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Your guide to finding a career in the pharmaceutical sector

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The pharmaceutical industry in Ireland covers a huge variety of both scientific jobs and non-scientific jobs, from challenging Research and Development roles and lab based clinical trials to Sales and Marketing. Interested in joining the pharma sector or developing your pharma career? Here’s what you’ll need and what kind of pharma jobs you could find yourself working in.

The basics required to work in the pharmaceutical sector

For most careers in pharma, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a science related subject. The Irish pharma industry directly employs almost 25,000 people, and over half of these have a third-level qualification.

Work experience is an added advantage. Not only will it help you to develop technical skills, but it will also broaden your commercial & industrial awareness. If you’re still in university ask about work placements as lots of third-level institutions now have links with industry and can arrange student placements to upskill students. Many larger pharma companies also offer internships and graduate programs, which are brilliant for gaining experience.

If you’re interested in science but don’t have a related degree employers will also consider graduates of any degree for commercial roles in areas such as:

  • Sales and Marketing
  • IT
  • HR
  • Training
  • Finance
  • Administrative areas

Jobs for science graduates within pharma include:

Clinical trials

All medicines must undergo clinical trials before they are granted licences. If you choose to work in this area your jobs will involve setting up trials to ensure that new pharmaceutical and chemical products are safe for use.

You could be involved in lab-based research, or using statistical methods to analyse and interpret results, or managing and monitoring trials.


The regulatory affairs career path will suit you if you have a background in science but don’t want to work in a lab. Employees within regulatory affairs act as middle men between companies and regulatory authorities to ensure that products are manufactured and distributed in compliance with legislation.

The demand for Regulation professionals is high and an MSc is typically the minimum requirement for any entry-level positions. Opportunities for regulatory affairs officers, managers and consultants are found across the pharmaceutical, chemical, clinical research, medical device and biotechnology industries.


This is a challenging area to work in which, and as the name suggests, involves the initial stage of discovery right through to manufacturing and having the product ready for the market.

Most commonly these jobs are based in universities, research institutes and large pharma or medical devices companies.

Opportunities in research are open to all graduates who have obtained a Science degree, however a higher degree in a specific field is preferable. There is huge collaboration between industry, third level colleges and universities in this area as the government has recognized the importance of R&D to our future economic growth.

Graduates with a primary degree or a Masters mostly work as research technologists, while those with a PhD typically work as project leaders, research project coordinators, research directors or university professors.

Manufacturing & QA

In 2015, QA Specialist was named the number 1 ‘most in-demand position’ in scientific field and has remained in-demand ever since.

New scientific products such as drugs, pharmaceuticals or sophisticated medical devices require a huge amount of testing before they can proceed to the production stage – this is where QA professionals are needed.
Day to day, Quality professionals:

  • Examine production plants
  • Monitor sites
  • Audit data
  • Validate manufacturing processes

You can then move up the ladder doing technical work or can shift over and become part of the management team that coordinates the work of the technical team.


Preparations for the launch of new Pharmaceutical products can begin three or four years before launch to market. Professionals within this area will collect and analyse data to support the marketing of medicines during each stage of the product life cycle, this includes pre-launch, launch, and after the product becomes established on the market.

As well as all the above pharma jobs there are a huge range of other opportunities in Ireland at the moment.

If you’re interested in developing your career in science please do get in touch.

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