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Next steps: career options

Studying pharmacology can start you on a broad range of career paths. Examples of potential career paths are listed below. However, this list is not inclusive – a scientific degree gives you many skills that are valued by a range of employers. 

Academia

Academic researchers test hypotheses through experimentation. They often collaborate with other scientists from over the world. An academic career can be rewarding and can give you an opportunity to attend conferences, seminars and meetings about subjects you are interested in. 

To help you in an academic career you can take part in:

  • placements or work experience in a lab
  • workshop or laboratory practical teaching
  • public engagement activities

Organisations with active laboratories offer mixed opportunities in lab work, teaching or public engagement. These can include:

  • education institutes
  • biotechnology companies
  • clinical laboratories

Drug discovery

Most drug discovery research is carried out by pharmaceutical companies. To work in drug discovery you will need to have at least a BSc in a relevant subject.

  • target identification
  • high throughput screening
  • clinical trial design
  • management

To help you in a drug discovery career you can:

  • gain laboratory experience
  • take relevant modules or course in your degree

Organisations offering drug discovery roles include:

  • higher education institutions
  • biotechnology companies
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • hospitals
  • clinical laboratories

Patent law

Patent law is part of intellectual property law. Patent lawyers determine which inventions qualify for patents, manage the patent application process, and deal with patent infringement.

To work in patent law you will need to have at least a BSc. Postgraduate training in a STEM subject is desirable in this competitive field. It uses many of the analytical skills you will have developed in your pharmacology or biosciences degree. Once employed you will study alongside your work towards professional accreditation.

To help you in a patent law career you can:

  • take a placement in a law firm, specialising in intellectual property rights

Organisations offering patent law roles:

  • large industrial companies

  • private partnerships, many of which specialise in patenting products in a particular sector
  • government bodies

Pharmacovigilance

Pharmacovigilance is the monitoring of the effects of medicines after they have been licenced for use. 

To work in pharmacovigilance you will need to have at least a BSc. Further qualifications in relevant areas can help your progression.

To help you in a pharmacovigilance career you can:

  • take part in clinical placements
  • engage with pharmacovigilance departments
  • develop knowledge on the regulations and regulatory bodies

Organisations offering pharmacovigilance roles include:

  • hospitals

  • pharmaceutical companies
  • specialist pharmacovigilance contractors
  • government regulatory agencies

Regulatory affairs

Regulatory affairs officers ensure medicines and healthcare products meet legislative requirements.

To work in regulatory affairs, you will need to have at least a BSc. An MSc in regulatory affairs (or similar) useful. As your career progresses there is generally less and less laboratory work involved. But any lab experience will help you with a holistic view of chemicals and how they fit within existing regulations.

To help you in a regulatory affairs career you can:

  • shadow or volunteer in a regulatory affairs role

  • take part in lab work

Organisations offering roles in regulatory affairs:

  • higher education institutions

  • biotechnology companies
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • cosmetics companies
  • agricultural chemicals companies
  • oil companies
  • clinical laboratories
  • regulatory bodies

Science journalism

Science journalists communicate complex scientific subjects to enable greater public understanding.

To work in science journalism, you will need to have at least a BSc. You'll also need excellent communication skills.

To help you in a science journalism career you can:

  • write a science based blog

  • contribute to science magazines, such as Pharmacology Matters
  • contribute to local or national press
  • enter scientific writing competitions such as the Max Perutz prize

A portfolio of your publications will showcase your work to potential employers.

Organisations offering roles in science journalism:

  • learned societies

  • scientific magazines
  • local or national newspaper or media groups

Science policy

Policy advisors collect information, evidence and opinions from different parties. This is used to influence the government in health, science and research regulation.

To work in science policy, you will need to have at least a BSc. An MSc in science policy or communication is desirable, but not necessary.

To help you in a science policy career you can:

  • take part in public engagement activities

  • complete a science policy internship

Organisations offering roles in science policy:

  • learned societies (for example, the Royal Society or the Academy of Medical Sciences)

  • scientific publishers
  • science and health-oriented charities
  • local government
  • international governing bodies

Teaching

To become a teacher you will need to have at least a BSc. You will also need a postgraduate qualification such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

To help you in a teaching career you can:

  • work with children or teenagers

  • take part in public engagement activities
  • privately tutor in your subject area

Find out more about training to become a teacher on UCAS.com.

Work experience

Work experience is a great opportunity to explore your career options, find roles that suit you, and improve your prospects.