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Career Development and Advancement in Pharmaceutical and Medical Fields

A career in pharmaceuticals or other medical fields can be rewarding, worthwhile and fulfilling, as over 840,000 people who work in the European pharmaceutical industry have discovered. But how can people in those professions take their pharmaceutical and medical careers to the next level? Here, in the first of two parts, we look at the strategies and approaches professionals can use to ensure career development and advancement.

Navigating Career Growth in Pharma and Medicine

Whether you’re looking for your first role in a pharmaceutical career or if you want to progress your career, there are many opportunities for careers in the pharmaceutical industry. The sector offers great flexibility to advance within a variety of career paths. These could include clinical pharmacology, clinical research, medical assessment, regulatory affairs, medical affairs or pharmacovigilance, for example. 

Trends and Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical Job Market

Thanks to rapid and innovative developments within the pharmaceutical industry careers are available in new fields that utilise the latest technology. The most transformative include:

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Big Data and Analytics 

  • Real World Data

  • Digital Therapeutics

  • Extended and Augmented Reality

If you have experience in any of these fields, or are willing to train to gain a deeper understanding, you’ll give yourself a competitive edge over your peers when you decide to advance your career. 

Leveraging Networking and Professional Connections

A highly-effective way to develop your career in pharmaceutical or medical fields is to take full advantage not just of what you know, but who you know. Networking, via social media platforms like LinkedIn and X (formerly known as Twitter), provides an excellent resource as well as contacts that can stand you in good stead in your next career move. Make sure your professional profile is up-to-date and that you connect and interact with as many relevant people as possible to highlight your achievements, potential and ambition.

Strategies for Excelling in Medical Careers

To excel in your pharmaceutical career you need a range of strategies. These can include Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to ensure that your skills and knowledge are up to date. Make the most of any training and development opportunities you are offered to further your expertise or learn new skills. Take on extra responsibilities in your current role to expand your knowledge of the organisation you work for and how your role fits into it, and never be afraid to ask questions about the wider context of any project. 


Exploring Diverse Roles

Your career in pharmaceuticals needn’t be limited by conventional expectations – the sector’s multidisciplinary nature offers a wide range of opportunities for ambitious and talented individuals. For instance, you could consider a role in research and development, as a sales or marketing representative or as a pharmacy technician. Other available positions include a career with a drug regulatory authority, in quality control, conducting clinical trials, or within the supply chain and logistics side of the pharmaceutical industry. 

Roles in Pharmaceutical R&D

Pharmaceutical R&D is the foundation of the pharmaceutical industry with over £208 billion spent on R&D in 2023 alone. It’s not surprising then that there are a great number of roles available within this area of the industry. Developing a new drug can be a long process – Pfizer estimates that it can take around 10 years – so patience, persistence and commitment are required to go through the various stages which include pre-discovery, discovery, molecule development, clinical trials, licencing and access, manufacturing and supply. Typical roles include biochemist, microbiologist, scientist, laboratory technician and team leader. 

Demand for Medical Practitioners

The World Health Organisation estimates that there will be a shortfall of 10 million health professionals globally by the year 2030 impacting the lives of everyone, especially people in developing countries. The demand for medical practitioners, therefore, is profound and urgent and if countries are to avoid time-constrained, overworked medical practitioners which will lead to lower quality care, more efforts to recruit and retain qualified and enthusiastic personnel must be made. 

Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing Careers

Pharmaceutical sales and marketing specialists are responsible for making medical practitioners aware of new developments within the industry, and how they can benefit their patients. Huge amounts of money are invested in marketing campaigns to grow sales, and pharmaceutical companies need talented, focused and knowledgeable people to convey their key messages. Opportunities in this area include sales representatives, product managers, market research analysts and medical science liaison managers. 

Skills and Education for Success

As well as a good degree in a related STEM field – such as pharmacology, chemistry, medicine, or biology – pharmaceutical and medical specialists require various other skills to build their careers in the pharmaceutical industry and within medicine. They include:

  • Attention to detail

  • Organisational abilities

  • Observational skills

  • A high level of accuracy

  • Curiosity

Balancing Soft Skills and Technical Proficiency

Non-academic personal qualities and attributes, or ‘soft skills’, will give candidates an advantage in terms of both ‘culture fit’ and ‘culture add’, balancing against technical proficiency. Examples of soft skills include teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, prioritisation, organisation, communication and resilience. 

Staying Updated with Medical Technologies

The easiest way for professionals to keep up-to-date with advancements in their chosen field is to subscribe to specialist newsletters from organisations. Podcasts, blogs and journals are ideal sources of information too. The right social media can also help professionals stay informed – LinkedIn, for example, can help candidates develop their network as well as their knowledge. 

Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Success

Every professional will encounter challenges and setbacks at some point in their working life. The trick is knowing how to overcome them, learn from them, and succeed despite them. Try to develop qualities such as resilience, positivity and perseverance so that you can deal with obstacles when you meet them. Experts advise that a ‘growth mindset’ can help you embrace challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn. Above all, never be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it.

Addressing Gender Disparities

Despite the proven benefits of gender diversity in the pharmaceutical and medical fields, women are still underrepresented. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, women make up only 30% of C-suite executives, despite entry-level figures exceeding 60%. However, steps – including eliminating bias in the recruitment process, return to work programs, female mentoring, and monitoring programs and wider support for working parents – are being taken by life science companies to improve the situation.

Transition from Academia to Pharma Industry

One way that talent can break into industry is to transition from academia. People who’ve done so mention hands-on research and the satisfaction of new discoveries as incentives. Take advantage of the pharmaceutical career information available online and via your network of contacts, and maximise your opportunities by partnering with a specialist recruitment agency such as Panda-int. 

Resilience and Adaptability in Healthcare

Two of the most important attributes that talent in the healthcare industry can have are resilience and adaptability. The former will allow you to weather setbacks, taking obstacles in your stride, and the latter will enable you to deal creatively with a range of challenges and manage change effectively.  

Future Trends in Pharma and Medicine Careers

Several trends in pharma and medicine careers look set to impact the future. 

AI, Automation, and Medical Research

New technologies, such as the AI tool GNoME, which has already discovered 2.2 million new crystals with the potential to power future technologies, require talent to have new skills, which, in turn, creates recruitment challenges and demands new strategies such as upskilling and retention programs to fill the gaps.

Automation, which improves data efficiency and productivity, may reduce the number of jobs pharmaceutical companies need temporarily, but programmers and designers will be required to ensure that these processes are fit for purpose.

Advances in medical research have already brought personalised medicine and therapies, Big-Data analytics, digital health technologies and remote monitoring capabilities, which enable more patient-centric treatments.

Telemedicine: Expanding Medical Opportunities

Telemedicine, or diagnosing and treating patients over the phone or via video link, quickly became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained popular since. It’s said to improve patient outcomes and increase satisfaction, being the preferred method of contact for many patients, especially those in rural locations or developing countries.

Sustainable Healthcare and New Jobs

As the world faces various climate challenges, sustainable healthcare is gaining in popularity. It attempts to narrow the gap between health and the climate crisis, reducing human vulnerabilities and healthcare’s impact on the environment, and it involves preventative measures, simplifying access to healthcare and practising sustainably. This evolution will involve the creation of new jobs and new career pathways.

Building a Fulfilling Career

There are many ways of building a fulfilling career in both the pharmaceutical and medical fields, some of which we’ve outlined above. Both life science graduates who wish to enter the profession and people with more experience looking to advance are in high demand and can look forward to using their skills to help millions of people worldwide live longer and healthier lives.

Discover new opportunities

The pharmaceutical and medical fields offer a host of opportunities for ambitious and talented people with the skills required by employers. If you’re looking for your first role in these fields or wish to progress your career, or if you’re an employer with vacancies you need to fill, talk to us today on +31 (0)20 2044 502, email us at partner@panda-int.com, or fill in the form here.