A pharmaceutical engineer is an individual who is involved in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of materials necessary for converting raw materials into marketable pharmaceutical products. Pharmaceutical engineering is a broad field that may be connected to any part of the process of designing, producing, and marketing pharmaceuticals. There is a large international demand for pharmaceutical engineers, as the pharmaceuticals industry is a massive economic force and pharmaceutical engineers are an integral part of the industry. Many jobs in chemical engineering do not specifically need to be performed by a chemical engineer; chemists, physicists, mechanical engineers and others are commonly hired into the pharmaceutical industry for engineering purposes.
There are many different skills that a pharmaceutical engineer must possess in order to succeed at his work. The most important is technical skill; a pharmaceutical engineer must have a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of the work he is doing. This usually involves thorough knowledge of chemical systems, mechanical systems, or both. A pharmaceutical engineer must also enforce and comply with many regulations set by government organizations and by company quality assurance standards, so knowledge of these regulations is important. Leadership, innovation, and a constant pursuit of improvement are necessary traits for pharmaceutical engineers who seek advancement to a high level.
The actual tasks that a pharmaceutical engineer performs vary greatly based on his skill set and on his employer's particular needs. Some engineers work directly in product development, often working with other pharmaceutical professionals to design new drugs and drug components. Others work to design and maintain the facilities, equipment, and production systems that others use to actually make the final product. This is extremely important, as flawed or inefficient methods of production could greatly harm an otherwise excellent company. The necessarily expansive nature of a pharmaceutical engineer's skills often causes a pharmaceutical engineer to rise to a leadership position within his company or to start a pharmaceutical company of his own.
Quality assurance and regulation are two particularly important roles often served by a pharmaceutical engineer. Pharmaceutical companies are subjected to countless regulations to ensure the safety of those who eventually use the company's products. Any breach of these regulations can result in fines or even expensive lawsuits. Quality assurance is also important, as people will often pass over low quality products for higher quality ones when that option exists. Pharmaceutical engineers tend to have the technical knowledge to understand and to correct problems in quality and in broken regulation.