Careers Service


Opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector range from research and development to manufacturing and sales. While a science based degree is essential for many of these roles, some are open to graduates of other degree disciplines, such as business or numerate subjects.

Demand for graduates in the pharmaceutical industry has predominantly been in research and development (R&D) roles. The main areas that graduates can expect to work in, within a scientific context,  are:

  • Drug Discovery (Medicinal, Synthetic, Organic and Physical Chemists)
  • Pharmacology (Bioscientists, Chemists)
  • Clinical Trials (Clinical Research Analyst, Clinical Research Associate)

What's it like?

ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) - explains what research and development, manufacturing and supply, and commercial sides of the industry actually are:

ABPI careers  has more than 100 case studies of different roles, both lab-based and non-lab-based, which describe a typical working day.

Work experience

If your course includes the option of an industrial placement this will offer useful work experience.

Some large companies (eg GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca) offer internships.

Smaller organisations may not advertise opportunities but could be worth targetting with a speculative application. Use the websites in the Job hunting section, below, to identify organisations to approach in this way.

For more ideas, and suggestions for funding, see:

Skills development

Laboratory skills are key for science roles in this sector. Relevant technical skills are a key attribute ideally gained in a lab setting, industrial placement or an internship.

Regardless of the role you’re applying for, employers are looking for applicants who can demonstrate commercial awareness and receptivity to new ideas. Check out this advice on how to demonstrate commercial awareness.

Postgraduate study

It is possible to work in a commercial or scientific role without a postgraduate qualification. For research and development roles, a postgraduate qualification may be required.

Search for postgraduate courses using:

Job hunting and finding employers

Graduate jobs and internships are advertised on MyCareerHub. You can also use MyCareerHub to search for organisations in a particular sector.

Life & Chemical Sciences Scottish Directory - search companies and organisations in life sciences and chemicals in Scotland by category eg therapeutics

Talent Scotland - advertises jobs and lists companies in Pharma Services and Contract Research

Vacancy sources

Wiley Job Network - advertises vacancies in pharmaceuticals and also has career news and advice.

Wiley Job Network

Pharmiweb - links to various pharmaceutical companies and also advertises jobs.


emedcareers - advertises roles for pharmaceutical, medical, biotech and healthcare professionals. Emedcareers also publish a blog detailing news in the healthcare job market.


Pharmatimes - provides global news about the pharmaceutical industry.