Pharma’s Got Talent?

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-09-02-2019, Volume 43, Issue 9
Pages: 5

Government statistics show that pharma can be an illustrious career for graduates, which must be taken advantage of by industry to avoid skills shortages.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe’s September 2019 print issue.

Recent figures from the United Kingdom’s government have demonstrated that graduates stand to earn £10,000 more than their peers who did not attend university (1). However, other factors have a significant role to play in future financial success, such as the subject chosen, university attended, or even gender!

According to statistics, released by the Department for Education (DFE), graduates of pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy, ranked highly in terms of proportion of those going onto to further education or full-time employment, and for average earnings (2). Medicine and dentistry ranked the highest of the all the subjects that were assessed, and creative arts degrees were ranked lowest.

Various disparities revealed

Despite there being more female graduates in further study, or full-time employment at all time points examined, male graduates were still found to achieve higher median earnings than their female peers (2). Additionally, the findings from the DFE revealed that the gap in earnings between male and female graduates has actually increased over time.

In light of this gender pay disparity-and the fact that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects comprised the majority of the top 10 highest earning subjects for graduates in the DFE’s analysis-the news that female students are now outnumbering male counterparts in A-level science subjects is surely welcome (3). If the trend of female students undertaking STEM subjects continues to rise perhaps the gender gap will start to reduce.

Other disparities in employment rates and pay were found as a result of ethnicity, institution type, social background, family circumstances, prior qualification attainment, and age at the start of the course. Looking at international students, however, DFE’s analysis revealed that international graduates had greater yearly earnings, on average, than their UK peers.


Importance of attracting talent to pharma

Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry, an industry that requires highly skilled employees, looks to attract graduates year-on-year to grow the talent pool and advance the sector. In a 2019 report, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) outlined the needs of the biopharmaceutical industry and the importance of nurturing talent within life science disciplines (4).

As stated in the report: “Just under half of undergraduates study STEM subjects-a proportion that has remained reasonably constant over many years […] Over the last decade, the number of UK undergraduates studying STEM subjects increased by 16% (compared to an overall increase across all subjects of 13%). By comparison, undergraduate numbers for (non-UK) [European Union] EU and non-EU students increased by 52% and 63% respectively over the same period […] It is also important that the pharmaceutical industry continues to be proactive in attracting STEM graduates.”

The report also emphasized that university is not the only route through which the pharma industry can increase its talent pool. In fact, much work has been done within the industry to improve access through vocational pathways and the number of apprenticeships has risen since 2013 (4).

“UK science and academia are the envy of the world and the we are vying to be Europe’s premier biotech cluster and second only to the United States,” said Sheuli Porkess, deputy chief scientific officer of ABPI, in a news release (5). “But we are seeing a decline in R&D investment. If we don’t address the skills shortages our status as a world-leading R&D hub we may see even more research-and with it highly skilled jobs-move abroad. This would be bad news for NHS [National Health Service] patients and the UK economy.” 


1. DFE, “Graduates Continue to Benefit with Higher Earnings,”, 25 April 2019.
2. DFE, “Graduate Outcomes (LEO): Employment and Earnings Outcomes of Higher Education Graduates by Subject Studied and Graduate Characteristics in 2016/2017,”, 28 March 2019.
3. The Guardian, “Female Students Outnumber Males in A-Level Science Entries,”, 15 August 2019.
4. ABPI, “Bridging the Skills Gap in the Biopharmaceutical Industry: Maintaining the UK’s Leading Position in Life Sciences,”, January 2019.
5. ABPI, “Addressing Skills Shortages Critical to the Future of UK Science,” News Release,, 30 January 2019.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 31, No. 9
September 2019
Page: 5


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “Pharma’s Got Talent?” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 31 (9) 2019.