How to Become a Pharmaceutical Chemist


How to Become a Pharmaceutical Chemist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a pharmaceutical chemist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a pharmaceutical chemist:


Those who become pharmaceutical chemists are strong in academics and are emotionally stable, as this is required to complete short and long-term tasks. They typically have a natural aptitude for chemistry, science, mathematics and analytical thinking.


Not only do pharmaceutical chemists posses technical skills in chemistry, they also posses skills in areas such as management, communication and teamwork.


Those who become pharmaceutical chemists enjoy the idea of conducting research that will be used in real word applications, and the pharmaceutical industry is a great place for chemists to work who have big ideas and want them to become a reality.


Pharmaceutical chemists may apply their skills and knowledge to a variety of areas, such as the development of drugs to treat rare diseases, the review of new drug applications submitted by pharmaceutical companies and many other areas.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a pharmaceutical chemist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Pharmaceutical Chemist

To become a pharmaceutical chemist, you typically need to begin by completing a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in chemistry, or a related science such as pharmacology or biochemistry.


There are schools that offer specific programs in pharmaceutical chemistry or medicinal chemistry. Such programs are ideal as their subject matter combines knowledge of the biological, medical and physical sciences in the study of the scientific aspect of drug therapy.


A bachelor’s degree in an area related to chemistry not only serves as an excellent way to prepare for an advanced degree in chemistry; it also opens the door to entry-level careers in pharmaceutical chemistry, such as laboratory assistant.


If you want to become a pharmaceutical chemist that works as a consultant, you will need a Master’s degree in Chemistry. To become a pharmaceutical chemist that works in research for a large pharmaceutical company, or work as a university professor, a PhD in chemistry is typically needed.


Aspiring pharmaceutical chemists that wish to move into executive management positions later in their career may find that coursework in economics, marketing, management and other areas of business can be beneficial to take.




Pharmaceutical Chemist Job Description

Pharmaceutical chemists are responsible for assessing the chemical and physical properties of natural and synthetic materials in order to understand them, and ultimately apply them to developing or regulating medicinal products. There are two primary types of pharmaceutical chemists.


Synthetic Pharmaceutical Chemists: also known as Medicinal Chemists, conduct research and analysis for the purpose of creating of new drugs and pharmaceutical products. They work to create products that provide the greatest possible benefits with the fewest negative side effects, while simultaneously ensuring that production costs are kept as low as possible.


Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemists: Are responsible for developing, applying and monitoring stringent methods of chemical analysis to a product before it comes to market, ensuring that the molecular elements of its structure are easy to determine for toxicological and pharmacological purposes.



Pharmaceutical Chemist Job Duties

• Conduct research and analysis on natural and synthetic materials to determine their chemical and physical makeup

• Record detailed notes during the research process

• Conduct quantitative analysis to determine how much of one substance is mixed with another

• Develop and improve products

• Develop new production processes

• Use measures such as the elimination of light and heat in order to provoke changes in the composition of materials

• Prepare reports based on scientific deductions formulated as a result of research and analysis



Pharmaceutical Chemist Salary

The salary level of pharmaceutical chemists can vary depending on their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many others.


Pharmaceutical Chemist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Chemists occupational group earn an average of between $28.03 and $45.00 per hour.


Pharmaceutical Chemist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Chemists occupational group is $63,190 per year.


Pharmaceutical Chemist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level for workers in the Chemists and Materials Scientists occupational group is $69,790 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are less than $39,250, and the top 10% are above $116,130 per year.



Personality Traits Needed to Become a Pharmaceutical Chemist

In order to become effective in a career as a pharmaceutical chemist, you need to posses certain personality traits. These traits will not only allow you to conduct your job duties with competence, they will also allow you to endure the ups and downs of this career.


• An interest in solving problems

• An interest in developing products and processes

• An interest in business and a flare for sales

• The ability to communicate effectively with other professionals such as chemical engineers, product managers and others

• The ability to work on a team

• Emotional stability

• Enjoy working in a lab

• Patience, persistence and the ability to pay attention to detail





Who Hires Pharmaceutical Chemists?

Pharmaceutical chemists are hired by organizations that are involved in researching, developing and marketing pharmaceutical products, as well as organizations responsible for regulating those products.


Government Agencies: May hire pharmaceutical chemists in administrative capacities in areas related to the regulation of pharmaceutical products, such as reviewing new drug applications submitted by pharmaceutical companies.


Pharmaceutical Companies: Hire pharmaceutical chemists to conduct and supervise research. Pharmaceutical chemists may also work in a management capacity within a pharmaceutical company.


Biotechnology Companies: Hire pharmaceutical chemists to conduct and supervise research. Pharmaceutical chemists may also work in a management capacity within a biotechnology company.


Private Research Laboratories: Hire pharmaceutical chemists to conduct and supervise research. Pharmaceutical chemists may also work in a management capacity within a private research laboratory.


Colleges and Universities: Hire pharmaceutical chemists to perform research, as well as instruct classes



Careers Similar to Pharmaceutical Chemist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Pharmaceutical Chemist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Chemical Analyst

Clinical Chemist

Organic Chemist





References: How to Become a Pharmaceutical Chemist

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Pharmaceutical Chemist.


Alberta Learning and Information Service website:

American Chemical Society website:

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:

University of Toronto website:



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Scholarships for Becoming a Pharmaceutical Chemist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Pharmaceutical Chemist can be found on our Chemistry Scholarships and Biochemistry Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Pharmaceutical Chemist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Pharmaceutical Chemist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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