US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK HANDBOOK
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
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About 28 percent of all jobs in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry are in professional and related occupations, mostly scientists and science technicians. About 16 percent are in management occupations, another 13 percent are in office and administrative support, and 3 percent are in sales and related occupations. About 3 out of 10 jobs in the industry are in production occupations, including both low skilled and high skilled jobs (table 1).
Professional and related occupations. Scientists, engineers, and technicians conduct research to develop new drugs. Others work to streamline production methods and improve environmental and quality control. Life scientists are among the largest scientific occupations in this industry. Most of these scientists are biological and medical scientists who produce new drugs using biotechnology to recombine the genetic material of animals or plants. Biological scientists normally specialize in a particular area. Biologists and bacteriologists study the effect of chemical agents on infected animals. Biochemists study the action of drugs on body processes by analyzing the chemical combination and reactions involved in metabolism, reproduction, and heredity. Microbiologists grow strains of microorganisms that produce antibiotics. Physiologists investigate the effect of drugs on body functions and vital processes. Pharmacologists and zoologists study the effects of drugs on animals. Virologists grow viruses, and develop vaccines and test them in animals. Botanists, with their special knowledge of plant life, contribute to the discovery of botanical ingredients for drugs. Other biological scientists include pathologists, who study normal and abnormal cells or tissues, and toxicologists, who are concerned with safety, dosage levels, and the compatibility of different drugs. Medical scientists, who also may be physicians, conduct clinical research, test products, and oversee human clinical trials.
The work of physical scientists, particularly chemists, also is important in the development of new drugs. Combinatorial and computational chemists create molecules and test them rapidly for desirable properties. Organic chemists, often using combinatorial chemistry, then combine new compounds for biological testing. Physical chemists separate and identify substances, determine molecular structure, help create new compounds, and improve manufacturing processes. Radiochemists trace the course of drugs through body organs and tissues. Pharmaceutical chemists set standards and specifications for the form of products and for storage conditions; they also see that drug labeling and literature meet the requirements of State and Federal laws. Analytical chemists test raw and intermediate materials and finished products for quality.
Science technicians, such as biological and chemical technicians, play an important part in research and development of new medicines. They set up, operate, and maintain laboratory equipment, monitor experiments, analyze data, and record and interpret results. Science technicians usually work under the supervision of scientists or engineers.
Although engineers account for a small fraction of scientific and technical workers, they make significant contributions toward improving quality control and production efficiency. Chemical engineers design equipment and devise manufacturing processes. Bioprocess engineers, who are similar to chemical engineers, design fermentation vats and various bioreactors for microorganisms that will produce a given product. Industrial engineers plan equipment layout and workflow to maintain efficient use of plant facilities.
Management, business, and financial occupations. At the top of the managerial group are executives who make policy decisions concerning matters of finance, marketing, and research. Other managerial workers include natural sciences managers and industrial production managers.
Other occupations. Workers in office and administrative support occupations include secretaries and administrative assistants, general office clerks, and others who keep records on personnel, payroll, raw materials, sales, and shipments.
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, describe their company’s products to physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and health services administrators. These workers serve as lines of communication between their companies and clients.
Most plant workers fall into one of two occupational groups: Production workers who operate drug-producing equipment, inspect products, and install, maintain, and repair production equipment; and transportation and material moving workers who package and transport the drugs.
Workers among the larger of the production occupations, assemblers and