Pharmaceutical Science Professions: Job Duties & Career Info

Read on to learn more about pharmaceutical science professions. Get the details about education and training options. See what the career prospects and earning potential are, and the alternative career options available.

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Career Definition for a Pharmaceutical Science Professional

Pharmaceutical science professionals perform research to ensure that medications meet government standards and are produced in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner. For example, medical scientists in pharmaceutical companies research drugs and medical equipment and complete clinical trials to ensure that the drugs meet the requirements of the Federal Drug Administration, while biochemists study gene mutations and virus structure to develop medications and vaccines.

Required Education Usually, a master's of doctoral degree; some entry-level posts open to bachelor's degree holders
Job Skills Analytical and research skills, communication skills, strong mathematics background
Median Salary (2015)* $62,160 (life, physical, and social science occupations within the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 8% growth (biochemists, biophysicists and medical scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most jobs in pharmaceutical science require a master's or doctoral degree, but some entry-level jobs are open to candidates who only possess 4-year bachelor's degrees. Advanced research positions require a doctorate and years of research experience. Most students take between two and four years to complete a master's degree or doctorate program. Students interested in becoming pharmaceutical science professionals should take courses like pharmacology, chemistry, biology, anatomy, and mathematics.

Skills Needed

Pharmaceutical science professionals need to be able to gather, analyze, and understand complex medical data and must have an eye for detail. They should have excellent communication skills and should have a strong mathematics background.

Career and Economic Outlook

Salaries for pharmaceutical science professionals vary depending on the career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median salary for life, physical, and social science occupations within the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry was $62,160 in May 2015.

Technological advances have made it easier for new medications to be created and tested cost effectively, creating job opportunities. Employment prospects vary by career, too. The BLS predicts that jobs for biochemists and biophysicists and jobs for medical scientists will increase 8% from 2014-2024.

Alternate Career Options

Natural Sciences Manager

Natural sciences managers oversee and coordinate the work that goes on in a lab. Responsibilities include managing workflow, budgeting, hiring and training staff, and reviewing teams' work. Education and training requirements vary widely, and usually depend on the requirements for employment as a scientist in that field; natural sciences managers are usually former scientists with many years of experience. They often hold a bachelor's degree or greater in a scientific field. Some hold a management degree, like a Master of Business Administration. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 3% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The median pay for natural sciences managers was $120,160 in 2015, again per the BLS.

Epidemiologist

An epidemiologist researches incidences of disease or illness, seeking patterns so that observations can be turned into actionable steps for treatment and prevention. Some epidemiologists perform outreach work in collaboration with public health agencies. Areas of specialization include infectious diseases, maternal and child health, bioterrorism, environmental health, occupational health, and more. Employment typically requires at least a master's degree in epidemiology or a related field; some epidemiologists have a second degree in medicine. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will increase 6% from 2014-2024; the BLS also reports that epidemiologists earned median pay of $69,450 in 2015.

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