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Top 10 jobs for pharmaceutical majors & who’s hiring

Looking for a career in the pharmaceutical industry? This guide covers the top 10 entry-level jobs, the required skills, and who’s hiring.

The pharmaceutical industry plays a big role in the health care system. It’s an essential industry that’s basically recession-proof — and it’s worth a lot. Like, A LOT, a lot: $1.48 trillion, to be exact.

You’ve got great prospects if you’re a pharmaceutical major or a recent grad. Plus, pharma offers many job types you can explore, making it possible to find something that matches your unique skills.

Below, we give you the facts on popular pharma jobs, explain what you need to do to land them, and how to fin your dream career on Handshake now. See the top companies hiring in pharmaceuticals here.

Should you pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

The pharmaceutical industry is booming, with the number of jobs available increasing. Pharma hiring remains strong even as other industries downsize and look to layoffs. The pharmaceutical industry will see a positive employment change of 28,800 jobs from 2021 to 2031.

Pharmaceutical industry jobs are diverse, covering everything from manufacturing medicines to sales. Exactly what skills you need will depend on your job. That said, a few traits can serve you well in pharma, regardless of your job title.

  • Proficiency with numbers and IT. Pharma pros work with data and IT tools, whether researchers in a lab or sales pros trying to meet quotas. It’s helpful to be numbers-savvy. For example, if you’re in sales, you need to keep track of figures like units sold.
  • Good communication skills. Communication is a must in any health care field. For example, patient services coordinators or pharmacy technicians may offer front-line services dealing with patients. Sales reps are another example of a role requiring interpersonal skills.
  • Team player. Pharmaceutical companies are large organizations and require significant teamwork. For instance, if you’re in research or manufacturing, you won’t work independently but as one team member in a big group.

Explore the top industries hiring today in this guide.

Best degrees to help you land pharmaceutical jobs

A lot of degrees can open the doors to a job in pharma. Here’s a quick overview of some degrees and what types of jobs they can lead to:

  • Chemistry. A chemistry degree can help you get a career in drug research, development, and manufacturing, working for a pharmaceutical company. You might also get a regulatory role with a body like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Pharmacology. A pharmacology degree can pave the path for a career in pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), regulatory affairs, clinical research, or academia. For example, you could work for a lab or consumer protection organization.
  • Pharmacy. A pharmacy degree allows you to work on the front lines, helping connect people with medicines. You can work as a community pharmacist or clinical pharmacist in a hospital, rehab center, or community health center.
  • Medicine. A medical degree can set you up for an R&D job in pharmaceuticals. Depending on your medical specialty, you could get a job focusing on a particular health care need, such as neuroscience or oncology (cancer).
  • Biology. Biology is a useful undergraduate degree, as it can lay the groundwork for more advanced degrees like medicine. There are also biology-specific jobs, like research biologists.
  • Business. While most pharmaceutical roles require a life sciences degree, you can enter the industry with an alternative education. For example, a business degree focusing on sales or marketing can pave the path to becoming a sales rep.

<h3>Industries where you can build a pharmaceutical career</h3>

Many pharmaceutical jobs are with pharmaceutical companies — you know, the big names you see on your medicine bottles, like Bayer, Pfizer, and Moderna. However, there are jobs beyond pharmaceutical companies.

If you pursue a future in pharma, you could get hired by:

  • Government agencies. When new medicines are put on the market, regulatory bodies check to make sure they’re safe for consumers. For example, you could get hired by the FDA as a regulatory affairs associate or a drug safety specialist. Government-run health care providers also hire pharmacists. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs hires pharmacists in their VA hospitals. Finally, the government has research institute jobs (for clinical research associates) with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Biotechnology companies. Biotech companies are sometimes confused with pharmaceuticals, as people assume all biotechs are health-focused. While biotech companies can work in medical research, they also work in other fields like agriculture and heavy industry. For example, Monsanto is an agricultural biotech company. These pros also need pharmaceutical professionals like quality control technicians and lab techs.
  • Health care facilities. A traditional pharmacy isn’t the only place that needs pharmacists. Many health care facilities have in-house pharmacies and need pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians on-site to label, manage, and dispense meds. Examples include nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals.
  • Research at academic institutions and nonprofits. Research in fields like pharmacology, biology, and chemistry doesn’t just take place at pharma companies. Independent research centers, nonprofits, and academic institutions may run research in these fields. For example, you could work as a clinical research associate in a university lab or as a clinical trial assistant for an independent research institution — like the American Institutes for Research, one of the world’s biggest scientific research nonprofits.

Scroll down for a peek at industries hiring pharma grads on Handshake.

Top 10 entry-level jobs in the pharmaceutical industry

Looking to start a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry? Here are the top 10 entry-level jobs to consider.

1. Regulatory affairs associate

Regulatory affairs associates help medical device and pharmaceutical companies navigate the legal approvals process for their products. They maintain databases, create reports, and research approvals requirements.

Median salary: $62,102 per year


  • Bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry (minimum)
  • Medical degree (preferable)
  • Experience in health care, labs, or clinical settings


  • Regulatory knowledge
  • Proficiency with computer systems
  • Strong communication skills

2. Clinical research associate

Clinical research associates oversee the planning and implementation of clinical trials — the process used to test drugs and vaccines before they go to market. They usually work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, overseeing the development of trial protocols, doing statistical analysis, and coordinating research staff and processes.

Median salary: $71,109 per year


  • Bachelor’s degree in a field like chemistry, pharmacology, or biology
  • Medical degree is an advantage
  • Experience in health care, labs, or clinical settings


  • Excellent organization skills
  • Good interpersonal and teamwork abilities
  • Leadership prowess

3. Pharmaceutical sales representative

Pharmaceutical sales reps share information about pharmaceutical products and medical devices with health care systems and providers. They also serve as customer service professionals, ensuring customers are satisfied with products and gathering feedback on their use.

Median salary: $91,934 per year


  • Bachelor’s in marketing, business, health sciences, or similar
  • Sales experience is beneficial


  • Customer service skills
  • Relationship-building abilities
  • Negotiation skills

4. Quality control technician

Quality control technicians conduct quality assurance (QA), testing products and raw materials used in pharmaceutical development. They may work for biotech or pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers.

Median salary: $33,280 per year



  • Well-organized
  • Eye for detail
  • Good communication skills

5. Laboratory technician

Lab technicians work in laboratories, helping with data recording, equipment maintenance, and testing procedures. Lab techs can work for pharma companies, regulatory agencies, health systems, or academic institutions.

Median salary: $41,600 per year


  • Four-year degree in health sciences like chemistry or biology
  • Lab technician license


  • Knowledge of how to handle hazardous substances like chemicals
  • Knowledge of Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment (QHSE) systems and lab best practices
  • Ability to work independently

6. Clinical trial assistant

Clinical trial assistants work for clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and clinical research units at universities or hospitals. They support drug R&D, helping set up studies, trace results, and do admin work (like writing case report forms, study protocols, and trial subject consent forms).

Median salary: $53,436 per year


  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in life sciences like chemistry, biology, medicine, or pharmacology


  • Knowledge of good clinical practices (GCP)
  • Medical terminology proficiency
  • Excellent information technology and organizational skills

7. Patient services coordinator

Patient services or patient care coordinators answer patient questions, manage patient accounts, and perform data entry and analytics. They may work in health care or clinical research settings. For example, a clinical trial that tests pharmaceutical products on people needs a patient care coordinator.

Median salary: $35,360 per year


  • Nursing degree usually required


  • Customer service mindset
  • Empathetic and caring attitude
  • Excellent communication skills

8. Pharmaceutical manufacturing technician

Pharmaceutical manufacturing technicians work in laboratories to help create pharmaceutical products, including tablets and liquids. Tasks include sterilizing equipment and completing documentation like batch production logbooks.

Median salary: $43,680 per year


  • Associate or bachelor’s degree in a life sciences field like chemistry or biology
  • Previous pharmaceutical manufacturing experience preferable


  • Organized and communicative
  • Able to work in a team
  • Keen eye for detail

9. Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists, locating, packing, and labeling medications for patients. A pharmacist reviews the technician’s work before dispensing products to patients. Pharmacy technicians also help with admin, like processing insurance claims and monitoring inventory.

Median salary: $27,040 per year



  • Highly organized
  • Communicative
  • Customer service skills

10. Drug safety specialist

Drug safety specialists medically review clinical trial reports and case studies, checking to make sure medicines perform as expected. They may work for pharmaceutical companies, clinical research organizations, or regulatory agencies.

Median salary: $82,579 per year



  • Knowledge of safety regulations
  • Well-organized with great attention to detail
  • Analytical skills

Who’s hiring in pharmaceuticals on Handshake?

Find your dream career on Handshake

From sales to research, pharmaceuticals offer a range of roles for all types of students. Whether you’re studying marketing or biology, there’s a role for you.

Find the one you want with help from Handshake. Just make your profile, search for job postings, and connect with employers to discuss career opportunities. Start the application process.


Find the right jobs for you. Get hired.