Pharmaceutical Industry Workers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 294,250 people are employed in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. Pharmaceutical professionals are employed by pharmaceutical and biotech companies that manufacture prescription and over-the-counter products. There are about 100 major companies in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, according to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). In 2018 alone, PhRMA's members invested $79.6 billion in research in development. The top 10 companies by revenue are referred to as “Big Pharma.” There are also more than 3,700 biotech companies in the United States, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Major pharmaceutical and biotech companies include Johnson & Johnson, Biogen, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb.

Starting Out

College-trained applicants often benefit from placement services provided by the career services offices of their schools. Applicants can also apply directly to pharmaceutical companies or through school contacts with professional organizations. In addition, professional trade publications list job opportunities that are offered in each division and level of the industry.

Popular pharmaceutical/biotech industry job-search sites include,, and 

Advancement Prospects

There are many advancement opportunities for pharmaceutical industry workers. Production workers may advance to managerial positions and learn how to operate more sophisticated machinery. Laboratory assistants and research assistants may prepare for advancement with additional education and be promoted to new research projects and duties. Administrators may become supervisors, executives, sales managers, or marketing executives.

There are always possibilities for advancement for employees who are willing to develop new skills and take on more responsibilities. Many positions, however, require additional, formal training.

Tips for Entry

Join the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education,, which offers student fellowships and grants.

Read WorldPharmaNews,, to stay current on changing policies and news in the pharmaceutical industry.

Join clubs in high school and college that help you to develop your interpersonal, teamwork, and communication skills, which will make you a stronger job candidate.

Acquire sales experience on a part-time or summer basis to demonstrate your skills to a potential employer.