What Could an MBA Do for a Career in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

What could an MBA do for a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

It’s no secret that for most, career progression is the main goal for completing an MBA. Post-MBA salaries are usually much higher, plus the skills gained on an MBA course (such as leadership, financial literacy and business acumen) are invaluable.

Pharmaceuticals or healthcare MBA specializations aren’t as common as other tracks, but an MBA with this concentration can be a fantastic way to boost your job prospects in a competitive (and booming) industry. Whether you’re a scientist or a marketeer, an MBA can turn you into a senior manager, or even a c-suite executive.

Read on to discover what an MBA specializing in pharmaceuticals involves, what it can do for your career, and the best companies recruiting MBA grads in the industry.

Pharmaceutical MBA lowdown

Although MBAs specializing in pharmaceuticals or healthcare aren’t as widely offered as other subjects such as finance, a number of top business schools do offer this concentration, including Saïd Business School, Harvard Business School and Rotman School of Management.

Along with core MBA modules and electives, students will study courses such as:

    • Innovation in healthcare
    • Technology, AI and healthcare
    • Negotiation in healthcare and pharmaceuticals
    • Ethics in healthcare
    • Data analytics in healthcare
    • Strategic leadership in pharmaceuticals

Benefits of an MBA specializing in pharma

Many people who work in the pharmaceutical industry have science degrees but might need that extra business knowledge achieved through an MBA to get you to the upper echelons of their company.

One of the most significant benefits of an MBA for healthcare and pharma professionals is the financial knowledge gained. With high profit margins and tightly controlled budgets, good fiscal knowledge is essential for senior roles.

The pharma and healthcare industries rely on cross-company collaboration and having an MBA can help you understand the company matrix better and enable you to facilitate interactions between teams. An MBA will focus on developing leadership and communication skills, plus innovative tactics and methodology for solving complex problems creatively.

MBA alumni in the pharmaceutical industry enjoy high salaries. According to data from MBA.com, mid-level positions in the pharma industry for MBA alumni have an impressive median salary of US$105,000, increasing to US$195,000 for c-suite positions.

Job opportunities

The importance of the pharma industry will never falter, as humans will always be prone to illness and disease, particularly with the increasing aging population worldwide. Therefore, jobs will be available in the industry for the foreseeable future.

There are a range of roles in the pharma and healthcare industries, ranging from the more technical work in labs to quality control, regulatory affairs, operations, marketing, and more. Senior job titles include:

    • Senior project manager
    • Regional healthcare manager
    • Senior consultant
    • Director of regulatory affairs
    • Statistics director
    • Senior quality control analyst
    • Drug development director

What are pharma companies looking for?

Whilst an MBA isn’t essential for career progression in pharma in the way it is in consulting, for example, it marks you out as a cut above the rest, plus senior management are often expected to have higher-level qualifications such as a masters or a doctorate. For those already working in the pharmaceutical industry, an MBA can diversify your skill set.

An important part of any pharmaceutical company is innovation, and those with MBAs could find themselves in an advisory role for the company. This could involve minor changes such as software implementation or a major restructuring of the whole company.

Whilst you will obviously need more technical skills to be involved in the R&D and production of pharmaceuticals, there are skills that companies will be looking for in management that an MBA can really help with. These include:

    • Time management
    • Leadership skills
    • Creative thinking
    • Communication and interpersonal skills
    • Market knowledge


Recruiters emphasize that an MBA’s ability to handle uncertainty is part of why they are so valuable to the pharma industry. “[MBA’s] are champions for change,” says Stephanie Weisenberger, former Assistant Director of Talent Acquisition at Astellas Pharma US, Inc. “They can deal with ambiguity, and there’s lots of that going on in our industry.”

Popular recruiters in the pharmaceutical industry include:

    • Eli Lilly
    • Pfizer
    • Bristol-Meyers Squibb
    • Novartis
    • GlaxoSmithKline Plc
    • Sanofi
    • Bayer AG
    • Merck & Co Inc
    • Johnson & Johnson

The final word

Although an MBA may not be essential for a career in the pharmaceutical or healthcare industries, the skills learnt can make your career progress at rocket speed into senior roles. Students who pursue a concentration in pharma and healthcare can enjoy healthy starting salaries and gain invaluable skills to become the best managers they can be.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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