Career Info for a Pharmaceutical Sciences Degree

Degree programs in pharmaceutical science typically cover anatomy, physiology, pathology, chemistry, the history of medicine and related subjects. Learn about the education and training requirements, career options, job growth and salary information for graduates in the field of pharmaceutical science.

A degree in pharmaceutical sciences is an ideal educational background for those interested in working as a pharmacist or in pharmaceutical sales. Those who earn a Ph.D. in this field may become pharmaceutical researchers.

Essential Information

Pharmaceutical science programs may open a variety of career opportunities for individuals interested in drugs and medicine. Graduates of degree programs may be qualified to work as pharmacists, pharmacological researchers or pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Job Options Pharmacist Pharmaceutical Researchers Pharmaceutical Sales Reps
Required Education Pharm.D Ph.D. Bachelor's
Other Requirements NAPLEX licensure, State MPJE certification Teaching certificate Sales experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% 8% 7%
Average Salary (2015)* $119,270 $92,900 $89,170

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmaceutical Sciences Degree Information

Individuals interested in pharmaceutical sciences may choose from a variety of degree programs, such as a bachelor's or master's degree, a Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy) or a doctorate degree. The Pharm.D. degree differs from the other programs because it is a professional degree required of all pharmacists who work in the U.S. Students in pharmaceutical sciences programs typically learn about anatomy, physiology, pathology, chemistry, the history of medicine and related subjects. Graduates of a pharmaceutical science program may work as pharmacists, pharmaceutical researchers or salespersons for drug manufacturers.

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Careers for a Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences


Pharmacists are responsible for filling patients' prescriptions, monitoring for drug interactions and allergies and ensuring patients receive the correct dosage of their medications. Some pharmacists may manage their own pharmacies, as well as supervising assistants and aides. Other pharmacists may work in healthcare settings, where they advise doctors on the uses and indications of various medications and administer or prepare drugs for on-site use.

Pharmacists must complete a Pharm.D. degree program and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) to legally work in the U.S. All but eight states require pharmacists to complete the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which involves pharmacy law.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for pharmacists is expected to increase by 3% between 2014 and 2024, as an aging population increases demand for medicine and medical treatment. As of May 2015, the mean salary for pharmacists was $119,270.

Pharmaceutical Researchers

Pharmaceutical researchers work for drug and medicine manufacturers, universities or research institutions. They develop and test new drugs before submitting them to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. Individuals who work for pharmaceutical companies are typically involved in applied research, working to find specific cures for maladies. Researchers at universities may conduct more pure or self-directed research. These professionals may have teaching responsibilities, as well as research duties, and they must hold a Ph.D.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Salaries for scientific researchers vary widely, depending on the job title and education level. According to the BLS, biochemists and biophysicists made an annual mean salary of $93,390 in 2015. The BLS also reported that pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers had the second highest employment level for these two occupations. Biological scientists in general made an annual mean wage of $79,610 as of May 2015. Medical scientists' mean annual salary as of May 2014 was $92,900. The BLS anticipated employment for medical scientists to increase by 8% from 2014-2024.

Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are responsible for representing drug companies and their medications to physicians and other potential customers. They provide samples for physicians to give to patients, interact with healthcare professionals and keep abreast of current developments in the pharmaceutical sciences. They may provide advice to clients, such as hospitals or clinics, regarding the indications (reasons for prescribing medication), uses and side effects of the medications of the company that they represent. Reps need a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences, strong interpersonal skills and sales experience.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS the mean annual salary for pharmaceutical sales representatives was $89,170 as of May 2014. The BLS anticipated that employment for sales representatives in general would increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024. Sales reps who work for an independent sales firm and have a college degree are expected to see the best job opportunities.

Pharmaceutical Sciences Certification Information

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties offers board certifications for pharmacists in six specialties - ambulatory care pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pharmacotherapy and psychiatric pharmacy. To gain board certification, one must generally have a pharmacy degree, a pharmacy license and experience in the specialty, along with passing a written exam.

The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy administers the geriatric pharmacy certification. Candidates must be a licensed pharmacist with two or more years of experience and pass a written exam. One must re-certify every five years.

According to, registered or licensed pharmacists working in the specialty pharmacotherapy had a median salary of $119,586 and pharmacists in the retail pharmacy specialty earned a median salary of $117,812 as of October 2016.

Pharmacists fill prescriptions, ensure there are no suspected problems with allergies or drug interactions, and make sure patients understand how to take medication. Pharmaceutical sales professionals ensure medications are stocked by physicians and pharmacies; and pharmaceutical researchers develop new medications. In addition to a degree in pharmaceutical studies, pharmacists must be licensed and certified, while pharmaceutical researchers must hold a Ph.D.

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