Pharmaceutical chemists specialize in developing new drugs for the treatment of all manner of medical ailments. It differs from the field of medicinal chemistry in that it focuses almost exclusively on the research and development of new drugs and the process of bringing them to market through various mandatory testing stages. A graduate degree is usually a prerequisite for getting a job in drug research, design and analysis.
General Program Information
A broad range of schools offer a Master of Science degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. Many schools have a pharmaceutical sciences degree program that covers the same material and provides students with the same knowledge base needed for employment as pharmaceutical researchers.
A core of science classes including biochemistry, organic chemistry and pharmaceutical engineering form the nucleus of the master's programs. Students may also be required to take some classes that address the business aspect of drug development, such as project management and organizational behavior. Other courses that can be part of these degree programs include toxicology , drug discovery principles, pharmaceutical analysis, drug delivery, applied statistics and classes covering regulatory and ethical issues.
Ph.D. programs in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences are also available. These programs may be better suited to students who would like to pursue careers as academic researchers. Ph.D. programs are research intensive and may include coursework in ethics, pharmacokinetics, equilibrium and system approaches used in research.
Graduate programs in pharmaceutical chemistry or the pharmaceutical sciences usually require the applicant to have a bachelor's degree in a related foundational science discipline, like chemistry or chemical engineering. Ph.D. programs generally require students to have a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field as a condition of admission.
Programs may also require students to write a personal statement or statement of goals, provide two or three academic references and submit a resume that details any prior research experience. Some programs require a minimum GRE score. International students may be asked to take the TOEFL, IELTS or PTE Academic test to demonstrate English proficiency.
Pharmaceutical chemistry grads generally work as chemists, but there are two major branches: analytical chemistry and synthetic chemistry. A synthetic chemist focuses on designing drugs and their delivery method, while the main focus of an analytical chemist's job is to refine drugs to be certain that they can be measured properly during clinical trials.
These jobs can be in both private industry and in government. At a pharmaceutical company, chemists will work to develop and refine new drugs to bring to market. In government, a pharmaceutical chemist would likely work for a regulatory body (such as the Food and Drug Administration) in reviewing the drugs their peers in private industry develop for approval.
Students looking to move on to an immediate career with a pharmaceutical company or in government can find both master's degrees and Ph.D. programs in pharmaceutical chemistry. Admissions to these programs generally require a bachelor's degree in a related field.