We’ve heard a lot about the aging Baby Boomer population and how that demographic will impact the healthcare industry. One thing we haven’t heard quite as much about is the impact on the pharmaceutical industry. Careers in pharmaceuticals are growing by leaps and bounds. Here are some of the hottest jobs in the pharmaceutical industry right now.
In essence, almost everything pharmaceutical companies do starts with epidemiology, which is the study of disease trends. Epidemiologists in the pharmaceutical industry work at predicting the future. They help pharmaceutical companies target the areas of greatest need – and, therefore, potential profit.
After epidemiologists have identified a need, research scientists work to develop vaccines and/or drugs by studying the effects of chemical compounds on the body. A lot of their time is spent in the lab doing experiments, but they also have to keep careful records and to present their findings.
Clinical/animal trial scientist
After research scientists develop a new drug, clinical scientists begin testing it – first on animals, and later on human volunteers. They test and monitor the effects of different dosages and interactions with other drugs, concentrating especially on safety and effectiveness.
Regulatory affairs scientist
All drug trials have to comply with strict FDA regulations, or the drug won’t be approved for production. It’s a painstaking process. Regulatory affairs scientists work to make sure drug trials comply with every relevant FDA regulation. Even a drug that has been shown to be effective may be denied approval if the trial wasn’t in compliance with FDA protocols.
Because the pharmaceutical industry is so heavily regulated, companies have to collect and analyze mountains of data about diseases, drugs, side effects, success rates, etc. They may assist researchers, regulatory affairs scientists, clinical scientists, and patent attorneys, providing the information they need to do their jobs.
Drug safety researcher
Drug safety is an important part of taking a new drug to market and of monitoring the efficacy of all of the company’s existing drugs. One of their main responsibilities is to monitor reports of any side effects, analyze the patterns, and, if necessary, work with legal, research, marketing, etc., to alter any processes.
A breakthrough new drug can be worth millions (if not billions) of dollars. Patent attorneys are lawyers working for individual pharmaceutical companies. Their job is to secure patents on any new drug their company develops to prevent other companies from copying it. They also teach employees in marketing, sales, etc., about the proper use of trademarks and intellectual property.
Pharmaceutical sales reps have one of the more glamorous jobs in the industry. They’re the people you see marching straight back to the doctor’s office with their samples in tow. They teach prescribing doctors about their medication: what it does, who it’s for, dosages, side effects, etc. They also have to know about competing drugs so they can explain why their company’s product is better. They also frequently leave samples of their products to encourage doctors to use them with their patients.
All marketing materials developed for pharmaceutical companies have to contain certain information (the “fine print”). In addition, any claims made about the drug’s benefits have to be accurate and not exaggerated. They must be backed up by data. Marketing advisors are scientists who work with the sales and marketing staff to make sure all promotional material is accurate.
Educational scientists work both internally and outside the company to educate people on the drug’s usage, benefits, risks, side effects, etc. They help sales reps understand the drug so they can pitch it to their customers. They provide information to doctors and pharmacists so that they can answer questions from patients.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the pharmaceutical industry will grow by about 25 percent between now and 2020. Increasing demand for drugs from emerging economies could cause even faster growth. If you have an aptitude for science, you could have an exciting and rewarding career in the pharmaceutical industry.
image: flickr via indiacongress, 2013