Pharmaceuticals: Graduate Area of Work

Engineers in the pharmaceuticals industry need strong interpersonal skills to work with people from varying backgrounds.
The gradsingapore Team
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The pharmaceutical industry offers work in a broad range of drug manufacturing and development work, such as classic pharmaceuticals (prescribed medicines), biopharmaceuticals (such as vaccines), medical technology, and consumer business (over-the-counter medicines).

Pharmaceutical engineers are mostly involved in researching and manufacturing prescriptions and products.

They may work alongside pharmacists and chemists to develop active medicinal ingredients and then synthesise it into a consumable product, or maintain and optimise pharmaceutical production facilities.  

Singapore is widely acknowledged as a top-rated clinical and biomedical R&D centre in Asia, and its pharmaceutical industry is set to grow further with the government’s investment of S$3.7 billion, spent over five years from 2011 to 2015.

Its continued growth and highly advanced status has managed to attract leading biomedical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, which have contributed to a highly innovative and competitive industry landscape.

Pharmaceutical engineers thus have an access to an ample amount of resources when working on their projects.

Trends and developments in the pharmaceuticals industry

Globally, the pharmaceutical industry is under pressure to make medication more affordable to patients in lower-income brackets and countries.

Companies are thus now investing in improving production efficiency and yields via automation to keep costs to patients low while still maintaining profit margins.

There are also efforts on improving trial tests and copyright processes to make them more efficient.

Constant regulatory updates on drug manufacturing quality are another challenge that pharmaceutical companies face. Engineers are thus needed to develop increasingly sophisticated production line monitoring and measurement systems in order to maintain higher production standards.

There is also an increased consumer demand for lifestyle- and age-related illness medication (e.g. heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s).

Heightened focus on gene research and vaccine development has led to trending growth in the production of biopharmaceutical and biological medical products worldwide.

What it’s like working in pharmaceuticals

It is common for pharmaceutical engineers to work in teams made up of different disciplines.

Those involved in R&D and manufacturing projects will need to work with scientists and other engineers, whereas engineers involved in the commercialisation of a product may need to work with sales and marketing staff from the company’s corporate division.

Teamwork, communication, and people skills are thus essential to maintain good working relationships with team members and clients.

Engineers may also be required to communicate complex engineering processes to non-engineering clients and colleagues.

Patience and excellent problem-solving skills are absolutely necessary in this field because even though R&D projects can take years to execute, only a small percentage of products under research actually make it to the market.

In spite of the slow lead time, work is still demanding and fast-paced as you’ll have to continuously explore new ways to produce a product or prescription.

The ability to evaluate your options clear-headedly, take the appropriate level of risk, and be accountable for your actions are valued skills in the industry.

Getting a graduate engineering job in pharmaceuticals

Most employers in this field hire through graduate schemes, where graduate engineers are rotated through a range of departments to experience different roles before they settle on a particular division.

Consider your background and personality before deciding on a position. A background in chemistry will help you in a role in drug research.

On the other hand, manufacturing positions require someone with good technical abilities.

The highlights of a career in pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical engineers are able to contribute to the betterment of people’s health and help improve quality of life.

The opportunity to work with advanced medical technology in a dynamic industry is also an exciting part of working in this field.

The pharmaceuticals industry seeks graduates in...

  • Chemical
  • Control
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Environmental
  • Instruments
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanics
  • Physics
  • Power systems
  • Software