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Top Pharmaceutical Careers

by Clayton Browne

The pharmaceutical industry has enjoyed strong growth for many years, due largely to the development of new drugs and a growing consumer demand for medical products, especially in the developed world. The worm has finally begun to turn, however, as pharmaceutical industry analysts are projecting slower growth in the developed world, but strong growth in emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil. The good news is that U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies are well positioned to take advantage of this growing demand in emerging economies, so that industry employment projections remain generally positive.

Pharmacist

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 270,000 licensed pharmacists were employed in the U.S. in 2011. This number is expected to increase by almost 70,000 from 2010 through 2020, as the BLS projects a very strong 25 percent job growth rate for pharmacists for that time frame. Pharmacists are highly educated medical professionals who have earned a bachelor's degree and graduated from a three-year pharmacy school program. Those looking to pursue careers frequently undertake an additional one- to two-year residency after pharmacy school. Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, and retail pharmacists work in, manage or own local pharmacies. The BLS reports that pharmacists earned a median salary of $111,570 in 2010.

Pharmacy Technician

Over 340,000 pharmacy technicians were employed in hospitals, clinics and retail pharmacies in the U.S. in 2011. The BLS projects that pharmacy techs will be in great demand, anticipating a scintillating 32 percent job growth rate from 2010 through 2020 because of the aging of the baby boomer generation and the fact that more medications are being developed and prescribed. Pharmacy techs took home a median salary of $28,400 in 2010. Pharmacy tech training programs typically last six months to a one year, and you are eligible to sit for a national certification exam after completing the program. Employers prefer to hire pharmacy technicians with industry certifications, and most states require pharmacy techs to be certified or licensed or both.

Biochemist

Applied biochemists are involved in research projects such as developing tests to screen for diseases or genetic disorders. Research biochemists employed by pharmaceutical companies also assist in the development of new drugs, such as treatments for cancer or multiple sclerosis. The majority of biochemists employed in applied research in the pharmaceutical industry will have a doctorate in chemistry or biochemistry. Over 25,000 biochemists were employed in the U.S. in 2011, and the BLS is projecting a robust 31 percent employment growth rate from 2010 through 2020. Biochemists earned a comfortable median salary of $79,390 in 2010.

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

According to the BLS, pharmaceutical sales representatives earn significantly more than other sales, bringing home a median salary of $73,710 in 2010, compared to $56,620 for sales reps as a whole. Pharmaceutical sales reps are, however, expected to have a bachelor's degree in a related field so as to be able to interact professionally with doctors and health care management people regarding the effects and risks of the medications they sell. The BLS is projecting a solid 16 percent job growth for pharmaceutical sales reps from 2010 through 2020.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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