Getting experience

Student scientists working in a lab

Recruiters usually look for people to have had some exposure to the type of job they are applying for, whether it be a lab job for a scientist, shadowing a medical rep for a commercial role, or other industrial experience.

There are a variety of ways in which you can gain experience of what it is like to work in the pharmaceutical industry:

  • When applying for university courses, or during your degree, you can take up the offer of an industrial placement year. This is a great way of finding out what it is like to work in industry, what sort of jobs there are, and you will get the opportunity to find out what you like, or dislike, about the work. If your university course doesn’t offer this type of opportunity, you can seek a work placement for the summer holiday.
  • It is, however, important to get organised early. Often industrial placement opportunities are offered in October or November of the year before you would start – so at the start of your second year at university. If you leave it until after Christmas, you may be too late.
  • The same is true of pre-registration placements for pharmacists. However the pharmaceutical industry recognises that there are not enough pre-registration placements for all pharmacy students who would like to get industrial experience, so it is not essential that you have done part of your pre-registration placement in industry to apply for a job in industry. If you do get the chance, though, it will help you find out about the wide variety of roles available, and you will get to know managers in the company – always useful when you are looking for a job.
  • Talk to your university department to see if they have any links with pharmaceutical companies through other programmes.
  • Take up any opportunity to visit a pharmaceutical company and to make contact with people who work for, or who have had links with, the pharmaceutical industry – this may include asking family, relatives friends or university tutors who may have worked in the industry themselves.
  • For commercial roles, such a becoming a medical rep, you will also be expected to have found out what is involved in the role, for example through shadowing a medical rep. Recruiters will be looking for people with initiative, who have taken the time and made the effort to get this sort of experience, it shows that you are serious about the job. It will also give you a chance to find out if your chosen area of research is actually what you want to do.

Case study

Clinical Research Manager

Charlie, Site Manager, showing some documents to a colleagueI genuinely hope that everything I do will one day be of huge benefit to patients.