Pharmaceuticals is a perpetually-evolving field that needs to meet the demands of modern healthcare standards, and pharmaceutical scientists are key players that keep the industry moving. But just how much is the average pharmaceutical scientist salary?

Average Pharmaceutical Scientist Salary

The average annual salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep in the United States is $102,006.

This is the average of the figures presented by popular job sites, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Comparably.

What Is A Pharmaceutical Scientist?

Pharmaceutical scientists are responsible for discovering, developing, testing, and manufacturing new medications, in contrast with pharmacists, whose job is to educate others about proper medication use and communicate with other health care providers.

A day in the work life of a pharmaceutical scientist is mostly spent in a laboratory discovering and learning how different compounds interact with disease-causing cells and organisms and investigating how they interact with the human body to figure out if they can become new effective drugs.

Many institutions employ pharmaceutical scientists, from large drug manufacturing and biotech companies and contract research organizations to academic institutions and governmental agencies. Others also teach and work at universities or hospitals, managing clinical drug trials or overseeing the drug manufacturing process. 

Pharmaceutical scientists work with state-of-the-art technology and laboratory equipment to help them conduct scientific experiments. People in this field must be extremely detailed, precise, keen to detail, and patient.  

Developing and manufacturing new drugs is a time-consuming process, and it can take a team of pharmaceutical scientists some years to bring a new drug to market. It usually involves three stages:

  • Discovery – Pharmaceutical scientists employ a variety of approaches to identify chemical compounds that may be developed and manufactured to help treat various diseases and conditions 
  • Testing & Development – After formulation, pharmaceutical scientists will then conduct trials, administer the new drug to animals and humans to ensure it is safe and effective, and monitor for possible side effects and interactions in the body.
  • Manufacturing – Once trial results come out good and the drug is approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), then comes the industrial-scale creation of the approved drugs and distribution.

How Much Does A Pharmaceutical Scientist Make?

The salary ranges for a pharmaceutical scientist can vary widely depending on important factors such as education, certifications, additional expertise, and the number of years you have spent in the profession. Data from popular online job-hunting sites also differ when it comes to the average salaries: 

  • Glassdoor Average: $110,673
  • Ziprecruiter Average: $87,618 
  • Indeed Average: $110,000
  • Comparably Average:  $99,732.

Overall Average Salary: $102,006

A pharmacist’s average salary may also depend on the state they’re based in. States like California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington offer the highest average salaries for pharmaceutical scientists, owing to these states being powerhouses for the industry. 

→ Pharmaceutical Scientist made our list of the best paying jobs in major pharmaceuticals

How To Qualify As A Pharmaceutical Scientist?

To qualify as a pharmaceutical scientist, one must possess a keen interest and knowledge of the scientific process, mathematics, biology, and chemistry. Attention to detail and having good communication skills are also important since one will be dealing with people from diverse backgrounds while working on the development/manufacturing process, which requires no room for mistakes. 

Pharmaceutical Scientist Educational Requirements

Higher education levels are required for a career as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies usually hire applicants with a four-year bachelor’s degree (or higher) of any of the following degrees:

  • Pharmacology – A pharmacology degree delves into medications, their sources, properties, effects on the body, therapeutic uses, and interactions with other drugs in biological systems. Pharmacology majors are trained to formulate and manage clinical trials, regulate drugs, manufacture, and market new pharmaceutical products. Applicants with this degree are highly sought after in the pharmaceutical industry, especially if they have a master’s or doctorate. 
  • Pharmacy  Pharmacy majors are able to identify, discover, synthesize, and formulate biologically active compounds for clinical use and understand the different factors influencing drug activity in the body. It’s a degree that involves a lot of analysis, mathematics, and a deeper understanding of chemistry, making it an important degree for people who want to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical field. 
  • Chemistry – Chemistry is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates theoretical and practical information and involves intensive coursework in natural science and mathematics to help them explore chemical processes, chemical compositions, and chemical manipulation – to better understand how compounds are structured and how they change and react in certain situations and opens up career opportunities across the sciences, business, and throughout the manufacturing industry.
  • Biology – Biology is the science behind living organisms, which includes the origin and history of animal and plant life and their habits, characteristics, functions, and behaviors. 

An advanced degree in biology allows its majors to teach biology at a university or become senior-level managers or researchers at pharmaceutical, environmental, or biotech firms.

  • Biochemistry – A biochemistry degree allows you to understand the chemistry of life by tackling the convergence of biology and chemistry and fosters interdisciplinary knowledge in the sciences. Biochemistry majors are likewise prized in the pharmaceutical industry since their skills are needed for determining the clinical uses of drugs and their effects on living organisms.

Additionally, having a master’s or doctorate in different pharmaceutical/pharmacology fields such as pharmaceutics, analysis, and quality assurance can boost your resumé further and help you find specific niches. Other higher degrees, like Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Public Health (MPH), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), may also help applicants qualify for advancement.

Certifications & Credentials

These credentials and certifications are strict requirements for people working in the pharmaceutical industry:

  • Licensure in pharmacy – A pharmacist earns the professional designation after passing national and state pharmacy board exams. 
  • Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional (CPIP) – This credential is a professional certification program covering product development through manufacturing for the pharmaceutical industry. 


People interested in the sciences can find good career opportunities in the pharmaceutical field, especially in being pharmaceutical scientists, which offers an innovative and challenging work environment, competitive salary, and an opportunity to play a part in upholding quality healthcare standards for everyone.

With the amount of work it entails, critical skills and stellar credentials are needed to qualify for this position, so if you’re considering this career path, expand your knowledge and build yourself up to help you put your best foot forward.

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