Academics Working in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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The pharmaceutical industry is a scientific field involved with the development and manufacture of medicinal drugs. Prescription drugs brings in hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide every year, so it's not surprising that industry jobs can be very well remunerated. At the same time, the competition among the major companies is fierce, so industrial jobs are strenuous as product development and market analysis is a constantly shifting dynamic. 

Major pharmaceutical employers

The major employers in the pharmaceutical world are household names – AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, and Procter and Gamble, to name but a few. In the UK alone the pharmaceutical industry employs more than 70,000 people. The big players in this field, such as Pfizer UK and Bristol-Myers Squibb, spend huge sums on R&D in the UK every year. This industry is at the cusp of scientific and technological fields of research.

Typical jobs

The pharmaceutical industry is an industry in transition. Some major companies are shifting their operations to developing countries to cut costs, while others are outsourcing their R&D programs to contractors.

At the same time, browsing the job vacancies in this field here at shows that there are still many opportunities for academics with a background in pharmaceuticals here in the UK and abroad.

Broadly speaking, the two categories of jobs are clinical research and medical affairs. Clinical research involves product development, research and medical trials. It also requires publishing one's research and attending conferences – duties not too dissimilar to an academic role.

Medical affairs positions have a stronger commercial focus, requiring interaction with the marketing and business development departments of a company. It also requires more external communication as customers and clinicians will be approached for their input.

Benefits of working in the industry

Academia offers a lot of research freedom and challenging work for scientists, so why move into industrial jobs? One very appealing point is the change that industry research can bring about. Developing a new drug can benefit millions of people all around the world. The results of one's research are tangible.

Industry work will also put you in direct contact with others – other researchers in your team or your company will be there both to help you and to seek your advice. Academics considering the move to industry should research the background and working environment of each pharmaceutical company in order to find a suitable employer. Unlike universities, for-profit companies tend to have a huge variance in their ethics and ambitions.

Industry work is all about profit. Product development has profit as its starting point. As a result, pharmaceutical jobs can be financially rewarding with the potential for salaries that put academic pay grades to shame.

You can browse the jobs in the science sector here on

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