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How can I improve my career in pharmaceutical industry?

  1. Aug 28, 2014 #1
    I am actually working on a pharmaceutical industry and in quality control lab. as an analyst. I have 4 year chemistry bachelor degree. So, my question is what are the possibilities in this area in order to do my career up? If I go into master which qualify and benefit can I gain for myself and company purposes?
    What are the extra degrees should I study?
    What are the certificates / courses should I go?
    What are the chances of my future career opportunities in pharmaceutical industry?
    How can I educate myself to prevent from firing (from the firms)?
    Does 4 year chemistry degree enough to lift up in the career ladder for future?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2014 #2
    I'm sorry you are not finding help at the moment. Is there any additional information you can share with us?
  4. Sep 6, 2014 #3
    Unfortunately, opportunities in Pharma are extremely limited within R and D. The pharma industry was one of the leading fields for layoffs after 2008, and many of those jobs are never coming back again. Tons of R and D work is now offshored to India and China. Tons of other positions in biotech are nothing more than terrible low paying temp gigs that constantly promise permanent employment but end up never coming to fruition. There are insane amounts of competition these days for biological and chemistry position in R and D for pharma because of how many PhDs universities are pumping out coupled with the hordes of scientists that were laid off a few years back. It is not unheard of to get 200+ applications for a scientist position in pharma.

    If you are determined to stay within pharma, other ideas that may not sound as glorious, but may have slightly better job stability may be related to regulatory affairs (RA) and compliance watch. It is harder to offshore those fields because you must abide by US law if you are selling drugs in this country. Other certificates/training that may help significantly boost your resume--6 sigma training, GMP knowledge, etc.

    There are very specialized scientific fields, however, that seem to have better prospects than a traditional molecular biology, organic synthesis, etc. For example, bioanalytical specialists (people who can identify how drugs are metabolized) always seem to be in demand. Becoming an expert in bioanalytical techniques is not trivial and requires extensive training in cutting edge mass spectrometry technology, extensive training in how to develop new analytical methods from scratch that may have to meet GMP standards, and training in how to accurately perform statistical analyses to identify metabolites or even be able write algorithms to assist in analysis.

    A 4 year chemistry degree will not get you very far in pharma unless you get some very lucky breaks. You'll be stuck forever doing lab technician work and/or monotonous, possibly low paying, QA work. I'd suggest looking to take the plunge into the more business side, or the regulatory aspect, or researching the market health of highly trained specialists in analytical fields (which you'll have to go back and train for).
  5. Sep 7, 2014 #4


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    I agree with gravenewworld about the lack of opportunities in R & D opportunities, although much of the outsourcing is actually not to India and China per se but to clinical research organizations (CROs), which are essentially contracting/consulting companies for the pharma/biotech industries (yes, some of these CROs have research labs/offices in India and China as well, but they also hire extensively within the US and elsewhere -- I know, I work in one of these).

    However, I disagree about opportunities within RA -- there really isn't that much of an opportunity within that field (since RA departments tend to be rather small in most pharma or biotech companies that I'm aware of), and they tend to require people with backgrounds in clinical research rather than lab tech work. And US-based CROs can often provide RA services to biotech or pharma companies -- there isn't a requirement that RA departments must reside within the same firm, only that there are people available who understand US law and compliance. And I'm dubious as to whether 6 sigma training or GMP knowledge will really be a resume booster, since these training are more often than not mandatory for all pharma workers who work within either R&D or in the clinical field (with GCP being the substitute for GMP for those in clinical research).

    To the OP:

    I do concur that a 4 year chemistry degree won't get you too far within pharma. If you want to stay within pharma or biotech, my suggestions include the following:

    (1) Are you good at writing technical documents? Then consider becoming a medical writer. They are responsible for preparing the key documents like the study protocol, clinical study report, and other technical documents that are required for submissions to the regulatory authorities. There are certificate programs offered in community colleges that offer training, but even that isn't strictly required. Having a strong science background and good communications are all that is required.

    (2) If you are willing to go back to school, consider pursuing a pharmacy degree. Certified pharmacists work in various capacities within the pharma or biotech industries and they are always in demand.

    (3) Another possibility is to consider becoming a clinical research associate (CRA) -- people who are responsible for co-ordinating clinical trial activities for the pharma/biotech companies. There are certificate programs offered in community colleges that could qualify you in this area, and they are in demand.

    (4) How strong are your math skills? Do you have an aptitude for statistics or statistical analysis? Then consider a graduate program in biostatistics (either at the MS or PhD level). I've known people with a background in chemistry pursuing graduate programs in biostatistics and who are working as biostatisticians.

    (5) Since you already have a chemistry background, another possibility would be to consider pursuing a second degree or a MS in chemical engineering. Having an engineering degree certification can qualify you in areas like manufacturing which tend to have more opportunities open. Not to mention that it opens opportunities outside of pharma.

    (6) What gravenewworld mentioned above about bioanalytical specialists.
  6. Mar 17, 2016 #5
    i really wants to appreciate the answer and for the discussion, i have the same query and now i get a bit idea about it.
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