Pharmaceutical scientist is not just one job but a whole range of careers focused on the development of medicines. Nonetheless, all specialties require a desire to help others through pharmaceuticals and a keen interest in the sciences. The minimum job requirement is a bachelor's degree or higher, but several different majors are possible. A career as a pharmaceutical scientist is practice-oriented, so internship experience is also crucial.
Choose Your Niche
Decide early in your college career what branch of pharmaceutical science you want to specialize in. Some important areas include clinical research, drug discovery, formulation design, manufacturing engineering and quality control. Other possible focuses are biotechnology, drug absorption, drug metabolism and regulatory sciences.
Earn a Degree
Depending on your interests, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences or a related major such as chemistry, biology or engineering. Positions are also available with a degree in business or economics, according to the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. These degrees may lead to jobs in regulatory sciences, where you'll compile data on product safety and performance. Some pharmaceutical scientists also have a graduate degree in medicine, pharmacy or another related major.
Network and Find Internships
Join the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists while you're a student. Through the AAPS, you can meet working pharmaceutical scientists and gain experience. For example, find co-ops or internships in the pharmaceutical industry through AAPS resources. Completing an internship provides hands-on training and gives you a chance to learn more about what pharmaceutical scientists do. Also use the AAPS and college contacts to locate pharmaceutical scientists you can shadow on the job. Experience in the world of work may produce job leads as you near graduation.
Land an Entry-Level Job
Pharmaceutical scientists often start their careers immediately after finishing a bachelor's degree. Obtain leads from professors or ask for a full-time position where you interned. Also ask internship supervisors and scientists you've shadowed for letters of recommendation. Make your job hunt more productive by using the AAPS career center. Attend its career workshops and use the online career counseling and resume submission services. In addition to big pharma, also apply with smaller pharmaceutical companies, academic labs and government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health or the Food and Drug Administration.
Once you're employed, a graduate degree in chemistry, engineering or public health or a doctorate in medicine or pharmacy can help you advance in your career. In many cases, pharmaceutical companies encourage their scientists to pursue graduate study by paying their schooling expenses, according to Explore Health Careers. With a graduate degree, you may move up to supervisor or even lab director.