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How to move to consulting in the pharmaceutical industry

Updated: Nov 12, 2021


This is a very broad introduction. More to follow.


The pharma industry is huge and growing.


According to Statistica, the worldwide revenue of the pharma industry was $1.27 trillion in 2020, of which the North American share was 49%. Cancer treatment sales accounted for $99.5 billion. The projections show continued growth.


How easy it is to make the transition will depend on the area you want to work in, your background, and experience.


Opportunities without industry experience

Some consulting areas, such as business management, have wide application across many businesses, and do not require much content knowledge specific to a particular industry. Human resources is another area that applies more generally to businesses. Some aspects such as employee benefits would be generally relevant. Other aspects, such as recruiting would require a deeper understanding of the appropriate candidates for jobs.


Project management uses similar tools and approaches across industries. The niche for project management consultants without pharmaceutical industry experience exists, but is more limited.


Accomplished researchers or clinicians can consult in their areas of expertise without any specific industry experience. They are sought for their content knowledge, not their understanding of industry processes. So are people who have worked for regulatory agencies, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Medicines Agency (EMA).


Opportunities for those with industry experience

If you are very good at what you do in industry, you could transition to working as an independent consultant.


It is good to seek opportunities while you are working in industry to beef up your experience and qualifications. I will address these in future blog articles focusing on specific jobs.


Plan your transition, reach out to others who have relevant consulting experience, and consider taking the steps to establishing a consulting business infrastructure while you are still an employee in the pharmaceutical industry.


How can you get a job in the pharmaceutical industry?

What if you don't work in an area that would allow you to directly consult in the pharmaceutical industry and don't have the necessary experience?


You could take courses to learn about your area of interest in the industry. That still would not give you enough to be a consultant, but it might help you to land a job. You may not need any experience or courses for entry level jobs. For example, nurses who are clinical research coordinators have a really good background for working in clinical operations.


Working hard and learning as much as you can, it will take years to be able to work as a consultant. If this is your area of interest, it will be worth pursuing it.


If your goal is to work from home, some established companies have favored doing so for many years. I know of a contract research organization (CROs) that will have you come into the organization for intensive training, and thereafter you would work remotely.


CROs support the pharmaceutical industry by providing services such as clinical operations. People often move from pharmaceutical companies to CROs and vice versa. Working at a CRO can therefore to a way to transition to a job in a pharmaceutical company.


In future posts, I will address moving to consulting from the pharmaceutical industry or CROs for specific jobs.


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