prescription drugs

Don’t Overlook the Pharmaceutical Industry with a Degree in Healthcare Administration

The pharmaceutical industry might not be the first sector that comes to mind when thinking about possible employment settings for hospital administrators. However, it is a viable, and perhaps under-explored, career path for those interested in the management of prescription drugs.

Here’s a glance at what a pathway in pharmaceuticals might look like from the perspective of a healthcare administration student, as well as some suggestions for how to prepare for success in the field.

The pipeline into pharmaceuticals

As of 2009, healthcare companies struggled to find enough individuals in healthcare administration and healthcare management to fill available positions. Pharmaceutical positions were one subset of such openings. While, some of these jobs may require applicants to hold an MBA, many are likely also available to those with a more general degree in healthcare administration or healthcare management.

Positions such as “Pharmaceuticals Project Manager” might not look as interesting as flashier job titles at first sight, but working at the level of prescription drug supply or acquisition can be a multi-faceted and fulfilling career.

What do managers in pharmaceuticals do?

Pharmaceutical management positions can encompass a variety of tasks. For example, one might be responsible for meeting project deliverables in the areas of research and development, marketing, or sales. More than likely, such jobs will require working with a team to accomplish a large set of goals.

In general, these types of management and administrative positions will function at a bird’s-eye level, where one may make decisions regarding the future development, release, and marketing of new drugs. As such, working in pharmaceuticals can provide a viewpoint into the future of medicine and the future of healthcare institutions.

How to prepare for a career in pharmaceuticals

In order to go into pharmaceuticals, it helps to have taken courses that help develop skills for several aspects of the job. Hard sciences such as biology and chemistry might be required, as well as demonstrated expertise in “soft skills” such as human resources management. It will also help to be skilled at working with numbers from a finance perspective.

Internships are a great way to gain additional experience in the above skills. While classes are important, there is often a limit to what one can learn about personnel and project management from studying, when compared to on-the-job learning.

It may also be helpful to consider a graduate degree to gain access to top positions in the industry, as it is possible to otherwise hit a career ceiling. A look at Columbia Business School’s Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program, for instance, shows a variety of career-specific courses and extracurricular opportunities. In addition, the industry networking opportunities that arise from joining a graduate program may prove even more valuable than the courses themselves.

While there is no straight or guaranteed pathway into any job, including positions in pharmaceutical administration, this article should give healthcare administration and healthcare management students an idea of where to start. Undoubtedly, opportunities in this sector will continue to change and grown as new technology becomes available and as hospitals and health insurance companies evolve over time.