How to Become A Pharmaceutical Scientist In South Africa

A pharmaceutical scientist, then, is a professional who performs research to drive drug discovery, development, and testing. These professionals are typically bench-level scientists who are charged with executing experiments as part of a team-based research project aimed at introducing new drugs to the marketplace.

Do you need a PHD to be a pharmaceutical scientist?

Most jobs in pharmaceutical science require a master’s or doctoral degree, but some entry-level jobs are open to candidates who only possess 4-year bachelor’s degrees. Advanced research positions require a doctorate and years of research experience.

Why should I study pharmaceutical science?

Therefore, Pharmaceutical Science forms the foundational scientific basis of the physical, chemical, biological and the biomedical aspects of drug properties and actions. Advancements achieved in Pharmaceutical Science will impact drug discovery, drug formulation as well as the regulation and practice of Pharmacy.

What does a pharmaceutical scientist make?

Even further, pharmaceutical scientists also typically enjoy job security, competitive pay, and a positive career outlook. According to data from PayScale, these professionals earn an average of R 1192747.07 per year.

How to Become a Pharmaceutical Scientist

What Is a Pharmaceutical Scientist?

A pharmaceutical scientist specializes in the experimentation, analysis, and research of drug developments and pharmaceutical resources.

They focus on an elaborate set of laboratory responsibilities that dive deeper into pharmaceutical advancement. From developing new drugs to testing the effectiveness of treatment options, a pharmaceutical scientist is the analytical brain behind the medical solutions used in hospitals and pharmacies every day.

It’s important to note that pharmaceutical companies hire professionals for research in all sorts of areas of biologic research, including biotechnologists, molecular biologists, biomedical researchers, etc.  Pharmaceutical science is just one component of what pharmaceutical companies do.  

What Does a Pharmaceutical Scientist Do?

The typical responsibilities of a pharmaceutical scientist will vary based on the specific field of pharmacology the scientist specializes in. Generally speaking, some of the most common responsibilities of a pharmaceutical scientist include:

Testing and enhancing pharmaceutical compounds to deliver and improve effectiveness while also preventing negative side effects.

Working within a pharmaceutical lab with a group of other scientists, researchers, and potential stakeholders to communicate lab results.

Collecting and evaluating current medical data about pharmaceutical resources and treatment effectiveness, throughout all stages of a preclinical process.

Creating and organizing pharmaceutical trials and experiments to learn more about the functions and effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs and treatment options.

Skills Needed to Become a Pharmaceutical Scientist

You can become a pharmaceutical scientist with the right education and experience, but there are certain characteristics that can definitely help an aspiring pharmaceutical scientist land a great position in the field. Some of the skills that a successful pharmaceutical scientist should have include:

Laboratory Confidence – Capable scientists should thrive within a laboratory environment. Lab skills are a must-have trait for any aspiring scientist, but as pharma scientists often handle medical data and research, confidence in a lab is even more crucial for success. Strong dexterity, technical writing, proper sterilization practices, and various other laboratory protocols will be respected.

Communicative – Being able to properly communicate recent developments or new research to other scientists or healthcare professionals is a key element to making sure the work you’re completing is valued and implemented. Articulating your findings and presenting them in a cohesive and comprehensive way is a trait any pharmaceutical scientist should strive to have.

Organized – Pharmaceutical scientists are often expected to run numerous experiments at once, so organization skills are paramount to being successful as a pharmaceutical scientist. Staying organized also allows experiments to be executed in the correct manner, it assures that all lab equipment is used properly, and it helps to manage time to deliver accurate results on a deadline.

Analytical – As a pharmaceutical scientist, you’re constantly conducting research. Being able to properly analyze a surplus of medical data is a crucial skill for any pharmaceutical scientist.

Having a desire  to ask questions and learn and then design strategies to answer those questions is essential.  Being able to think critically and solve complex problems to help develop new medications is a common component of the pharmaceutical career path.

Collaborative – Similar to communicating effectively, being open to collaboration is helpful when working with other scientists and stakeholders in your workplace environment. Many triumphant pharmaceutical developments came from a team of scientists working together with a common goal, so collaboration skills are a must.

Steps to Becoming a Pharmaceutical Scientist

For those wondering how to become a pharmaceutical scientist, here are the necessary steps.

Many pharmaceutical scientists can land a position within a lab after only four to five years of education, while some will take extra time to gain additional experience before applying for a pharmaceutical scientist position. Generally, the journey of an aspiring pharmacologist will feature these key steps before they’re fully immersed in the field.

Step 1: Complete Higher Education Requirements

There are many skills to master and much scientific knowledge to gain before becoming a pharmaceutical scientist that can only be attained by pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

The easiest way to learn how to become a pharmaceutical scientist is to surround yourself with peers and dedicated faculty within a bachelor of science program. Most pharma scientists will choose to major in biology, chemistry, pharmacology, medicine, and at times even engineering.

Step 2: Earn an Advanced Degree or Certification

While it is possible to find a position within the field after getting a bachelors of science, many pharmaceutical scientists will pursue a master’s degree to gain more experience.

Graduates interested in pharmaceutical science often choose to master in pharmaceutical science, biomedical science, or pharmacology  Because pharmaceutical science leans strongly on chemistry, graduates might also earn a master’s degree in chemistry. (At GMercyU, all biology majors earn a chemistry minor, enabling you to pursue this route.)

All of these fields open the door to even more employment and research opportunities in the pharmacological side of biotechnology research. For pharmaceutical scientists looking to advance their career or later pursue a PhD, getting a masters degree is a wonderful way to prepare for that goal.

Step 3: Gain Experience

While earning a bachelor of science or master’s degree, students will gain helpful field experience in order to prepare for the typical responsibilities of a pharmaceutical scientist.

Laboratory experience is key, as is training in the foundational sciences  A research internship is also beneficial; many students specifically interested in pharmaceutical science may wish to pursue an internship specifically with a pharmaceutical company.

Step 4: Begin the Job Hunt

After you’ve successfully achieved your higher education goals and have gained the necessary experience and lab skills, it’s time to start job searching.

Depending on the concentrations chosen throughout the educational process, pharma scientists can find numerous fulfilling careers within the field.

While many will aim to work for a pharmaceutical company or hospital, employment opportunities can also be found in academic research labs, government agencies, biotechnology companies, forensic science labs, and more.

Some may choose to become educators after earning their PhD.  A PhD can also lead to greater responsibility within an organization and career advancement.

Start a Career in the Pharmaceutical Industry with GMercyU!

As a field that continues to expand that features an optimistic salary outlook, learning how to become a pharmaceutical scientist is a fulfilling career decision. Perfect for organized critical thinkers with a dedication to understanding the inner workings of drug development, pharmaceutical science is an exciting career path with numerous job opportunities.

A great way to begin your journey is to earn your degree with GMercyU’s research-intensive bachelor of science in biology program.

The program emphasizes molecular and cellular biology, genetics, and biochemistry, and includes foundational coursework in chemistry, physics, and mathematics – so much so that all biology majors earn a minor in chemistry. Many GMercyU biology graduates work in the local pharmaceutical industry in various roles.

What qualifications do you need to be a pharmaceutical scientist In South Africa?

To work in clinical pharmaceutical science you’ll need:

effective communication.

to be good at working in a team.

to be confident with technology, systems and processes.

an interest in science and technology, a good academic background and an ability to update and test your knowledge against experience.

Where can I study pharmaceutical science in South Africa?

List of Universities that offer Pharmacy Degrees in South Africa

University of West Cape School of Pharmacy.

University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg.

Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.

Rhodes University School of Pharmaceuticals.

University of Durban-Westville.

Do you need a PhD to be a pharmaceutical scientist In South Africa?

Most jobs in pharmaceutical science require a master’s or doctoral degree, but some entry-level jobs are open to candidates who only possess 4-year bachelor’s degrees. Advanced research positions require a doctorate and years of research experience.

Is pharmaceutical science a good career In South Africa?

It’s a good time to be studying in this field. Globally, pharmaceuticals is a growth sector and future-proofed for graduates – your skills will still be relevant in 20 years’ time. Victoria is considered a global centre of excellence in biomedical research, medical technology and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

How many hours do pharmaceutical scientists work In South Africa?

Besides putting in the occasional crazy hour when facing deadlines, pharma scientists enjoy a normal work schedule. They’ll come in around 9:00AM and leave by 6:00PM.

How much does a pharmaceutical scientist make with a PhD In South Africa?

A 2020 survey conducted by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists found a mean pharmacy Ph. D. salary of R ​2504100.10 a year, with a further ​R 475779.02 in bonuses and ​R 55974.00in outside income, for a total of R 3035853.12

Is a pharmaceutical sciences a pharmacist In South Africa?

While pharmacists are directly involved in patient care and work with existing drugs, it’s pharmaceutical scientists who create new drugs, therapies, and approaches to maximize benefit established therapies.

How many years does it take to become a pharmaceutical In South Africa?

Pharmacy school consists of a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree program, followed by an optional one- or two-year residency program. As such, pharmacy school will take most graduates four to six years to complete

How long does it take to study pharmacy in South Africa?


The program is presented full-time and covers a period of four (4) years. On completion of the degree, and before registration as a pharmacist at the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC), students must complete a yearlong internship at a community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy or in the pharmaceutical industry.

Is it easy to become a pharmaceutical scientist In South Africa?

The easiest way to learn how to become a pharmaceutical scientist is to surround yourself with peers and dedicated faculty within a bachelor of science program. Most pharma scientists will choose to major in biology, chemistry, pharmacology, medicine, and at times even engineering.

Do pharmaceutical scientists go to med school In South Africa?

Earn a Master’s, Medical, or Pharmacy Degree

Many pharmaceutical scientists go on to receive advanced degrees to further their careers, and in fact, many pharmaceutical companies will even pay for this training for bright and promising employees. Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.)