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Pharmaceutical Scientist

Qualifications

Unlike a lot of other science tracks, you can jump right into the wondrous working world of pharmaceutical science right after college.

To make it into this field, a basic level of training (and passion) for science and math is a must. But the ideal pharmaceutical scientist isn't just a lab rat who knows her way around an abacus. You also will need good communication skills, as you will be writing technical reports and explaining your findings to a group of scientists or laypeople. Creativity is also a definite perk—since not all experiments will work as planned, you might need to flex your MacGyver muscles to work around those problems.

Oh, and you should be anal too when it comes to details. One small mistake could cost thousands of dollars and months of time. If you're the type of person who alphabetizes the underwear drawer, this might be the gig for you.

This career level may not offer a whole lot of freedom and creativity at the lower levels (you are still baking that cake from the Betty Crocker recipe on the box), but if you play your cards right, your company might offer to foot the bill for a master's degree or even a doctorate. But getting that sheepskin isn't the only way to advance—this team-oriented career will also reward employees who work hard, but can play well with others in the lab. Finally, those kindergarten lessons pay off (eating paste in the lab is also frowned upon).

A few years of experience could move you up the ladder to a job as a principal scientist. There you would work the science and might also be tapped to handle management or regulatory affairs. These jobs further down the line will offer more flexibility and independence, but also come with added pressures and responsibilities. You're making the cake from scratch now, and if it comes out flaming and oozing salmonella, that's on you.

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