To Post Doc or Not? – For Pharma

There have been several articles written about the value of a ‘post-doc‘ after completing a PhD. Nature reported that the number of post-docs increased 150% from 2000-2012. However, the number of available faculty positions hasn’t changed much. It’s a classic supply-demand problem. PharmDs are in a similar situation. The Pharmacy Times reported that the number of PharmD graduates was doubled from 2001-20015.

PhDs in Pharma

If you are a PhD professional in the pharmaceutical industry (pharma) or interested in building a career in pharma, one of the challenges you will discover is that on-the job training may not be what you expect. Most pharmaceutical companies will train new hires in two areas (1) pharma compliance and (2) disease state/product(s). There is little if any focus on training within functional domains.

The real value of a post-doc

The true value of a post-doc really is in the eye of the beholder. While there may be some who are against the value of a post-doc, it really depends on your career goals and objectives. If your goal is to work within research & development (Drug Discovery) within pharma, then there are certainly benefits to having more research experience. If you’re looking for a management consulting or medical affairs role, such as a medical science liaison, it becomes less relevant. In the purest sense, doing a post-doc does provides additional insight and depth but may make it more difficult to land a role later on in the job market.

How do you stand out?

Competition for pharma jobs is fierce. In particular, medical affairs has grown over 300% and will likely continue to grow as there is an increased shift towards specialty drugs, biologics, and rare/orphan diseases. This will increase the demand for more scientifically sophisticated pharma professionals who hold advanced scientific and clinical degrees.

Arming yourself with specialized training in the area you want to pursue certainly can help give you the specific skill set and knowledge to be more attractive to a prospective employer. Programs such as the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS) cover all areas relevant to medical affairs professionals in pharma, including medical science liaisons, medical information, health economics outcomes research and pharmacovigilance.

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For most pharma jobs, a post-doc may not help. But it probably won’t hurt either. It really depends on your career goals as well as financial needs given the low salaries post-docs get.

For more information on the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. Visit us online.