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Pharmaceutical Engineer Salary and Career Facts

Pharmaceutical engineers help to synthesize and produce new medications, offering treatment options for diseases. Find out how you can put an education in chemical engineering to use in the pharmaceutical industry, what a typical pharmaceutical engineer salary is, and more.

What Do Chemical Engineers Do in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Pharmaceutical engineers are a type of chemical engineer who concentrate on formulating new medicines for mass production. They help to ensure that compounds being synthesized for use as medications are safe and meet strict quality standards, in addition to finding ways to replicate natural compounds at production scale and identifying possible delivery methods, such as extended-release tablets.

While not every potential medication that a pharmaceutical engineer discovers will make it to market, the process of discovering new compounds is critically important to the medical industry overall. Pharmaceutical engineers are distinct from biomedical engineers, in that biomedical engineers create technological equipment for medical purposes, rather than chemical compounds.

Pharmaceutical Engineer Salary and Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemical engineers of all varieties had a median annual salary of $104,910 as of 2018. Chemical engineers in pharmaceuticals had a median salary of $100,800 in 2018, while the mean salary was higher at $107,180. Chemical engineers earning in the top 10% of the field made $169,770 or more a year. Ziprecruiter, a site that uses salaries offered in job ads, estimated the national average salary specifically for pharmaceutical engineers is $80,339.

Other factors that can potentially influence income are licensure and degree level. Chemical engineers of all stripes generally work full-time, and some work over 40 hours per week. Pharmaceutical companies are the 5th largest employer of chemical engineers.

Chemical engineers overall are projected to see a growth in employment of 6% over the ten year period from 2018 to 2028, just slightly higher than the national average. While growth is driven by many factors, the BLS cites innovation in biomedical and pharmaceutical industries as one area where it can be expected.

Required Education in Chemical Engineering for Pharmaceuticals

To work as a pharmaceutical engineer, an individual will generally need to hold at least a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. Bachelor's programs in chemical engineering commonly include courses such as:

  • Intro to chemical engineering
  • Organic chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Materials of engineering
  • Chemical engineering thermodynamics

Subject matter in biology and physics is also frequently required. Degree programs in chemical engineering often consist of significant amounts of lab work, so online programs in this area are exceptionally rare. Students who graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) may have greater success finding a job, and it might even be necessary if you intend to acquire a Professional Engineering license later in life.

Licensure for Pharmaceutical Engineers

While licensure is not required for chemical engineers, it is an option that you may want to consider as you advance your career. Obtaining a Professional Engineering (PE) license can be done through each state's licensing board, and requirements may vary somewhat from state to state as a result. Still, many commonalities exist among the state requirements. Among these are:

  1. Successfully graduate from an ABET-accredited bachelor's program
  2. Take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which can be done as early as your senior year of college
  3. Obtain at least 4 years of work experience in the field of engineering in which you want to be licensed
  4. Take and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam

An individual who takes the Fundamentals exam is not obligated to continue on and obtain a license, so it may be advisable to take the exam when possible, in the event that you do decide to become licensed later. Licensure may be looked upon positively by employers, as it indicates your competency in the field is recognized by the state.