Pharmaceutical Engineer Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a pharmaceutical engineer. Learn about potential salary, employment outlook and job duties to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Clinical Research Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pharmaceutical Engineer?

A pharmaceutical engineer is a specialized chemical engineer who focuses on creating new pharmaceutical drugs and improving upon existing products and manufacturing processes. Depending on their specialization area, they may do research and run tests on drugs that could potentially be used for new disease treatments, or they may evaluate drugs that are currently on the market to make sure that they comply with government safety standards. They may also design new manufacturing equipment or alternative workflows in order to cut costs and improve overall manufacturing efficiency. When a problem is detected in the drug manufacturing process, they are responsible for troubleshooting it, in order to restore the safety and quality of the product.

The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, physics
Key Responsibilities Conceive, develop and test new drugs; ensure regulatory compliance, safety and efficacy; improve existing drugs; oversee mass production of the product
Job Growth (2014-24) 2% (for all chemical engineers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $97,940 (for all chemical engineers in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Pharmaceutical Engineer?

As a pharmaceutical engineer, you would work to develop new pharmaceuticals, from conception to production. In a research facility, you would design and monitor experiments to develop new drugs or improve existing ones as well as conduct clinical trials to determine the drug's safety and efficacy. At a manufacturing plant, you would oversee operations to produce the drug in mass quantities for distribution and consumption. You have to be aware of the many regulations controlling the pharmaceutical industry, such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements, quality assurance and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP). Your job title could be pharmaceutical engineer, but you could also be called a chemical engineer or bioprocesses engineer, depending on the facility where you work and the specifics of your position.

What Education Do I Need?

The minimum education required to begin work in the pharmaceutical engineering field is a Bachelor of Science degree. In an undergraduate program, you could major in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, biological engineering or another related concentration. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredits engineering degree programs in many areas of engineering, including chemical and biomedical (www.abet.org). In a chemical engineering or similar bachelor's degree program, you'll study biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and specific areas of engineering, as well as participate in laboratory and research work.

Some positions in pharmaceutical engineering may require you to have a master's degree, such as a Master of Engineering in Pharmaceutical Engineering. In a master's program you will be trained in pharmaceutical research, manufacturing operations and federal regulation compliance. Some universities offer dual-degree programs in which you could earn both your bachelor's and master's degree in a 5-6 year period.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2015 that chemical engineers across all industries made a mean annual wage of $103,960 (www.bls.gov). Those working in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing earned a mean annual wage of $97,940.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to be a chemical engineer, you could consider specializing in a different area of the field. For instance, chemical engineers can pursue careers in which they solve problems related to energy production, electronics manufacturing, food quality or clothing development. You could also consider becoming an engineer in an entirely unrelated field, like civil engineering. Civil engineers work on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and dams, where they may serve in roles related to design, construction, operation and maintenance. Like chemical engineers, aspiring civil engineers need to have at least a bachelor's degree in order to get a job in the field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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