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Make the move into pharma

Pharmacists should value the mix of clinical and scientific knowledge that makes them an asset within industry.

Pharmacists should value the mix of clinical and scientific knowledge that makes them an asset within industry.


In the global pharmaceutical industry, a diverse range of career opportunities are on offer for people of varied disciplines. Pharmacists are highly suited to careers within the industry thanks to their understanding of pre-clinical science, drug development processes, drug licensing and how patients use the medicines they are prescribed.

Yet many pharmacists perceive a career in industry to be out of reach — only accessible to those with PhDs or with highly specialist skills. During research undertaken for the ‘Switching to industry’ career feature, we found that leaders in industry think this belief can deter pharmacists from entering the sector. However, this is a misconception. The feature describes why pharmacists are well placed to pursue all kinds of jobs in pharmaceutical companies and gives some ideas about how to make the switch.

There are no official statistics on the number of pharmacists who work in the pharmaceutical industry. Figures from the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) show that 6.8% of the pharmacy workforce in Europe work in the sector, which is on a par with the Americas but far below south-east Asia where nearly a third of pharmacists have careers in pharma.

In a 2013 survey by the General Pharmaceutical Council of more than 15,000 registered pharmacists in Great Britain, only 3% of respondents had their main job in industry. So more practising pharmacists could find work in the sector.

As an early route into industry, some pharmacy graduates will do part of their pre-registration training in a pharmaceutical company, but there are limited places available. Pharmacy students would be wise to at least consider the option of establishing themselves as pharmaceutical scientists without necessarily becoming registered pharmacists.

Other science students have to think creatively about their options leading up to graduation whereas pharmacy has long been considered a vocation — a degree that leads to an established career, registration and a job in one go. But with potential surpluses in pharmacy graduates above the number of pre-registration training places, and no guarantee of a job thereafter, it stands to reason that pharmacy students should value highly the mix of science and patient perspective provided by the pharmacy degree. The pharmaceutical industry does.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068146

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