One major attribute of the doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD) is the numerous and diverse jobs that graduates can select from. In fact, many of my cohorts have tried several different types of jobs before finally settling on a career path. The more popular jobs are in retail pharmacy and hospital pharmacy practice. Clinical pharmacy and ambulatory care added more job options. Pharmacy schools primarily educate pharmacists to practice within patient care settings. However, there is plenty of opportunity outside of patient care settings. The pharmaceutical industry (Pharma) presents many options for pharmacists.
It is interesting that the pharmacy profession is dependent on the pharmaceutical industry yet many pharmacy schools do not expose their students to pharmaceutical industry jobs. For many years the pharmaceutical industry has been considered the “dark side” by many in the pharmacy profession. If you do not subscribe to the notion that the pharmaceutical industry is evil, and you have the right skills, interest, and disposition, then you have a career waiting for you. Pharmaceutical companies have many jobs that are a close match with PharmD training. Some entry level jobs are available immediately after graduation but many jobs require a fellowship/residency, experience, or additional credentials. A pharmacist license is not required for pharmaceutical industry jobs.
You can start at an entry level position and within a few years you can surpass colleagues in retail and hospital pharmacy in job satisfaction, compensation, responsibility, and career prospects. At a time when traditional pharmacy opportunities are shrinking the pharmaceutical industry is a good sector for a long term career.
Here are examples of pharmaceutical industry jobs (Pharma jobs) for pharmacists. Select links to view job openings for each type of job across the country.
Medical Science Liaison (MSL)
MSLs positions have proliferated in the last several years. This role involves building relationships with key decision makers and educating healthcare providers about the latest research and treatment guidelines that impact use of the company's products. MSLs work closely with the sales and marketing teams to support the company's educational and product promotion efforts. MSLs also support clinical research. This role involves giving one-one and group presentations. MSLs work from home and travel to meet with customers.
Clinical Research Associates (CRA)
Clinical research associates either work in the main research facility or work remotely in the field. Their main responsibility is to facilitate enrollment, data collection and provide site support for clinical trials. They give presentations, answer questions about the clinical trial, and help investigators solve problems that may impede enrollment or data collection. This role may involve travel.
Medical directors typically are involved in the design of clinical trials, develop scientific educational materials, develop scientific or medical messaging, and are involved in training the commercial and medical teams. Some may present data to regulatory authorities. The exact responsibilities vary between companies. Medical directors may eventually become Vice Presidents, department heads, or assume a variety of other responsibilities.
This is a great entry point into the pharmaceutical industry. Most companies tend to prefer PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) professionals for this department. These professionals develop responses and answer questions from healthcare providers and patients about the company's products. This job requires good writing and verbal communication skills, and a passion for finding answers to questions.
Drug Safety (Pharmacovigilance)
This is a popular department for pharmacists and other medical professionals. Drug safety collects, evaluates, and looks for signals in adverse event reports about the company's products. They are involved in clinical trials safety reporting, post marketing safety reporting, and they work closely with regulatory personnel. This is also a great entry point into the Pharmaceutical industry.
This department ensures that all the company's promotional materials are within FDA guidelines. They work closely with the sales, marketing, and clinical teams to ensure compliance with FDA rules and regulations that govern many aspects of the pharmaceutical industry. Additional courses and on-the-job training will be required for this role.
Some pharmacists start their career in the pharmaceutical industry via sales because they already have the customer relationships, understand the therapeutic area, and if they can learn the business aspects they will succeed in this role. There is a lot of travel involved in sales and you have to be comfortable with making cold calls.
Some companies have a position called medical marketing or medical strategy that provides scientific support to the business marketing team. This is a great role for pharmacists. Pharmacists also employed in business marketing teams. An MBA is very useful if you are interested in marketing.
Pharmacoeconomics or Health Economics
This role has also grown in popularity over the last few years because payers are requesting economic outcomes data from pharmaceutical companies. This position involves outcomes research and publications. Home based opportunities may be available at some companies. A fellowship or equivalent training in pharmacoeconomics is usually required for this role.
Future graduates should prepare themselves for pharmaceutical industry jobs by speaking with pharmaceutical industry professionals, exploring the possibility with one of their elective rotations, and taking advantage of residency and fellowship programs. Current practitioners can transition to the industry by leveraging their years of experience. Many pharmacists are enjoying wonderful and diverse careers within the pharmaceutical industry. The sky is the limit and the “dark side” is bright indeed.
The following articles may be useful if you are interested in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry.