According to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), ‘Ireland is now the largest net exporter of pharmaceuticals in the world’. In 2011 the sector brought in an estimated €55 billion and accounted for more than half of all national exports. However, if such high-level performance is to continue (or even improve), then it is essential that the industry have access to a constant supply of graduates from high-quality science programmes.
The incentives for enrolling in postgraduate pharmaceutical studies are quite clear – with over 24,000 people currently employed in the industry (which is a truly nationwide one, with 120 companies located throughout the country), domestic job prospects in the sector are promising; salaries are 30 per cent above the national average (according to CSO figures); and, as thirteen of the top fifteen pharmaceutical companies have a base here, the opportunities for career progression are excellent.
The quantity and variety of postgraduate courses currently on offer in the field reflects the industry’s vibrancy, in spite of the economic slump. A number of Irish institutes of higher education are meeting the demand of industry for highly skilled managers and researchers.
Postgraduate science programmes that can lead to a well-remunerated career in the pharmaceutical industry need not be restricted to those with 'pharmaceutical' in the title. Other relevant fields of study include Biomedical Science, Microbiology and Food science.
There are numerous programmes that provide existing workers with upskilling and ‘Qualified Person’ according to the latest legislative requirements. For example, experienced pharmaceutical workers can enrol in the MSc in Industrial Pharmaceutical Science, which was launched in January 2010. The course was developed by the School of Pharmacy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland together with the School of Science at the Institute of Technology, Sligo. The degree is an MSc of the National University of Ireland (NUI) and is of interest to those working in the pharmaceutical or healthcare industries looking to gain an education in the main subjects relating to industrial practice.
The course comprises twelve modules, providing teaching in twenty-two major subject areas. There is also a research project. The programme is delivered by distance learning, with certain block attendance. The modular structure and credit system facilitate studying while working. The course duration is ordinarily two years; however, a credit system is operated, permitting completion over a longer period. Satisfactory completion of twelve modules and a research project are required. This MSc course is open to students who have obtained an honours degree or its equivalent in an appropriate discipline.
IT Tallaght also provides an MSc in Pharmaceutical Science through distance learning. Applicants must have two years’ relevant work experience and a degree in medicine, chemistry or biology. Another course in Tallaght for the currently employed is the MSc in Pharmaceutical Production (Higher Diploma available too). This provides students with hands-on experience through assignments undertaken in the Institute’s Pharmaceutical Education Centre. Training is given by a combination of academic and industrial staff.
Another option is Trinity College Dublin’s MSc in Pharmaceutical Technology (also available as a Postgraduate
Diploma). This is a full-time course of one year’s duration that is specifically aimed at those hoping to work in the formulation and drug delivery design sectors of the human and veterinary pharmaceutical industries. Among the modules on offer are: Fundamentals of Pharmaceutical Formulation, Molecular Pharmaceutics & Advanced Drug Delivery, and Pharmaceutical and Medical Nanotechnology. Coursework is supplemented by organised site visits to pharmaceutical companies.
Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry requires huge R&D investment (it is estimated that 20% of all business R&D is put into the pharmaceutical sector) before a product can make it through to the production stage. For instance, it may take up to fifteen years to develop a new medicine, and even then only three out of every ten products will generate the revenue to match or exceed the initial R&D investment by the time patent protection has expired. This makes quality assurance an integral part of the production process.
Courses such as DIT’s MSc in Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance and Biotechnology cater for this aspect of the industry. This conversion programme may be taken either as a one-year full-time option, or as a two-year option for those who wish to study part-time. It is designed for those with a qualification in a related science discipline who wish to meet the specific criteria for work in pharmaceutical quality assurance. Among the subject areas covered are quality assurance, auditing and manufacturing. Students are assessed through a combination of written assignments, practical work, exams, and a minor dissertation.
Other conversion course options include UCC’s MEngSc in Pharmaceutical and Biopharmaceutical Engineering. The course, which is part time, focuses on the unique concerns of the industry such as product containment, powder/particle technology, current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP), design of classified facilities, aseptic processing facility design, and validation.
Graduates of chemistry or a related discipline are invited to apply for DCU’s PGDip/MSc in Chemical & Pharmaceutical Analysis. This programme seeks to provide fundamental training in the theory and practice of modern, advanced instrumental methods of analysis (special emphasis is placed on the importance of instrumentation in problem solving). Holders of the MSc attract strong interest from employers in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biopharma sectors looking to fill high-responsibility positions in analysis, development, quality control and management.
Postgrad.ie - Ireland's leading guide to universities, colleges, third-level and PLC courses is published under licence by Seats Are Ltd T/A Careers Unlimited. Reg in Ireland No. 533272. Registered Trademark. All rights reserved.