Pharmaceutical Research Scientist

Create new drugs or make improvements to existing ones.

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$50,000 – $139,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Pharmaceutical Research Scientists do?

The job of a Pharmaceutical Research Scientist falls under the broad Pharmaceutical Scientist label. In this position, you discover new drugs or help test existing ones.

There’s a lot of lab time in the role of Pharmaceutical Research Scientist, so get used to wearing a white coat and goggles. You can work for a private pharmaceutical company, researching what chemical combinations create the fastest acting heart medicine. Or you can work as a Pharmaceutical Research Scientist for the FDA, doing research for the study that proves fast-acting heart medicine is really dangerous. Though you can have a hand in every part of a drug’s research path, from start to finish, you are usually employed in the beginning, developing new drugs.

When you’re in the process of creating a new drug, you usually start out with a final product in mind. This lets you know what types of chemicals you should consider based on what has worked in the past. You alter previous designs in order to make improvements—a sort of drug 2.0. For example, you work to decrease side effects, increase effectiveness, and lower the number of pills a consumer has to take.

The other big part of your job is figuring out how the drug should be taken. Based on things like the safety level of the drug, how much the body absorbs, and how much of the drug is needed to be effective, you decide if it should be a pill, patch, or injection. You hold clinical trials, and keep detailed notes and records of the results you find.

Should I be a Pharmaceutical Research Scientist?

You should have a bachelor's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Persistent: You keep pushing through, even when faced with tough obstacles.
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • Also known as: Chemical Research Scientist, Pharmaceutical Researcher

    How to Become a
    Pharmaceutical Research Scientist

    Most Pharmaceutical Research Scientists have a Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaa9li&chl=|||bachelor%27s+%2876%25%29|master%27s+%2814%25%29|doctorate+%2810%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,76
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