Paths to Industry
Welcome to Paths to Industry
This column highlights the many different paths that exist for pharmacists to enter industry.
There is a misconception, especially among students, that industry fellowships are the only way to get a job in industry. Although fellowships are an ideal way to break through, in actuality, the vast majority of pharmacists (about 80%) in industry never completed a fellowship.
Please read the articles below designated as "Paths to Industry" and be sure to "join the conversation" by commenting and engaging in the dialogue that follows each article.
To share your path, please contact us here:
Jerry E. Silverman, RPh, CCP
IPhO VP, Professional Development and Coaching
Company and Department: Parexel, Pricing & Market Access
Current Role: Associate, Pricing and Market Access
Alma Mater: Temple University School of Pharmacy, Class of 2018
One of the reasons I chose pharmacy school was the versatility of the degree. The option to choose among retail, hospital, and industry was enticing and I set out to make my time in school valuable by experiencing as many different potential avenues as I could, which I did through internships/IPPEs/APPEs and various jobs. I was fortunate enough to have two of my fourth-year rotations at Teva and Genomind. These experiences made me want to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
The opportunity to make an impact on a large scale and have a dynamic set of day-to-day responsibilities while maintaining work-life balance appealed to me on a major level. So, like many students, I attended Midyear with the goal of attaining a fellowship. I spent an absurd amount of time on applications, cover letters, resumes, and interview prep. At the time, I truly had everything planned down to the most meticulous of details—like the weight of the paper my resume was printed on and the general statements to be included on my thank you notes. Midyear and the subsequent months were an anxiety-ridden blur, filled with interviews and waiting. At the end of it all, despite three on-sites, nothing lined up for me and I was distraught, especially since I was graduating in two months.
Future Company and Department: AbbVie, Sales
Future Role: Immunology Sales Representative in Rheumatology
Since the beginning of pharmacy school, I knew I wanted to eventually work behind the scenes in a field that had the potential to improve patient health on a global scale. At the time, I hadn't yet learned that the pharmaceutical industry would provide that exact opportunity. Over the past few years, I connected with many pharmacists currently working in industry who shared their experiences and helped me realize that what I really wanted was the ability to marry my clincal knowledge with my business acumen—that's how I could truly make a difference.
Though many secure a fellowship after graduation, the landscape is growing increasingly competitive and I knew I needed to research alternative pathways to industry. After consulting my mentors, I learned more about pursuing sales full time and the doors that could open for me. I attended a sales conference where I had the opportunity to interview and apply for my future role in sales at AbbVie Pharmaceuticals. While interviewing, I felt like I was able to effectively demonstrate the value that my education and background would add to the company. Many commercial fellowship programs have rotations in sales because of its focus on product knowledge and company insight. I knew this was the right starting point for me.
Company and Department: Arena Pharmaceuticals, Program Management
Current Role: AD, Global Program Management (R&D)
Alma Mater: Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Class of 2014
My career path has been filled with curiosity and opportunity. But before I dive into the details, I think it’s important to appreciate the tremendous amount of opportunities available for pharmacists—in hospital, retail, managed care, or the pharmaceutical industry. No matter what role you pursue, at the end of the day, your doctorate in pharmacy will serve you well and provide you with a strong scientific acumen. The beauty of the pharmaceutical industry is that there are countless opportunities that require you to apply your scientific knowledge and ultimately learn to develop a solid understanding of the business.
Company and Department: Sanofi Genzyme, Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: University of Southern California, Class of 2006
After earning an undergraduate degree in biology, I started working at Amgen in the preclinical research department. It was there that I discovered my love for working in the pharmaceutical industry. More than anything, I enjoyed being surrounded by innovation and cutting-edge science, where the ultimate goal was simple: to help patients. I was encouraged by a PhD coworker to continue my education and I decided to pursue a doctorate of pharmacy. I was admitted to USC pharmacy school, where I spent every day gaining knowledge and growing more appreciative of my education. With the help of two other classmates, I started the Student Industry Association where pharmacy students could learn about careers in industry.
Company and Department: PTC Therapeutics, Business Operations
Current Role: Senior Director, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships
Alma Mater: University of Florida, Class of 2010
During my first rotation, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for an article. I spent a number of hours researching the topic and finally mustered up the courage to share the idea with one of my professors, Dr. Epstein. While he appreciated the enthusiasm, he gave me a particularly skeptical look when I told him I would like to publish the paper in The New England Journal of Medicine. We ultimately collaborated on a different project, which became the start of a great relationship that would end in a journey to industry and beyond.
I then decided to pursue a fellowship at the East Coast Institute for Research (ECIR) with Drs. Epstein and Choksi. My two years would be spent teaching, researching (phase 2-4), and publishing manuscripts. ECIR also had a separate arm that consulted for a wide range of pharmaceutical companies like AZ and Novartis. This was where I got my first exposure to industry and I absolutely fell in love.
Company and Department: Accelovance, Inc., Medical Writing
Current Role: Medical Writer
Alma Mater: University of Maryland, Class of 2018
Throughout pharmacy school, I sought a non-traditional career path and perceived the pharmaceutical industry to be a world of endless excitement and innovation. The core of my pharmacy training was clinically-focused, so I gained skills that would help me prosper in industry.
I spent most of my extracurricular time engaging in international pharmacy enterprises by traveling to six different countries throughout pharmacy school: Honduras, Argentina, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Singapore, and Australia. My key strategy for retaining the clinical skills I acquired in each location was to thoroughly document my experiences and reflections and share them with my professional network. I sought out opportunities to publish my reflections via a variety of pharmacy platforms and learned very quickly that I enjoyed writing – so much so that I would then pivot into industry by showcasing my communication and articulation skills.
Company and Department: Pfizer, Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Outcomes Specialist
Alma Mater: University of Wisconsin–Madison, Class of 2004
When I entered pharmacy school in 2000, an industry career was not on my radar. I was working as a pharmacy technician at a large retail chain and planned to continue my career there as a pharmacist. During my fourth year of pharmacy school, I was in a 6-week rotation with a pharmacist working in Medical Affairs at Pfizer. This was when I first became fascinated by the idea of an industry career path.
Despite my fascination, I did continue to work as a retail pharmacist after graduation. I worked in various locations and positions, including a staff pharmacist and pharmacy manager. Although I enjoyed working closely and directly with patients, I realized after 7 years that I was ready to make a career change.
Company and Department: Genentech, Field Medical
Current Role: Senior Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: University of Pittsburgh, Class of 1998
I first learned about postions for pharmacists in industry while observing my faculty mentors move into Medical Science Liaison (MSL) roles. They were strong leaders and outstanding clinicians at the University of Pittsburgh, so their transition caught my attention. My residency was clinically-based in ambulatory care and managed care at the University of Maryland. I then moved into a clinical pharmacy position in managed care, where I had significant exposure to and involvement in new drug presentations from MSLs and Industry Account Managers, many of whom were recruiting me to work in the Pharmaceutical Industry. My clinical experience in managing psychiatric patients in insurance initiatives gave me insight that was helpful as I learned about open positions in industry. I decided to make the switch and interview for my first industry MSL position in neuroscience, and I was offered the job.
What's the bottom line?
Your clinical knowledge and experience gained during rotations and/or residency are valuable assets to industry employers. Utilize those skills as you network to help you break into industry in a nontraditional way.
Company and Department: Prometic, Field Medical
Current Role: Medical Science Liaison
Alma Mater: Fairleigh Dickinson University, Class of 2017
I have always wanted to impact patient lives and health care on a global scale, and I ultimately discovered that the best way for me to do that was through the pharmaceutical industry, although the road to getting there was not a straightforward one.
Company and Department: Amgen, Regulatory Promotion Compliance
Current Role: Senior Associate Reviewer
Alma Mater: Temple University, Class of 2017
I have heard countless times how important networking is, but I did not truly understand its value until it helped me land my first job in industry.
Like many student pharmacists, my interest in the pharmaceutical industry as an alternative to traditional pharmacist roles was strong, but my knowledge of what one can do in industry was lacking. Therefore, in my first year at Temple University School of Pharmacy, I co-founded our chapter of IPhO. This was in an effort to increase my classmates, and my own, understanding of the avenues that were available to us in industry upon graduation. We gained valuable insight from each speaker that came in, and we learned some of the nuances of each position, from regulatory to medical affairs, to marketing and much more.