As entry into this sector is competitive, relevant industry experience will be valuable. Find a summer internship, join an undergraduate taster day/course, or look for opportunities to work shadow someone in the industry for a few days. See our work experience section for more details of these.
Large pharmaceutical companies often advise those who are aiming for R&D roles to contaact them towards the end of their undergraduate degrees and maintain links throughout their further studies so they can stay informed about what employers are looking for.
The ABPI has produced a useful chart, detailing what the different degree requirements for different roles within the industry.
For R&D roles, it is highly likely that you will need a PhD and relevant experience, but the more operations-focused roles, e.g. regulatory affairs, medical information, etc, often recruit at BSc level.
A recent survey of ABPI members on 'Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry' highlighs a major skills gap in mathematical and computational areas following the rapid development of new fields such as health informatics.
It also focuses on more long-standing skills shortages in translational medicine or clinical pharmacology, which relate to bridging the gap between bench and bedside.
Areas that are anticipated to become more difficult to recruit to in the future include device technology, materials science, physiological modelling and physical chemistry.
Regarding the broader, transferable skills, an increasing number of respondents were concerned about candidates with poorly-developed communication and teamworking skills.
Key skills will vary depending on the role, but typical skill requirements for the scientific side of the industry include:
- a methodological approach and attention to detail
- analytical skills and logical thinking
- excellent numeracy skills
- problem-solving skills
- scientific, technical or research skills
Large pharmaceutical companies, e.g. Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, usually operate their own formal graduate recruitment, placement and internship progammes.
Companies don't always recruit into technical roles via that route, though, so keep an eye on relevant job boards as well.
The growing number of small companies involved in this sector often have less formal processes, so networking and the use of relevant social media can play an important role in your job search. Visit our pages on how to network effectively for more information.
Many commercial companies use recruitment consultancies to advertise their vacancies.
Our source of vacancies from local, national and international companies and organisations
As well as viewing companies directly to look for graduate recruitment schemes or vacancies, there are numerous recruitment websites available, including:
Wiley Pharmaceutical Labs
Jobs in Pharma