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Career in Pharmacology - course with placement year or not?

(16 Posts)
BlueStringPudding Sat 13-Jun-15 20:45:10

It's a bit late to be asking this really, but DD has firmed and reserved 2 Natural Sciences courses at good unis, both with the same high offer unfortunately. One has a placement year and the other doesn't.

She thinks she would like to join a grad scheme at a Pharmaceutical and is particularly keen,at the moment, on working in drug research.

Does any one know how a Natural Sciences degree is regarded by pharma companies, and whether a degree with a placement year is better, or should she do the 3 year course and then look at a Masters?

She is thinking of swapping her firm and reserve which apparently can be done, but again am not sure if this is recommended or how likely it is that the universities would agree anyway.

Advice welcome..

MagratGarlik Tue 16-Jun-15 23:18:14

For a career in the pharmaceutical industry, I'd suggest either chemistry, biochemistry or pharmacy (rather than pharmacology). Pharmacology is a very niche area whereas chemistry or a related degree will allow her to keep more options open. With respect to a placement year: yes, do one. I've known some students where the placement year lead directly to a job, in my own case, I still have good contact with colleagues from my placement year some 20 years on.

She should be aware though that within the major pharma companies she is likely to reach a glass ceiling without a PhD, so she should plan for study over the long term. Science is different from other disciplines in that a PhD is considered an entry qualification for many roles above technician level.

MagratGarlik Wed 17-Jun-15 09:29:38

I should also add, for science, it will matter far more where her PhD was done (and even more importantly, who it was supervised by) than where her undergraduate degree was done. For her undergraduate degree, she needs to go to the university where she has the best possible chance of a 1st or a 2:1. With either a 1st or a 2:1 she should then be able to go straight to PhD without doing a masters first.

titchy Wed 17-Jun-15 09:49:55

Hope you don't mind me slightly hijacking OP, but Margret I wondered what you thought of integrated Masters? Worth doing instead of a degree with a sandwich year? Or would either be OK? Similar field to OP...

MargolottaOfUberwold Wed 17-Jun-15 10:06:43

I would always take the year in industry option, it make finding graduate jobs so much easier.

With one caveat, unless the year in industry programme is structured in such a way as to diminish the overall degree classification

MagratGarlik Wed 17-Jun-15 13:45:33

Hi titchy, many science degrees now are offered as integrated Masters (and some do this with a sandwich year as well). I think the thing with the sandwich year is that you learn practical lab skills much better when working full-time in the lab for a year, than you do in undergraduate lab classes. I therefore think the sandwich year prepares you better for PhD study later. Even with an integrated masters, a PhD is still considered a necesity by the major pharma and biotech companies. As I said, many universities these days offer the integrated masters with a year in industry too, so it doesn't necessarily have to be either, or.

titchy Wed 17-Jun-15 15:43:39

Thanks magrat that's really useful! So top of wish list is integratedM with placement, but failing that BSc with placement as back up. Any recommendations for Biochem outside London?

BlueStringPudding Wed 17-Jun-15 19:44:30

Thank you that's helpful to know. She has her last A level paper tomorrow so after that will sit down and give it some more thought.

MargolottaOfUberwold Fri 19-Jun-15 06:28:36

For a year in industry look at Surrey they seem very organised

I'm a chemistry graduate of 25 years standing (no masters or PhD) and have worked in private sector science ever since, including big pharma. The single most important decision I ever made career wise was to choose a degree with a year placement, it made a massive difference to me upon graduating. I've supervised a lot of sandwich students over the years too and see them transformed in confidence and ability over the course of a year. What I would say is that competition for good placements is similar to that for any other jobs, my student supervising years in big pharma saw us sifting hundreds of student CVs, the ones that stood out where always those with some work experience, even if completely unrelated, my best sver student got his interview on the basis of a Saturday job in the Co-op. So encourage your DD to look for work experience / volunteering wherever she can find it in the intervening years.

And yes to in all likelihood needing a PhD for big pharma, I got away with it (partly because my placement year was also in big pharma, which in turn may have been helped by having had various summer jobs etc). However my career options were limited within the company, generally you needed a PhD or to be a pharmacist to work in my area (late stage drug development) especially if you wanted to climb the management ladder.

MagratGarlik Fri 19-Jun-15 08:26:15

In terms of where to go for biochemistry (which is a slightly different, but related area to my own), I'd also have a look at Sheffield, Manchester, York and Exeter if you are specifically looking outside London. The "best" place to go is often a very personal choice though and one of my best PhD students got a 1st from a post-92 university. If you go for a course with a year in industry, ensure the university has good relationships with industry. My undergraduate university had a reputation for producing good graduates (and many people working in pharma had done their degrees there too), so placements were available in some of the major companies.

I'd also agree competion for the good placements is tough. My marks in my exams up were the highest in my year, so I was given first refusal by the placement tutor for interviews I'd like to attend. Even so, the interview for one company involved dinner the night before and 5 different interviews, including technical interviews. The experience and preparation when it comes to getting a job though is superb.

MagratGarlik Fri 19-Jun-15 08:28:53

I should add though, in answer to the OP's question about Natural Sciences. If the Natural Sciences degree is from Cambridge, it will never be a bad option!

titchy Sun 21-Jun-15 17:07:32

Thanks Magrat - v useful!

Micah Sun 21-Jun-15 17:17:39

Dundee has one of the top biochem/ medical sciences depts in Europe.

I have many friends who did pharmacology, in similar jobs to those who did biochem etc. I think it's the quality of the degree as much as the specialty.

Kennington Sun 21-Jun-15 19:15:32

I work in pharma and pharmacology chemistry and biochem are all good from a Russell group uni to get into pharma.
I would always recommend a sandwich year in industry.
Add a language, even if only the basics. Switzerland is the place to go as a young grad, or the USA.

NatSciGrad Sun 21-Jun-15 19:42:15

Yes to year in industry.
Unless at Cambridge, suggest avoiding NatSci as a degree when she knows where she would like to end up. Would have thought straight chem, or bio chem or chem with pharma would be better.

I've got a degree in Natural Sciences (not from Cambridge), and then an unrelated scientific masters. Although I ended up with maths\phy\chem modules in my final year, I am constantly being asked how I got into my job with a bio degree. I am one of very few at my level without a PhD, and no one scientific the grade above me is without a PhD.

I'm sorry to be so negative about the course. I loved my degree, and have done OK with it. One other person I'm in contact with is still in science ( post chem PhD). The rest are SAHM, or in consulting and accountancy. It's a great route (IMO) if you don't know what area to specialise in, or want to go into other areas where science knowledge is advantageous, but not necessarily the best route to a scientific career.

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