Is a Career in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Right for Me?

PharmSci Lab.

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How do I know if a career in the pharmaceutical sciences is right for me?

  • Do you enjoy science and want to pursue a science-based career?
  • Do you like to work hands-on in a laboratory setting?
  • Do you have a desire to contribute to the health and well-being of society through the development of medicines and therapies?

If so, a career in pharmaceutical sciences may be a good choice for you!

What are the pharmaceutical sciences?

The pharmaceutical sciences combine a broad range of scientific disciplines that are critical to the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies. Pharmaceutical sciences can be broadly classified into the following main categories, with many specialized fields within each category:

  • Analysis and Pharmaceutical Quality
    Analytical techniques, quality control and quality assurance.
  • Biotechnology
    Research, development and commercialization of biotechnology-based pharmaceuticals, including genes and gene delivery.
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Research
    The clinical research dimension within the pharmaceutical sciences, focused on the therapeutic benefits and clinical assessment of drugs and biologicals.
  • Drug Discovery and Development Interface
    Medicinal, natural products, molecular and structural chemistry and drug design and discovery.
  • Formulation Design and Development
    Formulation design, research and development a multidisciplinary field drawing upon the physical, chemical, biological and engineering sciences.
  • Physical Pharmacy and Biopharmaceutics
    Focuses on preformulation, biopharmaceutics, drug absorption, nanotechnology, and drug delivery systems design and performance including targeted drug delivery.
  • Manufacturing Science and Engineering
    The application and advancement of science and technology as it relates to process development and manufacture of pharmaceutical and pharmaceutically related products including medical devices and active pharmaceutical ingredients.
  • Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics and Drug Metabolism
    The effect of drugs and metabolites on the body and the effect of the body on drugs.
  • Regulatory Sciences
    The strategic compilation of multidisciplinary information on product performance as it pertains to safety, efficacy, and quality.

What is the difference between a pharmaceutical scientist and a pharmacist?

What is the difference between pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences?

Pharmaceutical scientists are typically involved in the development of new drugs: discovery, drug delivery systems, drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination characteristics. They spend most of their time doing research in a laboratory or office setting.

On the other hand, pharmacists work with existing drugs, patients, and other healthcare practitioners to optimize patient care and drug use. They often work face-to-face with physicians (drug selection and use) and patients (best use of medications).

How can I become a pharmaceutical scientist?

There are many ways to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical sciences. You can obtain an undergraduate or advanced degree in pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacy, biology, chemistry, medicine or engineering. Conversely, you can also find a rewarding position with degrees in economics, marketing, or business. It takes a multi-disciplinary effort and a variety of skills to develop new and effective medicines.

Career opportunities in the pharmaceutical sciences

Over the years, pharmaceutical scientists have been instrumental in discovering and developing innovative drugs that save thousands of lives and improve countless others. Pharmaceutical scientists can pursue a variety of career opportunities/jobs. They are employed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, they work as researchers, scientists and professors at universities, for agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), and at national laboratories such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) also has an online Career Network to help with career needs.


  • Search internship programs
  • Network with employers/recruiters in the pharmaceutical field at area career fairs
  • Online resume/CV submission
  • Attend career development seminars and workshops
  • Receive career counseling onsite and online

This information was provided by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), a professional, scientific society of more than 12,000 members employed in academia, industry, government and other research institutes worldwide.