Drug Developers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Follow your school's college prep program, which should include courses in literature, government, history, mathematics, and foreign language in addition to the sciences. Chemistry, biology, and other laboratory classes are important. Also take classes in English composition to develop your writing skills for preparing reports and presentations.

Postsecondary Training

The best, highest paying opportunities will be for those with doctorates in chemical engineering, polymer science, chemistry, pharmaceutical technology, molecular biology, and related areas. With a bachelor's degree, you will be able to find work, but you will need at least a master's for advancement and salary increases.

When selecting a program, look for one that will allow you, even at the undergraduate level, to assist on research projects. Your program's course work may include such subjects as the principles of genetics, cell biology, immunology, human physiology, and organic chemistry.

Drug development technicians often have associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, biology, biotechnology, manufacturing, or engineering.

Other Education or Training

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists offers offers webinars, e-courses, conference sessions, and workshops. Recent e-courses included Fundamentals of Biotherapeutic Development; Drug Discovery, Development, and Pharmacotherapy; and Essentials of Regulatory Compliance for Pharmaceutical Scientists. In addition, continuing education opportunities are provided by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Chemical Society, and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Engineers whose work may affect the life, health, or safety of the public must be registered according to regulations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Applicants for registration must have received a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program and have four years of experience. They must also pass a written examination administered by the state in which they wish to work. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Any experience one can obtain in the pharma/biotech industry—such as an internship or a part-time job—will be useful.

Drug developers must be team players who can coordinate with data management workers, project leaders, managers, and other colleagues. Organization is also important. You should also have a good eye for detail and an interest in reading and studying. Communication skills are very important, so that you can explain the development process to both technical and nontechnical personnel. Other important traits included creativity, the ability to solve problems, patience, and a detail-oriented personality.