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When thinking about the pharmaceutical sector, the first few professions that appear in our minds include pharmacists, pharmaceutical engineers, or clinical trial members. However, apart from engineers who develop and manufacture drugs, the pharmaceutical industry hosts another type of engineer.

We know them as chemical engineers who are surprisingly vital in the pharmaceutical industry.

Picture the chemical and pharmaceutical engineers as the composers and conductors in delivering life-changing medications. While pharmaceutical engineers are busy producing medicines, chemical engineers take care of the designing and manufacturing of the relevant processes and equipment.

Therefore, let’s explore the fundamental roles of these two professions in shaping the future of medicine and saving lives.

Who Are Chemical And Pharmaceutical Engineers?

Let’s begin by laying the foundational understanding of chemical and pharmaceutical engineers.

Chemical engineers utilize chemical processes in the production and manufacturing of products. It involves designing equipment, processes, and systems for refining raw materials. Additionally, they perform these fundamental tasks for compounding, mixing, and processing chemicals.

First, they understand and comprehend the ideas developed in labs into practical applications. These processes go on for the commercial production of products. Later on, their role revolves around the maintenance and improvement of those processes.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical engineers are crucial in conducting research, developing, creating, and manufacturing medicinal drugs.

The first step in this process is detecting ailments and the medications used to treat them. Then, these engineers work to study different research parameters that involve chemical stability, effects, and related safety issues. Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry is blooming and involves some of the highest-paying job roles. So, if you are interested in pharmaceuticals, you are in the right spot.

Let’s See Some Statistics for Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineering in the USA

Statistics give us insights about the life of an industry or a particular niche. They tell us at what level that industry stands and what are the estimated growth chances. Therefore, let’s see these benefits for the chemical and pharmaceutical engineering sectors.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chemical engineers have a mean annual wage of $117,820 and a mean hourly rate of $56.64.

Contrary to this, Zippia states that pharma engineers have an average salary of $84,592. Additionally, they have an hourly rate of $40.67.

Do you belong to the pharmaceutical industry?

Have a look at the top 10 best-paying jobs in the pharma sector.

What Do Chemical Engineers Do In The Pharmaceutical Industry?

The primary role of chemical engineers is designing and manufacturing machines and equipment utilizing chemical processes. When it comes to the pharmaceutical sector, their job role includes designing and developing pharma-related equipment.

Chemical engineers have profound responsibilities in the pharma sector, as the slightest details matter for a patient’s safety. Chemical engineers ensure the quality and safety of pharma-related equipment and processes and that they are accurate, efficient, and precise.

Since drug manufacturing involves various critical stages of testing and approvals, here is when a chemical engineer overlooks these procedures.

Here is a glimpse of the different stages of drug development that call for the role of chemical engineer as well:

Discovery and Development

The first step in the drug synthesis process is choosing a drug target as the basis for the new drug. The next step involved testing various drug candidates with the drug target to understand their interaction.

Characterization of the Product

In this step, chemical engineers characterize a drug’s molecular size, shape, toxicity, bioactivity, and bioavailability. The details help interpret the drug’s mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics.

Development and Translation

After product characterization, the drug undergoes lab synthesis and appears in its final medicinal form. At this point, drug developers – including chemical engineers – manufacture a formulation per adequate drug delivery standards. During this stage, they also test the drug’s stability by subjecting it to various storage conditions.

Another crucial pharmaceutical process is drug regulation, which ensures its safety and efficacy. Read more about the role of regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Chemical engineers play their specific roles in every stage of drug development. The specific positions are as follows:

  • Designing chemical routes: A chemical engineer develops processes that optimize and check product purity and consistency. Additionally, this process requires careful planning and expertise to deliver precise chemical raw materials.
  • Manufacturing Scale-up: chemical engineers scale up the process through efficient development processes. Moreover, they have to take care of the integrity and efficiency of the medicines.
  • Improving Current product efficiency: While new medicines and equipment are paving their way in the pharma industry, the existing ones are also significant. Furthermore, most chemical engineers deploy and prefer existing facilities and processes as the new ones need time and cost in development.

At every stage of drug manufacturing, chemical engineers must consider the drug’s safety and efficacy. These professionals leverage their knowledge regarding a chemical’s properties and kinetics to enhance the drug’s efficiency.

What Do Pharmaceutical Engineers Do?

The pharmaceutical sector is growing parallel to technology evolution in meeting the growing demands of an aging population. The revolution paves the way for pharmaceutical engineers to lead from the frontline.

However, what does a pharmaceutical engineer do?

What is their job description in the pharma sector?

Pharmaceutical engineers belong to the pharma industry’s sub-sector that deals with constructing and designing pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. This domain also encompasses designing, operating, and maintaining materials and processes to yield pharmaceutical products ready for the market.

Some other responsibilities of the pharmaceutical engineers include:

  • Supporting the generation of product ideas and concepts
  • Conducting research and experimentation on the product
  • Supervising the advancement of product development
  • Maintaining oversight over product quality
  • Creating product formulations and designing packaging labels
  • Investigating and executing facility enhancements to expand production capacity
  • Guaranteeing a secure environment for facility staff
  • Managing the production and manufacturing of the product
  • Mitigating potential hazards for customers
  • Ensuring adherence to regulations and product safety
  • Packaging the final product
  • Establishing guidelines for product presentation
  • Aiding in quality control efforts
  • Deciding on the appropriate technology tools for manufacturing processes

Additionally, one paramount feature that distinguishes pharma engineers from other engineers. It is the requirement to adhere to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in the pharma sector. GMP highlights the standards for pharmaceutical engineers to perform their roles with minimized risk factors.

The Differences Between the Job Role of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineers

Both chemical and pharmaceutical engineers work with pharma processes and equipment, but what sets them apart? Why are there two separate job positions?

Let’s have a look.

Pharmaceutical engineering is one fundamental sub-specialization of chemical engineering. However, its primary focus revolves around drug and other pharmaceutical product development.

On the other hand, chemical engineering is a fundamental field catering to many industries like refineries. Chemical engineers design, operate, and optimize processes for transforming raw materials into valuable products through chemical reactions.

Pharmaceutical engineers are responsible for creating safe, high-quality, and pure processes and methods related to pharmaceuticals. Their main objective is to establish the foundation for mass production of medicines. They are also involved in researching and developing drugs.

Biomedical engineering is another profession in the healthcare industry often confused with biomedical equipment technicians. Read how the biomedical equipment technicians and engineers differ from each other.

Collaboration Between Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineers

Collaboration plays wonders.

Although chemical and pharma engineers differ in a few aspects, there is something in common. Both specialists share the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Generating ideas and conducting research for product development
  • Designing the product
  • Advancing product development
  • Expanding production capacity and capabilities
  • Manufacturing the product
  • Testing the product and ensuring legal compliance
  • Manufacturing, labeling, and packaging the product


To conclude, pharmaceutical and chemical engineers are two distinct sides of the same coin. Pharmaceutical engineering is a sub-specialization of chemical engineering but dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry. However, both fields require high-grade expertise and precision when dealing with pharma products and processes. They collaborate effectively in pharma processes, from product research and development to quality testing.

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