Career options for today's pharmacists are not limited to the traditional community practice or hospital settings. Pharmacists working in the pharmaceutical industry have become integral members of teams that analyze drug interaction studies, design phase 3 clinical studies, submit new drug applications, and develop marketing strategies. With a career in the pharmaceutical industry, a pharmacist has an unparalleled opportunity to make a significant contribution to the development and delivery of medicines to patients around the world.
The pharmaceutical industry offers challenging and highly satisfying nontraditional career opportunities for pharmacists. Many pharmacists mistakenly assume that working for a pharmaceutical company means working in a laboratory, in a manufacturing site, or in the field as a sales representative. Although pharmacists in the industry do not generally have direct patient interaction, their primary focus remains on the development and delivery of novel and improved therapies to help patients better manage their diseases. The strong clinical knowledge and medicinal expertise of pharmacists add tremendous value to various disciplines of drug development and commercial functions, including clinical pharmacology, clinical research, regulatory affairs, medical information, medical affairs, market research, and marketing. This commitment to patient care also drives multidisciplinary project teams, many of which now include global team members, fostering interaction, collaboration, and learning from a diverse array of experts and colleagues.
Additional advantages of a career in the corporate setting include opportunities for continuous professional development and growth, lateral and upward mobility, and collaboration with corporate and clinical decision makers. With the advancements in medical technology, the pharmaceutical industry is constantly expanding its efforts to discover, develop, and market new medicines, thereby creating more employment opportunities for pharmacists.
Although PharmDs are highly valued in this dynamic, fast-paced industry, new PharmD graduates often encounter difficulty in securing the type of position they desire due to lack of experience. Postgraduate training often is necessary to develop the core technical and scientific competencies required to perform successfully in a pharmaceutical industry setting.
So how can pharmacists obtain postgraduate training to help lead them to their ideal industry career? To help bridge the experience gap and meet the growing demand for pharmacists in an industry setting, a number of pharmaceutical industry?focused postgraduate training programs for pharmacists, or fellowships, are available. A fellowship is typically a 12- or 24-month structured program designed to provide a PharmD graduate with the opportunity to gain specialized, hands-on, in-depth training and experience in a particular discipline within the pharmaceutical industry. A fellowship can be a rewarding experience for both the fellow and the host company, and it ultimately helps pharmacists to gain the experience necessary to qualify for full-time positions that they could not obtain directly out of pharmacy school.
One example of a successful, highly recognized, and trusted postgraduate training program for pharmacists is the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program. This program has one of the most proven track records of any fellowship program of its type.
In 1984, the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, formerly the Rutgers College of Pharmacy, and 2 pharmaceutical companies embarked upon a collaborative pilot program to evaluate the potential contributions of clinically trained pharmacists within a pharmaceutical industry practice setting. Based on the initial success of the pilot, the program has grown exponentially over the past 23 years. Since its modest beginning, the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program has expanded to include 13 different companies within the pharmaceutical industry and related medical communications businesses.
The Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship Program was modeled after academic-based residencies and fellowships, in which a learned preceptor/mentor shared his or her knowledge and experience with the resident/fellow through an intense but closely guided training program. Assignments and projects are challenging, meaningful, and designed to enhance understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and the fellow's functional area.
Under the leadership of Dr. Joseph A. Barone, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration, Dean John L. Colaizzi, and Dr. James G. Alexander, a fellowship alumnus and now director of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships, the program has thrived and the fellowships have been highly sought after by PharmD graduates from around the country.
Approximately 450 postdoctoral fellows have completed the program to date, most of whom are pursuing influential and rewarding careers in the pharmaceutical industry throughout the United States and abroad. The Fellowship Program annually consists of 75 PharmDs, in either a 1- or 2-year fellowship. The continuing growth and success of the program has been due to the emergence of the PharmD as the sole professional degree as well as an industry-wide desire to use clinical pharmacists throughout the pharmaceutical industry's corporate structure.
The Rutgers program screens applicants who have a doctor of pharmacy degree from a school of pharmacy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and possess an interest in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry. As fellows are selected on a nationally competitive basis, the application process for the Rutgers Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship is challenging and requires candidates to be proactive. Pharmacy students who are interested in the pharmaceutical industry are encouraged to meet with their faculty mentors and advisers to discuss and contrast all potential career options.
Additionally, candidates are encouraged to attend the Fellowship Information Day held each November at Rutgers University to have a unique opportunity to meet current fellows and company representatives and learn about available fellowship opportunities before the interview process begins at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting in December.
Prospective candidates who are interested in Fellowship Information Day and/or the postgraduate training opportunities available through the Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships should visit pharmafellows.rutgers.edu/home.php.