In the first part of this 2-part series on Pharmacy careers, we looked at the various pharmacy courses in India. Tanmoy Ray is back with the second and concluding part. This time he writes about career paths after completing Pharmacy courses.
Career Paths after Graduation in Pharmacy (Pharmaceutical Sciences)
Here’s an introduction to the various career paths in the Pharma industry.
Research & Development
If you are really enjoying the core subjects like Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Pharmacology during your 3rd and 4th year of B.Pharma, then you could consider a career in research and development. You can get R&D roles within pharmaceutical, biotech, agro and FMCG sectors.
Ideally you will need to have M.Pharma, MS or PhD degree. GPAT qualified candidates do get preferences. If you wish to purse M.Pharma from some of the top institutes like NIPER, then do start your preparation from the 3rd year itself.
Other options will be going for MS (or MSc) abroad. The B.Pharma course itself does not provide that much research opportunities. So, a foreign education and training will really help you. With B.Pharma background you can specialize in Pharmacology, Drug Delivery, Drug Chemistry, Biochemistry etc.
In India, an M.Pharm graduate can start with 22K per month (average), and the salary package can be 42K per month (average) after 5 years if you do not add any further skills or qualifications to your name.
Analytical R&D and Formulation Development (F&D)
Few people might consider QC / QA roles as boring. But, if you are skilled and intelligent, you can make a satisfying and rewarding career. Assay development and assay validation roles are really exciting. M.Pharma with Pharmaceutical Chemistry or Pharmaceutical Biotechnology specialization will help you in this role, also known as Analytical R&D.
Here are the top Analytical R&D profiles (according to LinkedIn). Similarly, formulation development (F&D) is also an exciting function for M.Pharma graduates with Pharmaceutics or Pharmaceutical Chemistry specializations.
Identifying new and more effective formulations (combinations of active drugs and other constituents) is as important as finding a new drug molecule.
A fresher in India will earn something between 8K – 18K per month. Yes, the starting salary could be quite low; but after 5 years you can see yourself taking home 32K – 42K per every month, provided you keep on learning new techniques and methods.
Manufacturing, Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Regulatory Affairs
If you are not too keen about research and development but you want to stay in the core domain – go for roles within QC & QA. With a PG Diploma (or Masters) in Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs or Pharmacovigilance and with few years of experience in the industry can really help you in terms of career progression and financial growth. Another less explored job function is medical writing.
If you have got sound knowledge about Pharmaceutical Sciences, like being creative, have got a flair for writing, possess attention-to-details, and happy with desk job – then do try Medical Writing.
The number of medical writing jobs in India is on the rise; and the pay packages are also good. Manufacturing (or production) also involves QC/QA because each and every batch need to maintain a certain level of efficacy and safety. The pay packages are similar to the above job roles (Analytical R&D and F&D).
Sales & Marketing
The sales and marketing job function absorbs the maximum number of pharmacy graduates. My class of B.Pharm (batch of 2004 – 2008) consisted of 90 students. Approximately 40 – 50 students started in the sales domain (as Medical Representative aka MR) after graduation.
The number of jobs available in the sales function is plenty. The salary structure is also decent. More importantly, on good performance the incentives are really lucrative. The job is challenging of course, but rewarding as well.
You have to travel a lot, and you do get chances to travel to new places in India and abroad (sponsored by employers). The pressure of achieving targets is obviously there, but the targets are quite achievable most of the time, at least according to my batch mates, juniors and seniors.
If you are dynamic, pro-active, confident (go-getter attitude) and like talking, negotiating, travelling and making money – this role is definitely for you.
Few people think that Medical Representative is just any sales job – WRONG. You have to advise the Medical Doctors about the pharmacological effects of the drug, their optimum doses, indications for specific diseases, side-effects and contraindications. So, your subject knowledge and communication skills need to be on par.
You always need to be updated with the current market knowledge, scientific research and many other things. People might also think that even B.Sc. graduates can also do MR jobs – true.
But, if you are from B.Pharm background, then you will have various advantage during your job duties. You can get promoted from Field Officer to Area Manager level within 3 years (on average it takes 2 to 5 years). You can also move in to the Product Management Team (PMT) with 4 – 7 years of experience under your belt.
M.Pharm candidates with Pharmacology specialization or MBA graduates can also get PMT jobs. You will be dealing with making strategy, sales, marketing, analysis and financial stuff a lot within the PMT.
If you land up as a Medical Representative after B.Pharm, you can expect to earn something between 14,000 and 25,000 Rupees per month (excluding incentives). With experience and promotions, you can end up earning between 25K and 32K per month, after 3 years. If you switch to PMT or do an MBA after 3 years, you can land up with 40K to 60K per month (again excluding incentives). So monetarily, this is the most rewarding job role.
M.Pharm graduates are the ideal candidates to get Lecturer roles. But, Pharm.D candidates are also eligible for lecturer jobs. Clearing GPAT, NET, SLET will be of great advantage. Almost every state in India has got decent number of Pharmacy colleges. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala have got the Pharmacy Colleges in the range of 60 – 200.
B.Pharm graduates can also get Lecturer jobs in D.Pharm colleges. In the academia you will also have the opportunity to be involved in research as well, though not all the colleges will have the quality research scope.
You can also undertake part-time PhD while teaching undergraduate and post-graduate students. An extensive lists of Pharmacy Colleges in India, segregated state-wise, can be found here as well.
The starting salary can be as low 8K – 18K per month with M.Pharm qualification, but the job could be quite relaxing with lot of benefits like housing and/or numerous holidays. After 5 years, if you do not go for a PhD (full-time or part-time), you can still earn around 30K per month. For quality life-work balance, this could be a nice role.
Hospital / Clinical / Community Pharmacy
Community Pharmacy is one of the core career opportunities, and will be most suited to PharmD graduates. The role involves counselling patients, advising them on dosage and intake for taking the medicines. This is a very critical role and demands considerable knowledge and skills.
However, in India the concept is very much unknown due to several reasons. The Government, PCI and other authorities (like Indian Pharmaceutical Association) are taking steps. However, it will take time.
The vacancies for Pharmacist in Hospitals, Railways, Armed Forces are there, but they are too few to accommodate even 10% (the figure could be even less than that) of Pharmacy graduates that pass out annually.
Other Career Paths for Pharm.D graduates (and those who want to stay in Core Community Pharmacy Domain)
- Higher Studies Abroad: You can go for Masters in Public Health or Masters in Health Management in countries where the community pharmacy is in huge demand (USA, Canada, Australia, UK etc.). In the US, the number of shortage of healthcare professionals is supposed to be 250,000 by 2020. So, US will definitely be a country to look up to.
Do refer to the Best Universities for Public Health by Kristen Fescoe and S. News; and the Best Universities for Healthcare Management – Top 20 Masters Program and Best Universities.
Scoring 298+ in GRE and 6.5 in IELTS (or 90 in TOEFL) can definitely give you good chances to take up admission in good universities, if not at the Top 20. With a Masters Degree in Public Health, you can end up as Healthcare Consultant, Healthcare Policy-Maker, Nutritionist, Food Safety Inspector, Medical Officer, Health Educator, Clinical Researcher etc.
The salary would be in the range of USD $40,000 and USD $120,000 annually after one year of experience.
- Registered or Licensed Pharmacist (Pharmacy Jobs) Abroad: This is not that easy, but opportunities are there. Countries like Canada, US, UK, Australia do allow international pharmacy graduates to take up jobs as community pharmacists in their countries. Check out the details for Canada, US, UK, Australia
This is the career path I would love to see Pharmacy graduates to pursue. The start-up culture in the pharmaceutical industry is extremely rare. There are lot of reasons.
The product needs to be of zero-defect and that is why lot of regulations are in place; and then there will be costly instruments and machinery.
Investment will be quite big and the concept of venture capital (VC) is still very new in India. The start-up incubating culture is also very much missing in the Colleges and/or Universities.
Few themes for entrepreneurship
- New drug molecule / Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) / New Chemical Entity (NCE)
- Production of raw materials (excipients and other ingredients)
- Manufacturing and Production of new formulations
- Preparation of Biologicals
- Sub-Contracting for Manufacturing
- Sub-contracting for R&D – similar to CRO concept
- E-commerce – few students should definitely try it in the Pharmaceutical/Healthcare Industry as well (very few ventures in the market so far).
In India, Bangalore is doing exceedingly well as the hub of Healthcare start-ups. Know about the start-up ecosystem, recent developments and top healthcare start-ups in the post Bangalore – the hub for Healthcare Startups in India by Rajesh Shenoy.
If you have got the ability to think out-of-box, courage to take risks and burning desire for value creation and innovation – then do give a shot at entrepreneurship.
Current Problems and Future Prospects
There has been a tremendous increase in the number of Pharmacy colleges in India, and hence the number of Pharmacy graduates is increasing year by year. The pharmaceutical industry is either reluctant to hire fresher or employ graduates at a very low salary scale; and the scenario is not so different for M.Pharm graduates.
The PhD degree has also become a joke in few universities (ref. Present Status of Pharmacy Profession in India).
The research and development activity in the Indian pharmaceutical industry still needs a lot of support in terms of funding. The pharmacy education in India is suffering from serious problems; and the core streams like Community Pharmacy and Hospital Pharmacy have been neglected too much (ref. Pharmacy Education in India: Strategies for a Better Future).
Recently The Hindu also reported about this issue Pharm.D graduates take to the Streets. Obviously, the pharmacy graduates are getting disheartened and frustrated.
I do not blame you. Even I was quite confused and frustrated during my 2nd/3rd year of B.Pharm. But, then I managed my way out to do something enjoyable and monetarily decent as well. The Pharmacy subject and profession has got serious drawbacks and issues.
But, it has an offer a lot if you are passionate, hardworking and strategic enough. Some key points about Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are:
- You learn a lot about the basics of Biology, Chemistry and little bit of Engineering – you can have lot of interesting and rewarding career options (Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare, FMCG, Finance, Marketing, Education, Agriculture, Chemicals, Govt. sector, Cosmetics etc.)
- Even if you are not a genius and/or naturally gifted, you can have a lucrative career, provided you are tenacious enough
- Healthcare is such a domain that it will always be on demand irrespective of economic boom, inflation or recession. So even if it is a low-earning job, you will have very less chances of being actually jobless
- Whether you are good with numerical, analytical reasoning, creativity, entrepreneurship, money matter – Pharmacy profession can give you the opportunity to excel in any field in any region during any economic situation.
I would request all the Pharmacy aspirants, current students, graduates (and their parents) to love Pharmacy, be passionate about it, be patient, be pro-active and think out-of-the-box, and to look beyond the immediate surroundings. At any point of time, please feel free to contact me.
Being a Pharmacy graduate myself I would try my best to help and advise you. I have always been an average, or may be above average student; but never a topper or something like that.
But, I loved Pharmacy. I figured out my interests and strengths early on (I was pretty clear by the end of my 3rd year of B.Pharm about what I wanted to do after graduation), took a calculated risk (being from a middle-class family and my Father being the only earning member, I went on to study to UK taking a huge education loan.
UK has its worst recession back in 2008-2009 but UK was offering 2 years of Post-Study Work Permit that time), kept working hard and moving places (UK, Holland, Australia etc.) – and I never regretted about having Pharmacy as my Graduation subject.
Image Source: Forbes India
We are NOT accepting new queries on this article. Instead, please post here – Career advice for pharma careers