Masters, PhD or a job?

The opportunities for people with a good life science or chemistry degree within the pharmaceutical industry are wide ranging. There are also a number of opportunities for those with maths, physics, engineering and IT qualifications.

You may decide that you want to study further after your degree. This could include a Masters or PhD in the same field as your undergraduate degree, or you could take the opportunity to complete a Masters something different such as public health or business (eg an MBA).

Alternatively you may decide you’re ready to go straight into work, in which case see Graduate employment. Although the practical scientific skills you will have acquired during your degree are transferable to laboratories in an industrial setting, skills reports repeatedly highlight a lack of  skills in recent graduates. If you decide not to do a Masters or PhD, you may consider some further training to accredit your skills. This helps to demonstrate to an employer the skills that you do have, setting yourself apart from the rest of the graduate crowd. 


​If you have studied science at undergraduate level, postgraduate MSc courses can help you to specialise beyond your first degree, giving you a more in-depth understanding of the subject. Many research-based Masters give you the opportunity to carry out a research project in industry giving you invaluable work experience. Alternatively a Masters in a different area could help you to move away from the lab and enter into the more corporate side of the pharmaceutical industry.  Having a Masters in a subject relevant to the job you’re applying for displays you have relevant knowledge and skills, and adds further evidence for your motivation in applying for the job. Entry level jobs for Masters students are normally better paid than for those with just an undergraduate degree.  


A PhD is very useful if you see yourself continuing with research, but is less useful in other parts of the industry. PhDs are also a big commitment normally lasting 3-4 years with a lot of hard work. However, the starting salary will be higher and the work you will be expected to do will be more investigative, using the skills and knowledge gained during postgraduate study.  Whilst studying for a PhD you will have developed the skills needed to research and write an original thesis in an innovative field of science. PhD training also enables you to acquire many of the personal and professional skills (such as presenting and effectively communicating scientific ideas) necessary to form the basis of a successful career in research – whether in academia or industry. Some pharmaceutical companies will sponsor you to complete a PhD alongside your job, and companies are increasingly working in collaboration with universities to sponsor PhD candidates. ​The BBSRC also works to give PhD students the chance to spend some time in industry during their PhD. To find companies offering employment for people with postgraduate qualifications, visit Pharmaceutical Recruiters​.

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023