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
Heidi McClelland, PharmD, BCACP
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.
Diane Ammerman, PharmD
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.
Francesca Bastone, PharmD
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.
Jonathan Douek, PharmD
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.
Author: Hyun Ik Kim, PharmD
Company and Department: Taro Pharmaceuticals, Clinical Research
Current Role: Manager, Clinical Research
Alma Mater: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University 2013
If you are interested in entering the pharmaceutical industry, you may want to consider contract employment. I never imagined I would contract my way to a career in industry.
In the winter of 2012, during my last year of pharmacy school, I arrived at the Midyear meeting in Las Vegas, full of youthful optimism and hope for one goal: a fellowship. As an intern at an agency that provided medical writing services for pharmaceutical companies, I felt industry was the natural progression to pursue my interest in researching and applying scientific information to understand and develop drugs. However, despite great effort, my aspirations at the Midyear Clinical Meeting did not come to fruition.
Rajvir Amin, PharmD
Company and Department: Janssen, Medical Communications/Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Communication Specialist/Medical Writer: Hematology-Oncology
Alma Mater: Long Island University, Class of 2016
In recent times, career choices for pharmacists have evolved significantly. There are now many different areas in the healthcare system that pharmacists can work in. However, most students are not exposed to all the available opportunities during pharmacy school. After very detailed research on all types of different roles pharmacists can hold in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew that is where I wanted to pursue my career. To gain more exposure, I joined an organization related to pharmaceutical industry at my school. This organization helped me understand the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacist working in the industry. I later became a vice president of the organization, which allowed me to develop my leadership skills and use my knowledge to educate other students about industry career opportunities.
Sonia Talwar, PharmD
Company and Department: The Medicines Company, Global Health Science Center
Current Role: Director, Global Health Science
Alma Mater: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University 2009
The PharmD degree can lead to a variety of professional opportunities. While this can allow someone to be creative with their career, it can also be overwhelming as one approaches graduation. Before I had entered pharmacy school, I worked at a local pharmacy. While I enjoyed the patient interaction, I was also curious about the companies that developed the drugs used by patients. After entering pharmacy school, I earned different internships for companies such as Ranbaxy, Wyeth (now Pfizer), and Schering-Plough (now Merck) and networked with pharmacists in those companies to learn about their career paths and how they got there.
As I approached graduation, I knew that I would pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry. I attended Midyear and interviewed for an industry fellowship. While the program was very selective, I too was selective with who I would entrust my career with. I applied for two positions, but was unable to secure a fellowship. I stayed positive and knew that there were other ways of getting a position in the industry as demonstrated by other pharmacists that I had networked with. I used the extensive preparation for interviewing for Midyear and applied for positions, including contract positions. While contract positions ranged from 6 months to 2 years, I saw this as an opportunity to experience a position with the flexibility to potentially change my path (e.g. work in drug safety for six months, then maybe medical information for 6 months).
Company and Department: GSW Advertising, inVentiv Health
Current Role: Associate Scientific Director
Alma Mater: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University 2013
During the spring of 2016, I came to a pivotal place in my career path and decided to engage a professional coach at IPhO.
The IPhO Coaching Service helped me clarify my early career goals, customize my CV, review potential positions, and navigate the interview process including reviewing specific job offers.
Jerry Silverman, BS Pharm, RPh and VP of Professional Development and Coaching helped me to thoroughly analyze my professional interests and to establish appropriate short, medium, and long term career goals. I had strong clinical and analytical experiences throughout my pharmacy rotations and was able to secure a 24-month contracted position in drug safety after graduating from pharmacy school. While I could have built upon this initial industry experience to secure another similar position, it became clear to me that I desired to switch tracks and pursue new opportunities in marketing and collaborating with scientific, clinical, and creative teams. In discussing this with my coach he impressed upon me that going directly from a position such as drug safety to marketing was nearly impossible and that we would need to methodically identify the steps over the next several years to make that possible.
Company and Department: Allergan, Medical Affairs
Current Role: Medical Director
Alma Mater: Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University 2002
Entering pharmacy school, a career in the pharmaceutical industry was not on my mind. During my 4th year, I realized that I would be interested in a non-traditional role for a PharmD, and I sought out some recent graduates to learn more about potential pathways. I also diversified my experiential rotations as much as possible and spent my “off cycle” at a pharmaceutical company. At that point I knew I wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry.
Company and Department: Bristol-Myers Squibb: Medical Contact, Content and Insight (MCCI) Contact Center
Current Role: Medical Information Manager-Oncology
Alma Mater: MCPHS University, Class of 2015
Like a growing number of student pharmacists today, I was intrigued to learn about the different roles that pharmacists could hold in industry by the end of P2. I grew to like the idea of pursuing a non-traditional pharmacy practice career and began looking into opportunities to get exposure in this field of work. I was very fortunate to be able to participate in two pharmaceutical industry rotations through my school, MCPHS University in Boston. These APPEs were very competitive to secure and gave me the experience I needed to help me decide which commercial industry function I wanted to pursue. Most importantly, it gave me confirmation that industry was where I wanted to be.