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Career Options in Pharmaceutical Industy

Kalpesh Trivedi

I would like to give some insights on career options pertaining to technical jobs in Pharma industry for freshers. Any science graduate can pursue the following, however graduates with Bachelor’s in pharmacy, chemistry or biology will get preference over other streams, obviously a masters or a Ph.D. will be an additional advantage for the candidate.

To briefly introduce you to pharmaceutical industry, I would say that it is divided into 4 types of functional units, where you can expect to find a job or to make it sound better, provide your services to the company. The 4 functional units are as follows:

  1. Finished formulation manufacturing (Tablets, Capsules, Injections, Suppositories, Syrups etc.)

  2. Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) or Bulk drugs manufacturing (Paracetamol, Cetrizine, etc.)

  3. Excipient manufacturing (lactose, talcum, starch, empty capsules etc.)

  4. Packaging component manufacturing (Aluminum foil, PVC foil, glass & plastic bottles, labels, cartons etc.)


In these above mentioned 4 types, you get the following job opportunities in different functional departments:

  1. Research and development (R&D)

    1. Works on New drug discovery or development and improvement in existing products

      1. If you are research oriented and with a brilliant academic history, minimum masters and preferably Ph.D., this area is for you.

      2. Have a direct business impact, very demanding job and with high visibility and same time highly rewarding.

      3. You can move to any other department of your choice in future. You can become R&D head or head of site or multiple sites

      4. For freshers’ salary may start from 30,000-50,000.

      5. Recommend having minimum qualification of Ph.D. for faster growth.

  1. Production (manufacturing and packing)

    1. Works on manufacturing of products, manages equipment handling, technical matters, troubleshooting when required and people management on shop floor

      1. If you are target oriented, like to manage people and operational activity, like to get the things done as per plan, this is for you.

      2. Managing people and getting things done is the key requirement for this job. Working in shifts is a must for this job.

      3. As the responsibility is to manufacture the product in time and achieve the target, this job has direct business impact and performance is measurable and gives good amount of visibility.

      4. On the peak of your career, you can become head of manufacturing site or multiple sites after 15-20 years of experience.

      5. For freshers’ salary may start from 20,000-30,000

      6. Recommend getting additional certifications like MBA in operational management, lean and six Sigma (Black belt) certification to get faster growth

  1. Quality Control (testing laboratories)

    1. They perform sampling and testing of raw material, in process materials, finished products. Responsible for final release and certification of the products. Manages sophisticated instruments, high-level of technical matters, and people management at senior level.

      1. If you are a person with analytical mindset, believe in perfection, and like to do the work yourself, this is for you.

      2. This job has indirect business impact; performance visibility is bit less compared to R&D and Production department.

      3. You will have to work in shifts at least at initial stages of your career.

      4. You can become head of laboratory, overall quality head of site or multiple site quality head in a span of 15-20 years.

      5. Starting salary for freshers could be around 20,000-30,000 per month.

      6. Minimum master’s degree, additional knowledge and certification on software and computer science, statistical analysis could help to grow faster

  1. Quality Assurance:

    1. Manages quality systems and documentation, requires sufficient knowledge of production, quality control, regulatory requirements, and high level of documentation management. People management is also a required skill.

      1. If you are a person who is logically very sound, have high level of common sense, like to set up systems and procedure, excellent at documentation, this is for you.

      2. Working in shifts is required at initial stages of career

      3. This job is not recommended to start a career with but advisable to first pursue their initial employment in production or quality control department to get technical expertise and then further plan for quality assurance dpt.

      4. This job has indirect business impact and so the visibility is less compared to production and R&D department.

      5. You can become overall quality head of the site or multiple sites with an experience of 15-20 years.

      6. Starting salary for fresher may start from 20,000-30,000 per month.

      7. In addition to Masters’ Degree, it is recommended to get certification as a quality auditor (ISO), Lean Six Sigma certification and diploma in regulatory affairs could help to grow faster.

  1. Regulatory affairs

    1. Works with regulatory agency for getting permissions and approval for manufacturing and sale of products.

      1. If you are good at documentation, reading laws & regulations and interpretation, can work with government /regulatory authority and with internal department. This job is for you.

      2. This job requires high level of understanding and interpretation of laws and regulations and to define strategy for the company for getting several permissions.

      3. This job has direct business impact and very high level of visibility in the organization.

      4. You can become overall regulatory head, quality and compliance head of the site or multiple sites with an experience of 15-20 years.

      5. Starting salary for the freshers might start from 25,000-50,000 per month.

      6. Diploma in regulatory affairs can help to grow faster in this job.

Note: Generally, companies work in four shifts: General Shift (9 am to 5:30 pm), First Shift (7 am to 3 pm), Second Shift (3 pm to 11 pm), Third Shift (11 pm to 7 am).

At the initial stage of your career, you might need to work more than standard shift hours, on an average 12 hours and sometimes double shifts. It depends on the work culture of the company you join.

Few more things from my side from my learning through experience.

  1. The salary mentioned for each of the category is a general average of the industry standard for freshers, this may depend on qualification of candidates, and as per company rules, it could be very high or very low. At initial stages, learning is more important than the salary.

  2. Pharma sector is not very high in pay scale like other industries like IT and oil & gas, but it is most stable. Starting is very low and growth is bit slow, but enormous opportunity to grow with experience and expertise gained by the candidate tenure of about 15-20 years. Job stability is quite high.

  3. In Pharma , there are two types of business models,

    1. Manufacturing for domestic (Local) market only or

    2. Manufacturing for Export to Europe, US and other regulated market.

In my opinion, it is a must to get the exposure of working in the company manufacturing for export to regulated market. This is essential to grow in the Pharma sector.

  1. Proficiency in English is must, knowing foreign languages like Spanish, French or German may give additional advantage in future.

  2. Getting additional degree like MBA, lean six sigma, diploma in regulatory affairs, certified auditor will give you an additional advantage and support to grow faster

  3. Like in any other industry and career, good communication is key to success everywhere. My understanding of good communication is to have knowledge about what to speak, when to speak, when not to speak. Learn to listen more, carefully and provide correct, precise and clear non-confusing information about what is required and asked to provide. No more or less than required.

  4. There is no rule of length of tenure in one company. If you can justify the change and if you are getting good growth in terms of more learning, good hike in salary and position, there is nothing wrong to change. Remember to become expert in at least one area that will give you sustainability in the career.

  5. More you are flexible, faster you will grow. (Flexible in working hours, working Location, function, taking additional responsibility, dealing with people etc.)

  6. Your resume plays a very important role, because your first meeting with recruiter is through your resume and that will decide whether you will meet them in person or not.

About me: I am Kalpesh Trivedi, Post graduated in Organic Chemistry, from Saurashtra University Rajkot. Working in Pharma sector since last 23 years, have worked in several Pharma companies like Lyka, Cadila, UCB, Baxter, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi as a Quality control and Quality assurance professional. At present, I am Head of Quality operation of External manufacturing (Contract manufacturing) at Sanofi India Limited.

You can contact me for any related queries through my email ID , and cell no. +91 98333 74142