Today’s pharmacy graduates have numerous career options. Traditionally, pharmacists have used their clinical knowledge in a variety of practice settings, including community pharmacies and hospitals. However, there are also many significant alternative career opportunities within the pharmaceutical industry.

Early-Phase Clinical Development

Early-Phase Clinical Development encompasses research from preclinical studies through phase 1 and 2 trials of the drug development process. These trials are the first time an exploratory compound is studied in a human population and are commonly known as “first in human” trials. As a clinical research scientist, pharmacists assume lead roles in:

  • Designing and managing clinical trials
  • Study protocol development
  • Selecting primary investigator and trial sites
  • Ensuring proper data collection and interpretation
  • Determining the best dose of the medication for later studies
  • Reporting serious adverse events
  • Publishing clinical study reports and manuscripts

Late-Phase Clinical Development

Late-Phase Clinical Development encompasses research from phase 2 and 3 human trials of the drug development process.

In addition to the activities in Early-Phase Clinical Development, pharmacists in Late-Phase Development also have the opportunity to participate in:

  • Planning investigator meetings
  • Chairing international clinical trial team meetings
  • Overseeing deliverables from various external contractors
  • Study protocol development


The marketing department is responsible for strategic implementation of the advertising and promotion supporting a company’s products. A pharmacist in Market Research/Business Analytics generally helps to:

  • Analyze past and present market data to monitor current and future trends
  • Forecast market trends
  • Create patient population evaluation models
  • Identify unmet medical and pharmaceutical care needs

Medical Communications / Education / Information

In this role, pharmacists:

  • Critically analyze and evaluate evidence-based medicine
  • Plan and implement continuing education programs and materials
  • Collaborate and network with key opinion leaders from industry, managed care, and academia to create promotional and educational programs
  • Act as a key member in the development of publication plans

Drug Regulatory Affairs

A pharmacist in Regulatory Affairs may:

  • Develop and provide clinical development and Regulatory strategy
  • Create and compile submissions to Health Authorities including Investigational New Drug Applications and New Drug Applications
  • Interact with FDA and Global Health Authorities such as the EMA and MHW
  • Review and approve advertising and promotional material

Medical Science Liaison (MSL)

MSLs are therapeutic specialists who coordinate the communication of clinical information between pharmaceutical companies and medical experts.

The MSL is a field-based associate who collaborates with and communicates information to:

  • The sales force
  • Practitioners in the field
  • Clinical trial investigators
  • Internal stakeholders

Medical and Scientific Affairs

A pharmacist in Medical and Scientific Affairs:

  • Provides expertise on global life cycle management
  • Collaborates with Global Brand Medical Directors and their teams
  • Integrates data from internal and external sources into actionable information for clients
  • Reviews and approves promotion and advertising from a medical perspective in compliance with FDA regulations

Drug Safety and Risk Management

Pharmacists have found a niche in this department by:

  • Evaluating a product’s safety profile throughout its development and into its postmarketing stage
  • Participating in clinical development team discussions relating to adverse events
  • Integrating information from preclinical safety trials to ongoing trials
  • Contributing to ongoing safety documents submitted to health authorities

Health Economics and Outcomes Research

The Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) group helps to identify, measure, and compare the costs and consequences of health-related courses of action to assign a “perceived” value to pharmaceutical intervention.

A pharmacist in HEOR can:

  • Compare the economic effect of 2 or more drug products
  • Assist in the development of drug formularies
  • Develop national or international clinical practice guidelines