FDA Offers a Multitude of Options for Pharmacy Students

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers November 2015

The FDA is an exciting and respected career option for students unsure about what to do when they graduate from pharmacy school.

The FDA is an exciting and respected career option for students unsure about what to do when they graduate from pharmacy school.

LCDR Lindsay E. Wagner, PharmD, US Public Health Service (USPHS), is a team leader in the FDA’s Division of Drug Information (DDI). On an average day, Wagner mentors students, checks in with her team members, assists with difficult calls and e-mails, trains new staff, reviews and drafts documents, and attends or leads meetings on a range of topics, including a video series for health care professionals.

What drew Wagner to the FDA was its public health mission and the opportunities the DDI afforded her to interact with the public every day via phone or e-mail. For example, an individual may call about pseudoephedrine sales limits, which are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, but professionals in Wagner’s position can still help direct the caller to the right place to find an answer. Those contacting the FDA are genuinely looking for help, and Wagner plays a part in finding a resolution, she said.

“Sometimes folks are frustrated or upset when they reach us, and the most rewarding part of my job is helping that person feel like it was time well spent calling the FDA,” Wagner told Pharmacy Careers.

Wagner said she thinks pharmacy students might be surprised to learn how many jobs are available to pharmacists. Pharmacy students on rotation at the FDA can attend lectures and work with many offices and divisions, including:

Office of Communications


Division of Drug Information


Division of Health Communications

Office of Orphan Product Development

Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology


Division of Pharmacovigilance


Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis

Office of Clinical Pharmacology

Office of Compliance


Pharmacists may work on drug shortages, compounding, counterfeit drugs, supply chain security, unapproved drugs initiatives, inspections, warning letters, and online health fraud.

Office of New Drugs


Pharmacists can work with different therapeutic areas or OTC drugs, as well as on special initiatives like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Office of Generic Drugs

Office of Medical Policy

Office of the Commissioner

Office of Regulatory Policy

Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Coordination Staff

Office of Executive Programs

Advisory Committee Oversight and Management Staff

Drug Registration and Listing System Staff

Office of Health and Constituent Affairs

Professional Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Staff

The opportunities are seemingly endless at the FDA. Pharmacists can work with nonprescription drugs, new drug approvals, policy, and guidance documents. They can even serve as the voice of help when a patient calls the 1-800 number on a prescription, Wagner noted.

One other surprising facet of life at the FDA is the uniformed service officer community. Wagner referred to the USPHS as one of pharmacy’s best kept secrets.

“We are a small active-duty service dedicated to the health and safety of the nation, and it is a great career opportunity for students to consider as interns, residents, and after graduation,” she said.

Wagner was attracted to the FDA through the Pharmacy Student Experiential Program and was selected for a rotation in the DDI. She had been interested in finding a job at the FDA as a long-term goal, but she said she did not think she could start there right out of the gate. Through her Regulatory Pharmaceutical Fellowship Program, Wagner was able to return to the FDA as a postgraduate fellow and was selected for a civil servant position and commissioned as an officer in the USPHS.

Her advice to pharmacy students interested in a career with the FDA is to apply for the Pharmacy Student Experiential Program during their third professional year so that they can gain exposure to the agency and network.

For final-year students, she suggested attending continuing education or poster presentations by FDA speakers at meetings and introducing themselves.

Additionally, those who are already in their residency or fellowship program can ask if their postgraduate program has any connection with the FDA or other public health agencies. There is always the possibility that a pharmacy student could do an optional rotation or shadow someone at the agency.

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