of the industry. One can pursue a master’s in pharmacology, a master’s in pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems, a master's in pharmacy, or a master’s in toxicology. The MSPS focuses on the applied research in drug delivery and target audiences, using both medicinal and computational chemistry, pharmaceutics, pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within the body), pharmacodynamics (the biochemical and physiological effects of drugs), immunology, and molecular and cell biology.

Students pursuing an MSPS degree will have to do extensive lab work and research during the program, as well as a final thesis. This program of study will take about 2 years. Students who choose a master’s in pharmacology can expect to take courses such as research skills, drug design, biochemistry, biometrics, and physiology. If the candidate is interested in applying for a master's in pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems, some coursework may include biometrics, biochemistry, physical pharmacy, pharmacokinetics, and drug metabolism. Finally, when pursuing a master’s in toxicology, it will include courses on molecular cell biology, biochemical toxicology, environmental toxicology, and organ systems toxicology.

Popular career options include Drug Analyst and Nuclear Pharmacist.

Doctor of Pharmacy

To become a well-established pharmacist, and not just a technician or assistant in the science of pharmaceuticals, one must obtain a PharmD degree. As a pharmacist, it is essential to have extensive knowledge of all the different types of medications that will be dispensed to patients and how they work and how they affect people, how to take them, and any interactions with other drugs. It will not only be about dispensing medication to patients as a pharmacist, but it will also be about counseling them on how to safely take the medications, or administer them. To practice as a pharmacist, one has to obtain a license by taking both the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

Some of the disciplines of the PharmD program are pharmaceutical chemistry (designing and evaluating drugs with the use of chemistry), pharmacognosy (the study of drugs obtained from plants, animals, or other natural sources), physiology, therapeutics, immunology, anatomy, immunology, and pharmacology (the study of the uses and effects of the drugs on the human body). Along with those focuses, one will also learn how to dispense medications and counsel patients on their medications. During this program, the individual will be assigned long-term clinical rotations to be allowed to work with patients, doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. As a pharmacist, the individual will not only have the career option of working in a drug store or standalone pharmacy, but also work in hospitals, for government agencies, and elsewhere in the pharmaceutical industry. Another notable position is that of a pharmaceutical researcher which involves extensive research and experiments related to drugs, medications, and new treatments.

Popular career options include Research Scientist and Nuclear Pharmacist.

PhD in Pharmacology

To be a pharmacologist or a research scientist in the field of pharmacology, a Ph.D. in Pharmacology is essential. It takes about five to six years to complete the course and has various topics that include behavioral pharmacology, physiology, neuroscience, biomedical sciences, and more. This may be followed by further scientific or academic research, or even give way to teach in universities. Other than that, the degree has a lot more career opportunities to offer. Similar to a Doctorate in Pharmacy, the popular job options after completing Ph.D. in Pharmacology include Research Scientist, Nuclear Pharmacist, and also Neuroscientist.

Popular Job Options for Students with Pharmacy Degree

Pharmaceutical/Drug Manufacturing

Being a drug manufacturer involves ensuring the economic availability of drugs and medications required for medical ailments, on a large scale. This also includes helping to research and develop new products or drugs in laboratories, maintain records, and follow many other required procedures.
Qualifications and Salary This is an entry-level job that requires a bachelor's and maybe a few internships that will provide job experience. One can achieve a higher position, possibly in an administrative role with further educational qualifications. The average annual income for a drug manufacturing job will be around $71,000 and may vary based on location, skills, and experience.

Drug Analysis

This is a job that requires the individual to assist in performing lab tests, analyze and research on collected samples, and produce interpretations. The job also requires desired skills in technology and handling the functions of various equipment, along with the checking of the quality of different chemicals or drugs. With further education, this field will possibly help to get into forensic research and analysis.
Qualification and Salary To work as a drug or pharmaceutical analyst on a preliminary level, one can complete a bachelor's degree in pharmacy or pharmacology along with a few internships for basic experience. The average annual income of a drug analyst will be approximately $70,000 and the estimate may differ based on location, and experience.

Pharmaceutical Sales

This is a field where one is required to provide assistance and relevant strategies to promote and sell drugs to customers according to their requirements. The individual is required to be knowledgeable enough to inform the public about the uses, benefits, or side effects of the respective drugs. This job requires, great communication skills and marketing skills as it is a business and service-oriented job.
Qualification and Salary A bachelor's degree in pharmacy is enough to start as a potential pharmaceutical sales representative. The average annual income (as of 2021) for pharmaceutical sales representatives may be around $51,000 to $122,000 depending on the skills and work experience.

Community Pharmacist

The job of a community pharmacist is to prescribe medicines to customers while informing them about the dosage, usage, benefits, side effects, etc., on a basic level. Additionally, they are required to verify the prescriptions, check the blood pressure of patients, vaccinate if required, monitor the availability and supply of the medicines, and work in association with physicians and doctors. Considering that the job is service-oriented, the community pharmacist will mostly stay in touch with the public and will require great skills in communication to make the people aware of treatments and the drugs they will be using. Training interns and assistants in the pharmacy and assigning them various duties is another responsibility of the community pharmacist.
Qualification and Salary With a B.Pharm., it is possible to gain experience as an assistant or intern. To work as a community pharmacist or move further on an administrative role within the field, one has to complete the D.Pharm degree. The base average income of a community pharmacist in 2021 will vary from around $97,000 to $123,000, annually.

Research Scientist

Becoming a research scientist in the field of medicine requires extensive study along with conducting experiments, investigating the existing drugs, finding loopholes or side effects if any, bringing out new treatment procedures or drugs or modify the existing ones, etc. The area of research here will not always be restricted to medicine, but may also include aspects of various disorders and other maladies. A research scientist is to keep in touch with other pharmaceutical industries or scientists in the field to promote and implement ideas or new findings. One may also go on to write papers or journals and publish them.
Qualification and Salary A master's degree or a doctorate is usually essential to potentially begin a career as a research scientist. The average annual income of a medical research scientist in 2021 is around $85,000 to $116,000. The estimate may differ based on location, qualification, skills, and experience.

Nuclear Pharmacist

This is a unique and more specific field within the pharmaceutical field. A nuclear pharmacist or a radio pharmacist mainly formulates and tests certain drugs or medical procedures that involve the usage of radioactive substances. This is done either for the treatment of any major illness, or used as a curative measure, or used for diagnosis. They are required to ensure the availability, supply, and storage of radiopharmaceuticals. They also need to have a sound knowledge about the preparation of each medication for the specific patient according to the disease and maintain and operate various instruments and devices used for it.
Qualification and Salary To become successful in this field, it is important to have a B.Pharm and Pharm D. along with the authorization certificate and a two-year fellowship program. Sufficient training is also essential to get through as a licensed nuclear pharmacist. The average base salary of a nuclear pharmacist is around $143,000, annually, which will vary according to the experience, skills, and location.

Hospital Pharmacist

As the name suggests, working as a hospital pharmacist includes prescribing medicines and treatments to patients within the hospital premises or a nursing home. Along with the prescription of drugs, the pharmacist is also required to observe the dosage and usage of these drugs for every patient (regardless of age) specifically, thereby, making necessary modifications to the treatments or usage till the patient is discharged. The hospital pharmacist is also responsible for taking care of the availability of different antibiotics and drugs, evaluate the safety of these medications, and make sure of the supply and hospital stocks.
Qualification and Salary An undergraduate course, followed by a Pharm D. degree, along with the desired occupational skills are essential to fulfill the qualifications for this role. The average pay scale is approximately $112,000 annually and can be expected to vary depending on the location, skill, and experience.

Neuroscientist

These scientists do extensive research on the structure, anatomy, and functionality of the nervous system and strive to develop procedures, medicines, or treatments that help minimize or alleviate disorders related to the nervous system. Neuroscientists are often supposed to be knowledgeable in the field of computer science, pharmacology, and most importantly, behavioral science or psychology to come up with new ideas or advancements in this field. Research and experiments may be conducted either based on the function of a specific organ (for eg, brain) and the disorders or injuries related to it or on a more pharmacological basis where one focuses on the effects and side-effects of certain drugs on humans.
Qualification and Salary To pursue a career as a neuroscientist one can complete undergraduate and doctorate degrees in pharmacology. To proceed further in the field of research and strengthen the area of knowledge, one can even opt for a post-doctorate. The average annual income for a neuroscientist estimated in the year 2021 is around $82,000 which may increase according to the location, desired skills, and years of experience.

Other Popular Career Options

With an advanced degree in pharmacy or pharmacology, one can be sure of acquiring jobs in the education sector like a lecturer or assistant professor, or even the business sector like a quality analyst or sales representative. As an alternative, other potential job options include clinical pharmacist, toxicologist, natural science manager, medicinal chemist, medical science liaison, science writer, and so much more.

If one is passionate about pharmaceutical sciences and is interested in a career along the pharmaceutical track, there are a variety of options available. There are also many different concentrations of study depending on the area of interest and how long one plans on attending school. It might even be a great jumping-off point for even more advanced levels of study in the medical field, but either way, it seems that a career in pharmaceuticals is a stable and fairly lucrative one. Each college and university will have its own program, but the most important aspects are generally described in this article. Pharmaceutical sciences is undoubtedly a difficult course to take up. It requires a great deal of passion, dedication, critical thinking skills, willpower, and, most importantly, years of hard work and practice. And all of this will definitely bear fruit on getting into the field of work.


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