Pharmaceutical Inspectors: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a pharmaceutical inspector. Learn about job responsibilities, education, job outlook, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Healthcare Management & Public Safety Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pharmaceutical Inspector?

Pharmaceutical inspectors evaluate drug manufacturing processes and final products in order to ensure their safety and quality. To analyze the process, they may evaluate the workflow, test the machinery and consider the level of automation. To assess pharmaceutical products, they may examine the chemical composition to make sure that there is no contamination and that there is no variation across products. After finishing an inspection, they write up a report to identify any problems and help the pharmaceutical company develop a safer and more effective manufacturing process.

The following chart gives you an overview about what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma
Key Responsibilities Testing, sampling, measuring, and weighing products
Job Growth (2014-2024) 0%* for all types of quality control inspectors
Average Salary (2015) $44,020* for inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Responsibilities Be as a Pharmaceutical Inspector?

As an inspector, you will be part of the production process. Pharmaceutical inspectors may be employed directly by the pharmaceutical manufacturer or by contracting agencies that service these manufacturers. You may be responsible for testing, sampling, measuring, and weighing products at one or more points in the production process to ensure consistency and quality. You will conduct visual inspections and tests, verify counts and document results, and calculate the percentages of defective product based on your inspection results. Capping, packaging and labeling products, and sorting for shipping may also be among your responsibilities.

As you advance, you may become a supervisor in production. You may also take on increasing responsibility for maintaining databases and certification records, working on quality audits, and developing procedures for process improvement.

What Level of Education Do I Need?

For entry-level positions, you will need a high-school diploma or the equivalent. Courses in biology and chemistry with laboratory work are a good foundation, and may increase your opportunities for finding entry-level work in the pharmaceutical testing industry. You will receive on-the-job training specific to your employer. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement or other continuing education opportunities related to the work.

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers certifications including the Quality Inspector and Certified Quality Improvement Associate, and the Certified Pharmaceutical GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes) Professional. If you aspire to other positions within the quality-control area, certifications such as these may be helpful to you. Additional technical training or training in using software programs can be helpful as inspection techniques become more automated. Associate's degrees and certificate programs in such areas as quality control management and continuous process improvement are available.

What's the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a slow decline in employment for inspectors in manufacturing (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS notes that the pharmaceutical industry is not as likely to fluctuate with changing economic conditions as are other manufacturing industries. A steady demand for production workers is projected.

How Much Can Pharmaceutical Inspectors Earn?

According to the BLS, the median hourly wages in the pharmaceutical industry for inspectors were $19.14 per hour in May 2015. This was higher than the median hourly wage of $17.31 for inspectors across all manufacturing industries.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a pharmaceutical inspector, you could choose to work as an inspector of manufactured products in a different industry. For instance, you might evaluate products like food, textiles, clothing, electronics, motor vehicles, or structural steel. Like pharmaceutical inspectors, these professionals usually need to have at least a high school diploma. Alternatively, you could consider becoming a fire inspector. Instead of inspecting parts and processes, fire inspectors examine buildings to make sure that they comply with government fire codes. They may also investigate fires after they have happened in order to identify their causes and prevent future incidents. Although a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement, many fire inspectors have previous experience in law enforcement or firefighting.

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