In 2018, there were 8,300 medical scientists and 3,120 biochemists and biophysicists employed in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in the United States. Although pharmaceutical companies are scattered throughout the continental United States, the industry is geographically concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic States (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and on the West Coast in California. A handful of companies can also be found in Massachusetts, Illinois, and North Carolina. California and Massachusetts have the largest number of biotechnology companies.
The majority of drug research and development professionals work for private industry. They are employed by large pharmaceutical companies and small, start-up biotechnology companies. Some also find employment in government research jobs or as teachers for research-based college programs. Some scientists are self-employed as consultants or independent contractors.
Science (http://www.sciencemag.org), Pharmaceutical Technology (http://www.pharmtech.com), and other publications feature ads for research and development professionals. Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies list job openings on their Web sites. You can also contact the executives of pharmaceutical companies who make hiring decisions and ask them for advice, without asking directly about individual job openings. Many executives are willing to speak briefly to people starting out in the profession, and they may remember your name when you submit a resume. Use LinkedIn to connect with these executives, as well as with scientists and recruiters.
After gaining some experience as an assistant or associate in research and development, you can advance within a company, or move to another company, with some ease. A survey by Pharmaceutical Technology magazine found that nearly one-half of the respondents had worked with their current employers for fewer than five years. This finding seems to suggest a dynamic job market. Those with Ph.D.'s and a great deal of experience can direct individual research and development projects, and eventually entire departments.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Pharmaceutical Technology (http://www.pharmtech.com) to learn more about the field. ChemMatters (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters.html) is geared toward young people who are interested in learning more about chemistry.
Join professional associations such as the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and American Chemical Society (ACS) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Members of the ACS can receive career services such as personal career consulting, resume preparation, and advice on job search strategies and interviewing techniques.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers and https://careerfair.aaps.org.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.