Biotech Pharmaceutical Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Biotech pharmaceutical workers research, develop and test new medicines that can prevent and treat diseases. Education requirements depend on a person's role in this field; however, an advanced degree for scientists and engineers is preferred.

The degree needed for a job at a pharmaceutical company in the biotech industry, as well as the expected salary, varies based on the worker's job title. An undergraduate degree is needed for lower-level jobs, while scientific leadership positions typically require graduate-level study in biology or chemistry.

Essential Information

There are a variety of jobs available at pharmaceutical companies in the biotech industry. Possible job titles include medical scientist, chemical engineer, biological technician and chemical technician. Scientists and engineers are responsible for pharmaceutical research project design and problem-solving, while technicians implement experimental plans and operate manufacturing equipment.

Job Title Medical Scientist Chemical Engineer Biological Technician Chemical Technician
Degree Required M.D. or Doctoral Bachelor's (Master's may be preferred) Bachelor's Associate's
Median Salary* (2015) $82,240 $97,360 $41,650 $44,660
Job Growth* (2014-2024) 8% 2% 5% 2%
  • Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Biotech Pharmaceutical Jobs

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the top paying industries for medical scientists. Job prospects are especially good for life scientists with a doctoral degree. Because of new advances in technology, genetics and manufacturing, this is a rapidly developing industry (www.bls.gov). The two types of workers in the field include professional and production workers.

Professional Occupations in Biotech Pharmaceuticals

Scientists, chemists, engineers and science technicians fall under the category of professional workers. They research and test drugs before the medicines can be manufactured. Commonly, they focus on a very specific cause such as slowing the advancement of a disease. Using techniques such as computer simulation, chemistry and screening, professional workers experiment with new compounds and conduct trials on animals and people. Salary can vary based on specialty. For example, Payscale.com reports that, as of January 2017, chemists made an annual median salary of $53,956, while chemical engineers made a median salary of $72,787.

Production Occupations in Biotech Pharmaceuticals

Following approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a drug can be produced on a large scale. Production workers oversee the manufacturing, assembly and packaging of the drugs. Machine setters, inspectors and tablet testers are common roles, as are positions that focus exclusively on quality control and quality assurance. According to Payscale.com as of January 2017, pharmaceutical products assemblers made an average hourly wage of $13.44.

Job Requirements for Biotech Pharmaceutical Careers

For most professional biotech pharmaceutical occupations, a bachelor's degree is required. Many scientists and engineers also possess a master's degree or a doctoral degree. Common areas of study include biology, biochemical engineering or genetics. Employees who actually give drugs to patients in trials must have attended medical school.

For a lab technician position, it is necessary to hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in biological or chemical science. They receive on-the-job training, but for some positions, candidates with previous work experience in manufacturing may be preferred.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, successful candidates should offer companies more than a singular research focus (www.bls.gov). More than ever, interdisciplinary science skills are important, as are teamwork and the ability to communicate effectively. Even graphic design knowledge can make someone stand out in this competitive industry.

For individuals who want to work in a pharmaceutical company in the biotech industry, there are a variety of positions available. It is possible to get a top scientist job or pursue a work as a lower-level technician in research or production.

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