The pharmaceutical industry is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of growth. This steady increase is due, in part, to an aging population in need of advanced medications. Recently, growth has accelerated even further amid pressure to develop vaccines related to COVID-19.
As the industry grows, so does the demand for qualified individuals to enter the career market.
Pharmaceutical industry employees report high job satisfaction and salaries well above the national average, earning an average industry salary of just over $90,000 per year. Considering the positive career outlook and generous benefits offered across the industry, it’s evident that pharmaceutical science is a wise career choice.
If you’re considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry, explore our list of top pharmaceutical companies to consider in 2021 and our tips to increase your chances of getting hired.
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Top Pharmaceutical Companies to Work For
Founded more than 170 years ago by Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart in Brooklyn, New York, Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, employing about 88,000 individuals. The company boasts a hefty portfolio of more than 350 products, including the popular drug Lipitor and the newly developed Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Year after year, Pfizer receives recognition for being a top workplace both within the industry and on a larger scale. The company was ranked #39 in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2021 and was named the ninth-best employer for new graduates in 2020 by Forbes.
Internal growth and development are at the core of Pfizer’s culture. Current employees praise Pfizer’s people-oriented approach. When asked why she chose Pfizer, R&D Director Pamela Pegman responded, “It was the people that drew me in.”
The impressive benefits offered by the organization further reflect the company’s commitment to its employees. Benefits like free vaccines, nutrition and fitness counseling, and financial planning education allow Pfizer employees to better themselves personally and professionally.
Although the company’s headquarters is in New York, Pfizer maintains two R&D facilities in the Boston area, located in Cambridge and Andover, Massachusetts. As an industry partner, Pfizer extends co-op and internship opportunities to Northeastern University pharmaceutical sciences students.
Novartis was established in 1996 through a merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz with the goal of developing new products that contribute to human progress by improving health.
Based in Switzerland, the organization manufactures a variety of popular drugs, develops gene therapies for neurological disorders, and conducts immuno-oncology research. Novartis currently ranks #4 in Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Companies Pharmaceutical Industry list and was named one of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World by the Boston Consulting Group in 2020.
The company takes pride in its people as its greatest asset. Novartis offers extensive benefits to its employees, including 14 weeks minimum paid parental leave, a flexible remote work option, and a continuing education partnership with Coursera, enabling employees to learn from over 190 universities worldwide.
Employees at Novartis are passionate about corporate social responsibility and support its mission to expand healthcare access in underserved communities. In September 2020, the Novartis US Foundation announced a $25 million commitment to address health inequalities in the United States, reinforcing the company’s mission to “improve and extend people’s lives.”
In addition to its headquarters in Switzerland, Novartis has major facilities located throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. The Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is headquarters for the Novartis global drug discovery network. Students enrolled in Northeastern University’s pharmaceutical sciences programs, such as the master’s in pharmaceutical science, enjoy co-op opportunities with Novartis at this and other locations worldwide.
3. Bristol Myers-Squibb
After noticing a need for high-quality medicines during his ten years of work as a surgeon for the U.S. Navy, Dr. Edward R. Squibb founded what would later be known as Bristol Myers-Squibb.
Bristol Myers-Squibb is a biopharmaceutical company focused on therapeutic areas including oncology, hematology, cardiovascular, fibrosis, and immunoscience. The company invested just over $6 billion in R&D in 2019 and continues to increase its investment year after year.
The organization also invests its resources back into its employees, which is why Bristol Myers-Squibb ranked #78 in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2021. Employees enjoy attractive benefits, including three weeks’ minimum paid vacation, undergraduate scholarships to children of employees, childcare services, and on-site luxury services such as automobile detailing and massage therapy.
People of all backgrounds are encouraged to join the Bristol Myers-Squibb team. Diversity is at the heart of the company’s mission. Women account for just over 50 percent of the Bristol Myers-Squibb workforce, and about 30 percent of the company’s employees are minorities. According to Stan, a member of the Strategic Operations team, “[At BMS], Diversity isn’t just race or sex. It’s diversity of your skills, and people come in with diverse ideas, and they change things.”
In addition to the New York City headquarters, Bristol Myers-Squibb has research facilities worldwide, including two in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1891, George Merck established the company to distribute chemicals throughout New York City. Today, the organization focuses on developing medicines and vaccines to treat cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola.
Merck’s 71,000 employees work in many different areas, including research & development, manufacturing, regulatory affairs, and biostatistics. Merck ranked #61 in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work 2021”, due in part to high job satisfaction and a comprehensive benefits package. At most company facilities, employees make an appointment to see a healthcare professional on-site, enjoy walking trails and fitness centers, and even take advantage of on-site dry cleaning.
Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of Merck’s operations. Merck reported that 51 percent of new hires were female in 2018 and that the organization currently does business with 15,000 diverse suppliers globally. Celeste Warren, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, recognizes that “Diversity and inclusion have the ability to transform our culture, drive business results and advance our company’s mission to save and improve lives around the world.”
Merck’s world headquarters is located in Kenilworth, New Jersey, but the company also has two Massachusetts facilities: The Cambridge Exploratory Science Center and a multidisciplinary research center in Boston.
5. The Broad Institute
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is a biomedical and genomic research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute aims to use genomics to better understand disease and develop new therapies and treatment strategies.
If you’re a curious individual who enjoys working with a team, you’ll fit right in at the Broad Institute. The company culture emphasizes collaborating with peers to contribute unique ideas. Employees, also known internally as “Broadies,” are encouraged to pursue mentorship and coaching opportunities to assist one another in personal and professional development.
Broad Institute employees enjoy a wide array of benefits and perks, including free on-site medical screening, fitness classes, tuition reimbursement, and company discounts.
The Broad Institute recently earned a spot on the Working Mother 100 Best Companies List for the fourth consecutive year, distinguishing the company as a family-friendly organization. The company offers a generous 16-week parental leave policy, parenting support groups, and childcare financial assistance.
The Broad Institute encourages new graduates to start their careers as Research Associates, Research Technicians, Associate Software Engineers, or Associate Computational Biologists at the organization.
Biogen, whose research centers on preventing and treating neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS, was founded in 1978 as one of the world’s first global biotechnology companies.
Biogen was named one of the World’s Best Employers by Forbes, and it’s easy to see why. The organization values its employees and is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For the seventh consecutive year, Biogen was recognized as the ‘Best Place to Work’ for LGBTQ Equality in the U.S. by the Human Rights Campaign, and the organization scored 100 percent on the 2020 Disability Equality Index (DEI) for the second year in a row.
Career and development planning are a big focus at Biogen, where employees are encouraged to work with their managers to form a development plan. Biogen urges employees to “work fearlessly” and “learn more,” continually striving to be better. According to Cherie B., a pharmaceutical scientist on the R&D team, “Being at Biogen has changed me as a scientist and the way I think about asking questions that could potentially make a difference for patients.”
Biogen’s headquarters is a 325,000 facility located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and they also have facilities in nearby Waltham and Weston, Massachusetts.
Sanofi, Synthélabo, Hoechst, and Rhône-Poulenc Rorer came together over a period of 100 years to finally become what is now known as Sanofi in 2004.
Today, Sanofi is the ninth-largest biomedical company in the world by revenue, selling more than 4.5 billion units of pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare products, and vaccines in 2019. Sanofi’s subsidiary, Sanofi Pasteur, is the world’s largest company focused entirely on vaccine production.
The organization employs more than 100,000 people in over 100 countries worldwide. Sanofi’s employees are patient-focused, supporting the company’s mission to improve the lives of people around the world. Rachel Sibley, a Senior Account Management Analyst, shares that “Working for Sanofi in the rare disease space, I have seen first hand how important it is to provide personalized support to your patients.“
Sanofi offers its employees robust health and wellness benefits, adoption and surrogacy assistance, tuition reimbursement, access to employee resource groups, and much more. The organization also encourages its employees to pursue philanthropic activities, providing ample volunteer opportunities and a generous matching gift program. In addition, Sanofi prides itself on being a diverse workplace and is ranked #28 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list.
Although Sanofi’s headquarters is located in Paris, the company has multiple facilities in the United States, including two in Framingham and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Building a Successful Pharmaceutical Career
Each company on this list has a specific set of skills and qualifications that they look for in their candidates. Still, there are certain steps you can take to become a more attractive candidate to any of these top pharmaceutical companies.
An advanced degree in pharmaceutical sciences, such as a Master’s in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry, or Biomedical Science, can help you to develop the skills necessary for success in the pharmaceutical industry and increase your chances of landing your dream job at one of these companies.
Northeastern University’s experiential learning opportunities provide you with real-world experience at some of the top companies in Boston’s ever-growing biotechnology and pharmaceutical hub. Learn more about how Northeastern University’s pharmaceutical science and biotechnology programs can help you begin your career in the industry.