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Pharmaceutical Job Descriptions

12/21/2009 4:59:34 PM


The pharmaceutical industry develops, tests, manufactures and markets new drugs. Because medicines are such a complex industry, there are literally dozens of types of pharmaceutical jobs. The industry employs a broad range of scientist and engineers in addition to sales and marketing professionals, physicians and manufacturing technicians. Administrators and regulatory affairs specialists also make up a large share of pharmaceutical jobs. The number of hands it takes to create a new drug and the complexity of the process drug accounts for why something as seemingly insignificant as a pill can cost so much money.

Regulatory Affairs Specialists

Regulatory affairs specialists oversee all aspects of a drug's testing and approval. They coordinate with pharmaceutical employees at every level to ensure the speediest and most cost effective drug delivery. It's their job to schedule testing and drug trials, apply for permits and approvals from the FDA and other regulatory agencies, and manage patents and licensing associated with a drug's release and sale. Any duty that falls between a drug's initial development and its release is fair game for regulatory affairs specialists.

Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives

Pharmaceutical sales representatives market drugs to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors. They are responsible for getting the word out about their company's drugs and driving up prescriptions. They often present the benefits of their particular drug versus a competing or similar drug at large health conferences or hospital department meetings. Pharmaceutical reps bring in the money and are offered salary bonuses that have the potential to double their base salaries if they do their jobs well.

Chemists, Engineers and Medical Scientists

Chemists, engineers and medical scientists develop and test drugs. They study a medical problem and work to solve it. Their work can involve designing new, better drugs, testing how a drug reacts in the body, or discovering a brand new drug for an existing problem. They also test the ways drugs interact with other drugs. Engineers, especially, may develop non-drug medical solutions, like insulin pumps that support a drug product, like insulin. They also oversee the manufacture of chemicals used in drugs. Research and development is one of the largest and most costly areas of drug manufacturing.


Physicians can wear many hats in a pharmaceutical company. Government regulations require that drug trials be overseen by licensed physicians, so pharmaceutical companies employ physicians to monitor patients both for improvement of their conditions and for potential side effects. Physicians consult with scientists to help answer questions about complex physiology. They also serve as medical directors, overseeing drug safety and clinical pharmacology operations. Their main goal is to ensure that the people who take the company's drugs are safe and that the drugs work.

Manufacturing Workers

There is a lot of room for manufacturing workers in the pharmaceutical industry. Drugs are made from chemicals, and chemicals need to be manufactured in a safe, sterile environment. Chemical manufacturers work with complex machinery to create chemicals used in drugs, and to create, package and ship these drugs. This includes a broad spectrum of workers, from chemists to machinery technicians to warehouse workers and fork-lift operators. Chemical manufacturing is generally more complex than other types of manufacturing, so those who actually create the chemicals and drugs usually have strong chemistry backgrounds.

Administrative and Miscellaneous Professionals

The remaining pharmaceutical workforce is made up of administrative professionals with positions that are less pharmaceutical specific. Marketing managers and graphics designers create plans to package and advertise drugs. Lawyers manage patents, regulatory issues, pending law suits and the legal disclaimers involved with drug labels and instructions. Statisticians gather and process data related to a drug's efficacy or sales. Business professionals steer the direction of the company and manage operations at all levels of production and sales. Accountants manage both the money earned from drug sales and the money paid out for supplies, salaries, research and testing. Human resources professionals manage a pharmaceutical company's staff and benefits. Facilities managers ensure building integrity and safety and manage the grounds at each facility. Receptionists perform miscellaneous office tasks like answering phones, scheduling meetings and preparing company documents. Many of these positions are standard jobs that can be found in a wide range of companies, but the range demonstrates the scale and complexity involved in creating medicines.

References Biotech and Pharmaceutical News & Jobs
US Department of Labor
Physicians in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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