About 4% of pharmacists working in the UK are employed by the pharmaceutical industry. Although the number is relatively small, they have a vital role in the complex processes of developing and supplying medicines to the market.
Pharmacists work in multidisciplinary project teams with other scientists and help steer the team towards compounds which have the best chance of being well absorbed and easy to produce in a suitable dosage form for eventual marketing.
To work as a pharmacist in the pharmaceutical industry, you’ll need to complete a minimum of a year’s pre-registration training, after gaining your pharmacy degree. Half of this training may be obtained in industry, with the other six months spent in a hospital or community pharmacy. This programme is approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council and is designed to fully prepare a person for working in the profession.
During this time you will acquire knowledge that’s common across these different sectors – such as communication and team skills, and professional responsibility – as well as specific areas of expertise. For example, learning about the provision of patient services and drug information in hospitals will bolster your understanding of some of the problems of patient care. This could benefit your career in industry just as much as more directly relevant elements of the programme – like applicability of the Medicines Act and regulatory requirements.
Most companies recruit early in the autumn preceding graduation. Interviews tend to take place either on campus or at a company’s site. As well as applying to the pharmaceutical companies individually, you may also need to contact the hospital or community pharmacy involved in a joint scheme with industry. This information should be available from the industrial placement you wish to apply to. It’s recommended that you contact the companies you’re thinking of applying to during the summer vacation before your final year.
Some companies also offer summer placements, again early application is advisable.
The pharmacist’s training is relevant in many areas in the research and development of new medicines. For pharmacists who have specialised in areas such as medicinal chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, there may be openings in basic scientific research. In the pharmacy department this will include determining the stability of the chemical compounds to light, heat and moisture, making sure that a compound selected for development would have a long enough shelf life to be viable as a medicine.
Areas pharmacists can work in include:
- Pharmacists in research and development
- Pharmacists in manufacturing
- Pharmacists in medical information
- Pharmacists in regulatory affairs
- Other roles for pharmacists
Last modified: 20 September 2023
Last reviewed: 20 September 2023