Pharmacy: careers and related fields

Pharmacy: careers and related fields

A career in Pharmaceutical Science and related fields can be very rewarding. However, it is also true that it is not easy, not lucrative, and has few opportunities. Let us look at why such a problem exists.

The crisis

The supply of those with degrees or diplomas in Pharmacy today far exceeds the demand. This is leading to a crisis of underemployment and unemployment among graduates in the discipline. The chief cause of this is attributed to the existence of too many of these pharmacy colleges. As the unemployment rate is high among them, the salaries they can hope for when employed can be quite low. A worrisome factor is that, candidates, even after completing a Doctorate in Pharmacy, an integrated six-year course, don’t find it an interesting enough career due to the poor salaries on offer even in leading hospitals for a pharmacist’s role. But, one need not despair.

However, these days, there are quite a few job options if you are willing to widen your horizon.

Research & Development

If one enjoys core subjects like Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology during the third and fourth year of BPharma, then one could consider a career in Research and Development (R&D). Such graduates can get R&D roles in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors.

Ideally, one would need an MPharma, MS or PhD for such jobs, and those who have qualified the Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT) are preferred.

Formulation Development

A few people might consider quality control and quality assurance boring. But, if you are skilled and intelligent, you can make a satisfying and rewarding career out of this. Assay development and assay validation roles are exciting. An MPharma with Pharmaceutical Chemistry or Pharmaceutical Biotechnology specialisation will help you in this role, and it is also known as Analytical R&D.

Similarly, formulation development is also an exciting function for MPharma graduates who have specialisations in Pharmaceutics or Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Identifying new and more effective formulations i.e., a combination of active drugs and other constituents, is as important as finding a new drug molecule.

Quality & Assurance

If you are not too keen about R&D, but you want to stay in the core domain, then go for roles within quality control and quality assurance (QC & QA). With a PG Diploma (or Masters) in Pharmaceutical
Regulatory Affairs or Pharma co-vigilance, and with a few years of experience in the industry, one can have a well-paying successful career.

Medical Writing

Another less explored job function is that of medical writing. If you have sound knowledge about Pharmaceutical Sciences with a flair for writing, possess attention to detail, and are happy with a desk job — then, one can do medical writing.

Sales & Marketing

The sales and marketing jobs absorb the maximum number of pharmacy graduates. Over half of the graduates seem to be opting to be medical representatives after their graduation.

Academia

MPharma and PharmD graduates are the ideal candidates for the role of lecturers. Clearing the GPAT, the National Eligibility Test (NET) or the State-Level Eligibility Test (SET) will be of great advantage. Almost every state in India has a decent number of pharmacy colleges.

Community Pharmacy

Community Pharmacy is often considered by many as 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 of medicines. This is a very critical role and demands considerable knowledge and skills.

Other options

In addition to these, one can look at healthcare management too as a career option. Pharmacy graduates can go on to do a postgraduation in Hospital Management, Public Health and Health Information Technology Management. This can be lucrative, given the shortage of people to manage hospitals and other healthcare industry verticals springing up across the country. Over the last two to three years, healthcare information technology management too has been emerging as a high-paying job even for healthcare management freshers.

Today, the concept of healthcare has gone beyond hospitals, thus pushing the industry onto a high growth path. Consisting of hospitals, medical devices and equipment, and health insurance, the Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach $160 billion by the end of 2017. Increase in the demand for superior healthcare facilities, rising health awareness and health policies are some of the major factors driving this growth.

The biggest challenge to make these figures come to reality is to create the availability of a skilled workforce equipped to deal with the issues pertaining to the healthcare industry. Besides doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff, the industry also requires qualified healthcare management profe­ssio­nals. This creates the need for specialised management course in healthcare. A postgraduation course in specialised healthcare is an option that many students graduating in pharmacy are looking at, for a lucrative career in Hospital Management and Health Information Technology Management.

(The author is dean - academics, IIHMR, Bengaluru)

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