Careers in the pharmaceutical industry

A busy lab, with two scientists, with the one in the foreground looking into a microscope

The pharmaceutical industry

​​​This is a knowledge driven industry, requiring a highly skilled workforce and directly employs over 73,000 people, with over 23,000 of these in research and development. The pharmaceutical industry also indirectly generates at least 200,000 more jobs making it a substantial employer in the UK, and these figures have stayed relatively stable over recent years. As employees in the pharmaceutical industry add more per head to the UK economy than any other sector, employment in the industry is highly valued. 

Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies are investing in research and development, with a trend towards investment in collaborative research with academia. Some pharmaceutical companies even sponsor PhDs in academic institutions to help make this connection, with the hope of finding joint solutions to joint healthcare problems. With this shift in focus towards collaborative research and development there has been a decrease in sales and marketing activity in recent years. 

Few companies carry out all of the different functions needed to take a medicine from basic concept to market; instead, functions are often outsourced to specialists such as contract research organisations (CROs), marketing companies or legal firms. There are also a number of stakeholders who have an interest in the industry, such as healthcare providers, research councils and regulators. The pharmaceutical industry also has a strong partnership with government, with the work of the ABPI ensuring that the NHS is offered a fair price for the medicines on offer.

The discovery, development, manufacturing and promotion of new medicines is therefore a team effort combining the talents of many individuals. This means that there are a wide range of jobs available directly within, or relating to, the pharmaceutical industry.