Chemical engineers usually take on 1 of 4 different roles in industry. Pharmaceutical included.
1). Process engineering. In this role ChE's are responsible for the daily operations and long term planning of a production line or plant. They monitor process variables and when something goes out of control, they respond. They update process control systems. They work with quality and management to ensure on quality products. They plan maintenance activities and they manage the hourly employees.
2). Project engineering. ChE's are almost always responsible for the management of capital projects in chemical plants. Anytime a new process is built from production lines to entire plants, ChE's are usually managing the project. This includes scoping out the project (What, where, when, how much $, and why), selling the concept to management to obtain funding, designing the systems perhaps with outside consultants, bidding out sections of the project, bringing in contractors as needed, designing process controls systems, and starting up the finished production lines.
3). Product/Process development. BsChE's are treated equivalently to Ms Chemists in industry and are often given roles developing new processes (reactors, mixing, packaging, cooling systems, raw material handling, etc) and new products. They often manage a team of lab technicians. Hourly employees with some experience or perhaps with Bs Chemistry degrees. The are usually given quite a bit of latittude in the direction of their work. They decide which way to proceed and design experiments and have manage the research.
4). Middle to upper management. ChE's are very often found managing suppliers, customers, accounts, engineering groups and teams, global operations, overall R&D departments, and even entire corporations. Especially those with MBA's.
so.. let's think about a typical pharmaceutical company. Abbott labs.
CEO Miles D White. BsME (mechanical engineer) MBA Stanford. He could very easily have been a BsChE + MBA.
And overall the senior management found here.
9/20 have MBA's
5/20 have a bachelors degree in an engineering field with an MBA. Any of which could have been ChE's
1/20 is Robert Hance. BsChE + MBA. Sr VP.
1/20 has a PhD in engineering + an MBA
the rest are lawyers, biologists, 1 doctor, 1 nurse and a couple of poly sci guys.
All of those people are doing job #4 above. Upper management.
And you can bet, there are plenty of ChE's in middle management, design, project engineering, and process engineering.
I have a PhD in ChE and I manage an R&D group at a company that does NOT make pharmaceuticals. Although we sell to the pharmaceutical manufacturers. My boss, the CEO has a PhD in ChE. Of the other senior management, we have a Bs Nuclear Engineer with an MBA, and BsChE with an MBA, a BsME (working on an MBA) and a Bs business. I have a couple of ChE's working for me in process and product design. I've management process engineering groups and capital projects teams.