The different roles within a pharmaceutical company

The pharmaceutical industry is jam-packed with a wide array of career paths and job opportunities for recent university graduates. Lois Kelman is a third-year Biochemistry with Industrial/Professional Experience student who has recently been on placement at a top biopharmaceutical company. Below, she goes through the different job roles available within a pharmaceutical company, demonstrating just how diverse the different job roles are…

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Before beginning my placement my first thought of the pharmaceutical industry was research facilities and clinical trials, but in my office, there was not a single lab coat in sight. During my first week, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of roles and intrigued by the diverse backgrounds my colleagues had.

Within a pharmaceutical business, you have specific roles, such as medical and regulatory, and generic roles which you would most likely find at any large corporation, such as finance, HR and marketing. This post is to inform you of the variety of jobs which utilise your life sciences degree without requiring SDS-PAGE every day…

Medical affairs

The medical affairs team consists of doctors, pharmacists and other colleagues with life science backgrounds. The team keep updated with published literature and advances in their therapeutic field to provide colleagues and healthcare professionals with scientific advice across a therapy area. Developing a broad knowledge of the company and its competitor’s medicines allows the team to support commercial in their marketing strategies. Specifically, to ensure the materials produced by brand teams are scientifically accurate and meet industry standard. Engagement of the medical affairs team with healthcare professionals and patients is key to ensuring that the pharmaceutical product is fully understood and utilised correctly.

Ideal if: you are interested in pharmaceuticals, a proficient teacher and would prefer office-based work over a lab.



Regulatory are a crucial link between external regulatory authorities and the therapeutic products of the company. Regulatory strategists compile and submit documents through every stage of the drug development process to ensure company compliance with global pharmaceutical legislation. The management and regulation of clinical trials is key since the outcomes are later used to make commercial claims regarding the product. Policy keep updated with changing healthcare regulations and then utilise the company’s position within the healthcare sector to tailor these guidelines. They work closely with governments and regulatory authorities to do this.

Ideal if: you have an eye for detail, have an interest in the drug development process and a passion for biomedical sciences.

Patent law

Patent lawyers secure and protect the intellectual property of a company by applying for and maintaining patents. This provides the company with market exclusivity, allowing the investment of the drugs development to be returned. Patent law is highly competitive and involves gaining a law degree, usually whilst working at a law firm, in addition to your life sciences degree.

Ideal if: you are a keen debater, good evaluator and out of the box thinker.

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Within a pharmaceutical company, marketing representatives utilise commercial and scientific skills to analyse the market dynamics for a specific therapy. This allows the development of suitable branding strategies which adhere to strict pharmaceutical guidelines. The team then produce promotional materials and digital campaigns which are utilised by sales teams to pitch to potential buyers. Once a brand has been launched, marketing monitors the brand’s progress and respond accordingly to ensure success. The ultimate aim is to deliver the expected revenue for the product.

Ideal if: you have either a medical/scientific or business interest but would prefer a more creative career. Useful to be commercially savvy and have a natural ability to build relationships.


Finance is rather self-explanatory and does not always require a finance degree. The financial teams analyse, support and guide departments on financial aspects in order to manage costs and maximise cash flow. Since money can determine the amount of flexibility a company has, finance analysts help drive and develop business plans.

Ideal if: you excel at maths and are intrigued by the financial workings of a company.



Sales representatives work with healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors) to gain reimbursement for products. After being carefully informed about a product, they visit hospitals and doctors’ surgeries where they present their medicine with the aim to sell the product. They also host sales conferences. Being the face of the company, they work closely with: finance to produce pricing strategies; marketing to produce promotional materials; and medical to ensure scientific accuracy.

Ideal if: you have a scientific background, carry confidence and enjoy social interactions.

Corporate affairs

Corporate affairs work to improve and develop the reputation of the company by demonstrating the value of the company and its medicines. The team work across all departments of the business and sustain good relationships with community stakeholders, such as schools. Through work with the NHS and policy stakeholders, they assist in healthcare policy development. They also manage relationships with the media to improve how the company is perceived by the external world. Improving colleague and community engagement is one of their key roles in ensuring employees feel proud to work at the company.

Ideal if: you are an efficient communicator, passionate about general ethics and could see yourself interested in the global impact and reputation of a company.

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Human resources (HR)

Human resources develop company initiatives, talent and organisations to maximise the success of the company through its people. They are responsible for equipping the company with the best people and skills to guarantee a brilliant workforce. HR also oversee benefits, compensation, employment safety and wellbeing. They carry out recruitment, hold interviews, promote jobs, and produce references to aid the recruitment process. Managing staff training can also be a part of the job.

Ideal if: you are social, creative and excel at getting the best out of people

I hope this has broadened your view of the pharmaceutical industry and given you a few ideas for your future!

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