While pharmacists are directly involved in patient care and work with existing drugs, it’s pharmaceutical scientists who create new drugs and therapies. The pharmaceutical sciences draw on a wide range of disciplines to discover, test, and manufacture new drugs and therapies, as well as evaluate their effectiveness and safety.

Pharmaceutical scientists can find employment at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, universities, regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, and national laboratories such as the National Institutes of Health.

Fields that pharmaceutical scientists work in include:

  • analysis and pharmaceutical quality,
  • biotechnology,
  • clinical pharmacology and translational research,
  • drug design and discovery,
  • formulation design and development and pharmacoengineering,
  • pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and drug metabolism,
  • physical pharmacy and biopharmaceutics,
  • regulatory sciences, and
  • social and behavioral pharmacy, pharmacoepidemiology, and pharmaceutical outcomes.
  • Seventy-five percent of the members of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists were employed full time in 2013, down three percentage points from 2012 but still up three points from 2011.
  • According to the AAPS 2013 salary survey, the mean annual base salary of its members who were employed full-time in the United States was $141,500, a 2.2 percent increase from 2012.
  • Employment of medical scientists (including pharmaceutical researchers) is projected to grow by 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to 11 percent for all occupations.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median salary for scientists working in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing was $92,940.

Trouble seeing the charts above? View them at the links below:

2013 Salaries by Sector for PhDs
2013 Median Salaries by Specialty

A career in pharmaceutical research requires strong interest in mathematics, biology, and the scientific process. Pharmaceutical scientists typically focus on a specific phase of the drug-development cycle — research, testing, or manufacturing. If you’re interested in a career in pharmaceutical research, you should pursue a degree in pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacy, biology, chemistry, medicine, engineering, or a related field.

— Sources for the information on this page:
American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists,
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, explorehealthcareers.org