Getting a graduate job in science and pharmaceuticals

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
January, 2017

Find out the skills, qualifications and experience you need for a career in this sector

For many jobs in this sector, you'll need a Bachelors degree in a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) subject. Many areas of work within this sector - such as biotechnology and astrophysics - often demand a research Masters or PhD.

Some roles demand particular qualifications; for example, an analytical chemist will need a degree in chemistry, and those working in drug development or research will need a degree in chemistry, biology, biomedical or pharmacology.

Some employers have a number of different graduate programmes and may have specific requirements for each one. For example, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) look for economics, biomedical, biology or pharmacology graduates for their health outcomes programme.

However, employers often consider graduates of any degree discipline for commercial roles in areas such as sales, marketing, IT, HR and finance.

For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications, see job profiles.

What skills do employers want?

You will need to show:

  • analytical, methodological problem-solving skills and logical, objective thinking
  • commercial awareness
  • communication and interpersonal skills
  • creativity
  • enthusiasm
  • excellent IT and numeracy skills
  • good time management
  • planning, organisation and project management skills
  • presentation skills
  • scientific, technical or research skills
  • teamwork.

Where can I get work experience?

Four-year science-based sandwich degrees are widely available in UK universities, offering a year in industry where you can gain valuable knowledge and technical skills. However, if your course does not provide a compulsory placement, you could consider applying directly to companies for schemes.

Some of the larger employers in the sector, such as GSK, the Met Office and Reckitt Benckiser (RB), offer summer internships for penultimate year undergraduate students. Some also offer short taster experiences for first years. In many cases, these become talent spotting exercises for their graduate schemes.

The Wellcome Trust offers internships in a variety of roles relating to its work in biomedical research. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) also offers internships, and these are advertised at Graduate Talent Pool.

To find more work placements and internships in the science and pharmaceuticals sector, search for work experience.

How do I find a graduate job in science and pharmaceuticals?

Large employers will advertise vacancies on their websites. Graduate schemes lasting for between two and three years include AstraZeneca's Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) graduate programme and GSK's Future Leaders Programme.

Although graduate schemes in research and development are the most common, many of the larger pharmaceutical companies also offer graduate schemes in non-laboratory roles. Professional training offered as part of these schemes may lead to further qualifications in areas such as clinical research management or accountancy.

You can search for jobs in trade magazines and the specialist press, such as New Scientist, or through sector-specific recruitment agencies. Professional bodies such as the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) advertise graduate roles too, and also provide advice to job hunters who are looking for work.

To find jobs in the science and pharmaceuticals sector, search graduate jobs.