Graduate training programmes & industrial placements

Cultivating future industrial leaders through rotational training programmes and industrial placements.

Graduate training programmes

Graduate training programmes are structured programmes which allow the training of recent bachelors or masters degree graduates.

These programmes typically involve rotations between different business areas, providing graduates with a broad range of skills before entering further study or the workforce.

More that 1 in 3 graduate training programmes are focused on manufacturing.

Graduate training programmes in clinical R&D have risen significantly since 2019.

Programmes include rotations through various areas in both scientific and non-scientific roles.

Graduate training programme numbers and duration

Our 2022 survey, captured 212 graduates enrolled in graduate training programmes (down 31.6% compared to 2019 survey results).

The duration of graduate training programmes varies. The 2022 industry-academic links survey found that all graduate training programmes last for a minimum of 2 years, with 50.9% of training programmes lasting for a duration of 2 years.​ A small proportion (1.9%) of training programmes last for 2.5 years. Almost 1 in 5 (19.3%) training programmes last for 3 years which include those with a 2 year + 1 structure. 5.2% of training programmes are for greater than 3 years, which in 2022, consisted solely of 5-7 year programmes.

GTP duration

Figure 1. Duration of graduate training programmes. 2022 data are compiled from 14 survey respondents including nil returns. 

2 years of rotational training

Over half of graduate training programmes are for a duration of 2 years.

Graduate training programme business area

Graduate training programmes typically involve rotations between different business areas in order to cultivate future leaders with a broad skillset.

More than 1 in 3 graduate training programmes are focused on manufacturing which is an increase from 17.7% in 2019 to 35.4% in 2022. Training programmes in clinical R&D rose significantly from 5.5% in 2019 to 20.8% in 2022. Preclinical R&D also rose in popularity from 18.1% in 2019 to 21.7% in 2022.

Graduate training programmes include rotations through various areas in both scientific and non-scientific roles. Thus, graduates may gain experience in diverse roles including HR, IT, marketing and sales, medical, and finance.

1 in 3 training programmes are in manufacturing

35.4% of graduate training programmes are focused on manufacturing.

GTP area

Figure 2. Business areas of graduate training programmes. 2022 data are compiled from 14 survey respondents including nil returns. 

Case study: AbbVie's Early Talent Graduate Programme

Hi, my name is George Oliver and I'm on the early talent graduate programme. My background involves studying at the University of Portsmouth from which I graduated two years ago. I studied Sports Business and Management Studies, which is very much like a normal business course but just a little bit more niche towards the sports industry. Obviously coming out of uni during the pandemic times in 2020, it was quite hard to find a stable job, but I still managed to pick up experience in hospitality sales. And many other customer facing roles before finding myself in the role I am today at AbbVie.

So, I've always had an interest in the pharmaceutical industry due to having quite a few family members involved in the industry already. It's almost impossible not to have picked up an interest or at least information about pharmaceuticals in general, really, from a young age. A graduate placement like I find myself in today, the opportunity I've been given from AbbVie is the perfect role for me to be able to learn and test myself in a range of teams across the pharmaceutical industry as well, which has been brilliant for me to get a taste of all the different roles that go into pharmaceuticals main goals in what they hope to accomplish. I picked up as well from lucky enough, having work experience here as a young teenager. How good the general culture of the company was as well. Always people were friendly, ambitious and the energy was just infectious and all of that has stemmed from my work experience up to today.

So my day to day routine at AbbVie the Monday to Friday, involves a variety of things where I aim to improve my knowledge and skills and therefore build my overall development at AbbVie. I'm working across multiple teams, as I mentioned before, in my second team right now, currently in the corporate communications team, within the External Affairs wider team, and I've moved there after coming from customer excellence for nine months. So looking forward to going ahead in this team. So again, this experience I hope will help me understand how more of the teams linked together and how those goals or those individual teams line up  to AbbVie's main goals and main strategic goals.

So I think the new way AbbVie's been learning to work since COVID times has just generally been an increase in virtual calls, virtual meetings. Obviously, it's been hard and a lot of time you weren't able to meet up face to face during the pandemic. And I think virtual calls during that time has taught us how easy it is actually just the use of virtual call rather than maybe spend more money to have larger meetings or conferences at times. I do still think meeting face to face is best for communication. But virtual calls has definitely taught, I think, the company, when the have restricted access or not able to access communication in that way, then there's definitely other means of being able to do it just as good or to a higher standards still.

In five years time, I hope to be in a permanent position to advocate in a role where I can identify it and see it as my own. I call it my own role, a role I feel happy and comfortable in and believe I can make a significant impact and difference for the better for AbbVie as a company.

George Oliver, a sports business and management studies graduate, tells us about his experience on the AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

A graduate placement like I find myself in today - the opportunity I've been given from AbbVie - is the perfect role for me to be able to learn and test myself in a range of teams across the pharmaceutical industry as well, which has been brilliant for me to get a taste of all the different roles that go into pharmaceuticals main goals in what they hope to accomplish. George Oliver, AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme

Hi, I'm Aimee and I'm on the AbbVie talent programme. I studied biomedical science at the University of Warwick and I graduated in 2021.

So I wanted to apply for a job in industry because I wanted to apply the disease area knowledge I gained from my degree, but I also wanted to experience different business functions too and really get hands on and the early talent programme has been a great way to be able to do that and combine both.

So at the moment, I'm in a marketing rotation, which is really collaborative, plenty of cross functional working. So I really enjoy hearing what the other functions are doing. The different projects that they are running and I really enjoy just being able to work with communicating science and being creative with it too. It's been really good I've been able to get really hands-on, really get involved with the projects, which has been a really, really great experience.

So I completed my last year or so of university during the COVID lockdowns and all the disruption that went along with it. Definitely an interesting experience being having to adapt quite quickly to a virtual way of working when everything was previously in person. But in some ways COVID did help. I did spend some time in a COVID lab and that confirmed that lab work really wasn't quite for me. But I still wanted to work in an industry related to disease and health and when I saw this opportunity from AbbVie I applied, and COVID hasn't really impacted my experience at AbbVie too much, I did join just as things were winding down. But from what I've noticed everything is very flexible. And even when working from home I've had a great support network to help me develop, always someone online if I have a question. It's been a really, really supportive programme so far.

So in five years time, I'd really like to see myself in a position where I have more responsibility and experience and being part of a rotational programme. I think will really help me with this. So rotating around the different business areas and understanding how the different functions of work, how they interlink. And just in general, how a big pharma company like AbbVie works has been really, really interesting. So I'm really taking the time now just to throw myself been getting involved and just take part in so many different projects. As it's all experience I can take with me as my career develops.

Aimee Rowland, a biomedical science graduate, tells us about her experience on the AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

I studied at the University of Leeds completing a degree in biomedical science. This was a four year course which involved a year in industry. Following graduation, I worked at health economics called consultancy for two years, as a project manager working alongside pharmaceutical companies.

From my previous role, I was exposed to the industry and I was passionately focused on treating patients. Therefore, I wanted to get back involved in the industry and the opportunity to work on these projects and see the lifecycle of products. The programme stood out for me as it offered multiple rotations to experience a range of range of roles within the field of interest and focused on development within the company.

My rotation is based within the HTA team working on HTA submissions, building on knowledge and skills I previously gained while taking on new responsibilities and learning from them. In addition, I have a lot of support from my team focusing on my subsequent rotations and how my career goals can be supported.

The pandemic empowered me to further develop my skills and seek new opportunities, which is why I applied to the AbbVie programme.  Since working here  they have adapted well to the pandemic and the new ways of working allowing for greater flexibility while still having support from teams.

In five years time, I'll have completed my early career programme with AbbVie with a clear career path in mind in the market access team that has room for progression. I will also be fully integrated within the AbbVie culture and have greater awareness of the industry and roles available.

Jessica Law, a biomedical science graduate, tells us about her experience on the AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

Hi my name is Maddie and I'm from East Sussex. Last year I graduated from the University of Portsmouth with first class honours in international relations. It wasn't until my final year of university that I really started to consider graduate schemes over entry level positions. I really liked the structure, support and guidance that they provide. Additionally, I never considered working in the pharmaceutical industry until my final year of university either. I've always had a strong passion for politics and sport, but I'd never considered pharmaceuticals. And it wasn't until AbbVie's programme came out, that I really did. The idea of having three rotations of nine months in different areas of the business to get really give you an idea of what the company is and what the industry is. And that is when my mind changed and I really began to delve deeper into pharmaceuticals.

My current day to day is sporting our country Training Manager with all training and development programmes. This involves working with the sales, Team marketing and many other functions. I've really enjoyed this and it has really helped my networking

Even though we were winding down from the pandemic, when I started the role working in pharmaceuticals when you know global pandemic has just hit. It does mean we had more heightened restrictions and safety procedures. However for me, COVID more impacted my time at university as I essentially done half of it in lockdown, and all lessons and everything virtual so definitely impacted my decision making after I graduated.

Where do you see yourself in five years time is always a difficult question and especially when you're only 22. This is my first ever role and I'm really enjoying it so I just say to be happy in my work life personal life and keep striving to achieve and become successful.

Maddie Freeman, an international relations graduate, tells us about her experience on the AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

So I graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in biomedical science. Prior to graduating, I spent a year at a medical education agency working on lots of different projects for pharmaceutical companies like AbbVie. After that, I found myself wanting to learn a bit more about what this means to the wider business and what this means for patients. So I then spent two years in a remote sales role for a different pharmaceutical company.

So I came across the role with AbbVie, which advertised a rotational programme, offering rotations within marketing, customer excellence and market access, which really appealed to me because I was keen to broaden my skill set and just wider understanding of the industry as a whole. So I'm currently working within the marketing team. And this is a launch brand which means that it's a very fast paced environment. And part of my role has been involved in brand planning for the rest of the year, whilst also working on omni channel tactical plan too.

So it's quite nice to see how the business really positively reacted to the pandemic. And now we have the option to work remotely two days per week with three days in the office. And for me, this has given me the chance to have more of my meetings in person which is quite nice. And then spending more time at home focused on kind of quiet project work, which has worked out well for me.

So in five years time, I see myself in a position where I'm comfortable with the AbbVie ways of working across various different business areas. And who knows, maybe I'll even be in a position where I can mentor and support people who join AbbVie as part of the early talent programme in the future.

Rakhi Morjaria, a biomedical science graduate, tells us about her experience on the AbbVie Early Talent graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

Case study: AstraZeneca R&D Graduate programme

My name is Miles, I grew up in Macclesfield, a town in the northwest of England, where I attended the local Tytherington School and studied chemistry, physics and maths my A levels. I then went on to study for an integrated master's degree in chemistry at the University of Nottingham, which included an international study year at the University of Melbourne in my third year. I'm now close to finishing my first year on the AstraZeneca research and development graduate programme in chemistry.

Throughout my degree, I was fortunate enough to gain experience working in several academic research groups at universities across the world however, I never had any significant exposure to working in industry. Before moving on to the next stage in my career, I wanted to see how science was done in industry and use the opportunity to consolidate what I have learned throughout my degree and helped me make decisions on the areas of science that I wanted to pursue my PhD and beyond. I also had a very good relationship with AstraZeneca. Having had exposure to the company during my time at secondary school. The work AstraZeneca does is inspiring, and the company's values have always resonated with me which has made a graduate placement, a perfect fit.

The work we do on the AstraZeneca R&D Graduate Programme is incredibly varied. And during our time with the company we get the opportunity to engage in with three different projects, working across different departments, within the R&D functions. In my current project I'm working in computational chemistry. My day-to-day generally involves running and analysing quantum chemical calculations using our in house scientific computing platform, with the aim of simulating and predicting the reactivity of pharmaceutical molecules.

When a target molecule has been identified, and moves into chemical development we need to understand the synthetic route to that molecule in as much detail as possible in order to devise the most efficient and sustainable ways to produce our drugs. The use of quantum mechanical modelling to simulate chemical reactivity on an atomic scale is one of the most incredible methods that we can use to help us do this. Pharmaceutical molecules can also be incredibly complex, and a variety of different methods have to be employed to understand how they behave. This makes my work very exciting and extremely dynamic as the techniques required in my day to day work can vary massively from project to project.

I joined AstraZeneca in September 2021. And my first placement on the Graduate Programme had an experimental aspect to it. Restrictions which were in place in my lab made it more challenging to regularly interact with my supervisor and get the direct reports I needed to start my project. My second project, however, has been entirely computational, which combined with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the company has allowed me to carry out my work seamlessly and without any interruptions from the pandemic. The AstraZeneca R&D Graduate Programme is based in Cambridge, and I moved in not knowing anybody. At first it was more difficult to make friends and meet other people due to the social distancing rules. Although this has improved as COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

At the end of this year, I'll be applying for PhD opportunities and would like to go on to pursue a career in computational chemistry, the field that I'm currently working in. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university and during my master's project, and before joining AstraZeneca I was very set on going down the traditional accurate academic career, PhDs, postdocs, and hopefully eventually becoming a professor. I've been with the company for almost a year now and I've had an incredible time in industry. So much so that I have been reconsidering my future career options. I'll definitely go on to study for a PhD and I hope to still be working in chemistry in five years time because I love the work that I do. But as to whether I'll be working in academia or industry, I really don't know.

Miles Pemberton, an integrated masters in chemistry graduate, tells us about his experience on the AstraZeneca R&D Graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers

Hi, I'm Paula I'm one of the R&D Graduate Students here at AstraZeneca. I'm originally from Spain from the north coast but I have lived in several countries including Austria, the UK and the US. Here in the UK is where I went to university, I did biotechnology at the University of Surrey.

So what prompted me to do graduate placement in the pharmaceutical industry? Well, I've always really enjoyed learning about the human body and disease and how to learn how to fight disease in order to then contribute back to humanity. This is one of the main reasons as well as the fact I've always worked in academia and I wanted to see more of the industry research like side of the research in the sector. So as I mentioned, I really enjoy learning about the human body and how to fight disease and treat it so that I found this a very exciting opportunity to take part in.

Moreover, this particular programme consists of three different placements, each of which is eight months long, and I think this is a great opportunity in order to try different areas and find which one suits you best. So you can take part of different areas about different research and it's a great opportunity to see what the company is doing and get a better understanding of and a wider scope of the company's intentions.

Moreover, because we take part in different placements, then we also gain a wide range of skills laboratory and personnel are like soft skills, as they call it, which I think can make us a more attractive candidates is great for our career development. And, yeah, it's a great opportunity overall in order to really understand and learn about the pharmaceutical industry.

So what's my day-to-day like? Well, I'm mainly lab based, so it really depends. We have some weeks where I'm heavy loaded with experiments ,then have other weeks where I don't have as many experiments, I do more to data analysis as well as experiments write ups. And I would say on average, I have like, half a day I'm allowed to carrying out experiments and the other half I'll be either analysing the results or writing out my experiments.

We also do have quite a few meetings, industry is a lot about sharing the knowledge, so we have some team meetings where we learn about what the other people are doing. We also have some departmental meetings, as well as maybe like some which are across different departments and different branches, so not only within the biopharma, but also within the Oncology Branch, so it's really good in order to gain a better understanding of the company.

So has COVID 19 pandemic affected displacement? If I'm honest, just joined in September 2021, just a little less than a year ago, and ever since the restrictions have been getting easily have been lifted up. So initially, it was a bit stricter. We don't have to wear masks anymore. We didn't have any face to face meetings. It was all very cool, despite all being sitting down there in the office, and we had to keep our distances as well in the workspace. However, ever since spring, other restrictions have been slowly lifting up. We've had more socials, or we've been able to meet our colleagues and do some networking which is great in order to expand your network as well as to learn more from other people. Now we also have face to face team meetings, which I find very beneficial because it's easier to take or to ask questions. And then online and to learn more.

So where do I see myself in five years? Well, I want to do a PhD after this. And then I hope I'm hoping that I could come back to the company as societies or senior scientist or perhaps pursue a similar role elsewhere.

Paula Perez Gonzalez, a biotechnology graduate, tells us about her experience on the AstraZeneca R&D Graduate programme and the opportunities this scheme offers.

Graduate industrial placements

Graduate industrial placements are short-term placements for ongoing postgraduate students or recent graduates – for example, masters degree placements or stand-alone internships outside of further education. These placements offer benefits including development of new skills, collaborative networking, and industrial experience.


Graduate industrial placement numbers and duration

The 2022 industry-academic links survey captured 43 graduate industrial placements (down 56.6% from 99 placements in 2019).

Compared to graduate training programmes, graduate industrial placements are shorter term and do not include rotations between different business areas. More than half (53.5%) of graduate industrial placements are for a duration of 6 months or less which is a significant increase in shorter term placements compared to 2019 (increase from 35.4% in 2019). 1 in 3 graduate placements have a duration of between 13 months and 2 years (34.9%), 9.3% of graduate placements are for a duration of between 6 months and 1 year, inclusive of 1 year and a single placement lasting more than 2 years was identified (Fig 3).

Graduate industrial placements are short-term opportunities to gain experience in industry

GIP Duration

Figure 3. Duration of graduate industrial placements. 2022 data are compiled from 14 survey respondents including nil returns.

Graduate industrial placement business area

Graduate industrial placements with pharmaceutical industry span various areas including clinical R&D, pre-clinical R&D, manufacturing, IT, HR, finance, and marketing (Fig 4). According to our 2022 survey, most graduate placements are within pre-clinical R&D sectors (37.2%). This shows a change in the most popular graduate industrial area from regulatory in 2019.

GIP area

Figure 4. Business areas of graduate industrial placements. 2022 data are compiled from 14 survey respondents including nil returns.

Most popular area is pre-clinical R&D


Useful links:

Find companies offering graduate placements or graduate training programmes in the ABPI careers section. 

Last modified: 26 September 2023

Last reviewed: 26 September 2023