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Careers in Pharmaceutical Medicine FAQs

Navigating your career through Pharmaceutical Medicine can be difficult, so we have compiled a set of FAQs to help provide guidance. These cover moving into pharmaceutical medicine and getting your first job, training and career progression.


Getting started in pharmaceutical medicine

At entry level, it is best to look for advertised jobs on LinkedIn and companies’ website, or specialist websites like pharmiweb and others.

For mid-senior level careers you may wish to consider using a recruitment consultant or company.

Roles in pharmaceutical medicine

Medical affair physicians ensure that sales and marketing strategies are based on accurate clinical data and executed in a medically sound and ethical way. They deal with products on the market (with marketing authorisation) and not products in development.

Working closely with marketing and sales colleagues in the commercial part of a company, medical affairs professionals will carry out a wide range of activities, including publishing reports from clinical trials, developing educational materials and providing safety information for healthcare professionals and patients.

Training opportunities & requirements

It is not easy to get your first job in the industry and it is probably the hardest obstacle you will face in your career. You need your CV and cover letter to stand out from the crowd, and it is easiest to apply for jobs in your clinical therapeutic area of expertise. You will need to demonstrate that, on top of disease and product knowledge, you grasp what pharmaceutical medicine is and what pharmaceutical medics stand for, that you have leadership and managerial skills, that you understand commercial considerations and that you work well within teams. So prepare well for an interview, provide supporting documentation to these required skills and taking any additional training around these will be helpful.

Career progression

The pharmaceutical industry is very different from the NHS in this aspect. There is no clear career path and time on the job or qualifications do not guarantee progression. You will be promoted within your company or in another company on merit and assessment of your managers. There is no minimal time in a role and in general movement upside and lateral are much more frequent than the NHS. Please also remember that it is much easier to lose your job and get sacked compared to the NHS , as you are an employee in the private sector and it is quite similar to a non-medical role within the private sector. Your personality, likability and ease of working with you have much more weight in the industry compared to the NHS. The result is you need to work on and prepare more for progress and promotion and, in many cases, you need to take the lead and be proactive and rather than waiting for promotion. T

o summarise, the sky is the limit. Once you are in the industry you do not require any further examinations or qualifications and it all depends on you, your work ethic, professionalism and personality. Luck obviously has its place.

There is no direct comparison to ‘consultant’ but a medical director or medical lead will be roughly equivalent.

Questions about terms & conditions

Paying at the lower/entry level of medical adviser is quite good and compares favourably with the NHS (see table). At the starting point of junior medical advisor you can expect ~£70,000 +benefits (pension, car allowance, sick leave, extended paternity leave, some working from home, flexible working hours, private health insurance, life insurance and quite a few life style perks to choose from – child care vouchers etc). Salaries are usually higher at large pharma companies than smaller companies, and in general higher in pharma vs CROs and agency. There is no fixed scheme however, and it varies from company to company.


Base Salary comparing NHS and Industry
Note: there are additional pays for on call and rota. Industry data is subjective and varies significantly from company to company.
Data from https://www.nhsemployers.org/articles/pay-and-conditions-circulars-medical-and-dental-staff

Find out more

Hear from one of our members about her career journey

Dr Sonya Abraham