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Are you passionate about the sciences? Have you ever thought about a career where you play with the elements using the most advanced tools to develop better medicine? A career in the pharmaceutical industry can allow you to do just that. It sounds like a great opportunity, but it also sounds like you'd need to spend a decade in university and thousands upon thousands of dollars to do so.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't actually need a university degree to get your foot in the door of this exciting and innovative industry, although many will recommend it. Colleges across the country are now offering programs that give their students a condensed, more hands-on approach to learning the skills needed to work in pharmaceuticals.

The college advantage

Susan Deans has been a professor of biosciences at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, since the early 1990s. Before teaching, she worked as a quality control analyst for both Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals and Westwood-Squibb Pharmaceuticals. Deans says there's an advantage to going to college to learn the skills needed in a pharmaceutical lab. Our graduates are able to work in any position in the process ... there's a huge hands-on component that makes our grads attractive to employers, she says.

Loyalist College's School of Biosciences has three main programs: biotechnology/biotechology'advanced, chemical engineering technician/technologist, and environmental technician/technologist. In these programs, students acquire knowledge in pharmacology, organic chemistry, molecular biology, instrumentation, and extraction technology, among other topics related to the pharmaceutical industry. The bonus is that students get plenty of time learning hands-on in labs, as well as in the classroom.

Learning the tools

Deans says there are lots of components to the pharmaceuticals industry that have to work together to make it function properly. Jobs like quality control analysts and research and development technologists require the skills taught at Loyalist's School of Biosciences. Everything that a lab requires from instrumentation to research and development to quality control'our grads can do it all, says Deans.

Classroom size is another bonus that comes with learning the tools of the trade in a college environment. Deans says the relatively smaller classroom sizes'in comparison to a University classroom size'makes it easier for students to have more time learning in the school's labs.

Students who are interested in working towards a rewarding career in pharmaceuticals ultimately should conduct their own research about what is offered out there. Make sure that you take advantage of all the applications available at college and make sure you choose a program that has everything needed for the job you want, says Deans.

Here are some numbers about the pharmaceutical industry from Industry Canada. Happy studies!

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