About The Profession

Advances in biotechnology are transforming drug discovery and medical device development. Scientists have learned a great deal about human genes, but the real work—translating that knowledge into viable new drugs and healthcare products —has only recently begun. So far, millions of people have benefited from medicines and vaccines developed through biotechnology, and several hundred new biotechnologically-derived medicines are currently in the pipeline. These new medicines, all of which are in human clinical trials or awaiting FDA approval, include products and drugs for cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, devices for heart disease and diabetes, and related conditions, among others.

Many new drugs are expected to be developed in the coming years. Advances in technology and the knowledge of how cells work will allow pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing makers to become more efficient in the drug discovery process.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing provided over 292,000 wage and salary jobs in 2018. Strong demand is anticipated for professional occupations —especially for those engaged in R&D, the backbone of the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry, www.bls.gov/oes/current/naics4_325400.htm.

The pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry consists of over 2,500 places of employment, located throughout the U.S., including establishments that make pharmaceutical preparations or finished drugs; biological products, such as serums and vaccines; bulk chemicals and botanicals used in making finished drugs; and diagnostic substances such as pregnancy and blood glucose kits.

Nearly 90 percent of this industry’s jobs in 2016 were in establishments that employed more than 100 workers (chart 1). Most jobs are in California, Illinois, Texas, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.1

A recent publication of the American Pharmacists Association indicates that while entry-level salaries may not be as high, the long-term opportunities for growth (in salaries and benefits) may be greater in industry-based positions such as research, regulatory affairs, clinical trials management, business development and executive management.2

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) surveyed its members in 2015, and reported a median income of $63,700. Higher income was reported by individuals with post-graduate education: $67,522 (median); and those with the title of “Project Manager” ($76,481) or “Research Manager” ($78,140).

Individuals employed by pharmaceutical companies reported a significantly higher median income: $93,611, as did those employed by medical device companies: $87,500, compared with those employed by hospitals, academic research organizations or physician-based practices.3 Download complete survey results (PDF).


1 Career Guide to Industries: Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing Industry Profile, industries.careers.org/topic/386-pharmaceutical-and-medicine-manufacturing-industry-profile

2 Making Inroads in Industry: Contract Research Organizations; Pharmacy Careers; January 2006

3 SoCRA 2015 Salary Survey; Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) (PDF)

Selected readings:

Behind the Scenes, Pharmacists Play Key Role in Clinical Research; Science Career; June 2007

Careers and Grad Programs for B.S./M.S. Scientists: Testing the Waters; Science Career; September 2007 (PDF)

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