Medicinal Chemist

A medicinal or pharmaceutical chemist researches and creates chemical compounds for use as drugs. By applying chemical research techniques to isolate natural healing agents or develop artificial ones, these chemists play a vital role in the pharmaceutical industry.



Medicinal chemistry is the application of chemical research techniques to the synthesis of pharmaceuticals. During the early stages of medicinal chemistry development, scientists were primarily concerned with the isolation of medicinal agents found in plants. Today, scientists in this field are also equally concerned with the creation of new synthetic drug compounds. Medicinal chemistry is almost always geared toward drug discovery and development.

The focus on development of new synthetic drug compounds has resulted in the incorporation of many other disciplines, such as biochemistry and molecular biology, into medicinal chemistry. "Medicinal chemistry involves working in teams with scientists from a variety of other disciplines," says James Kaminski, a senior principal scientist at Schering Plough. "There is a lot of collaboration between chemists and biologists while searching for a lead on a new drug or doing research on a preclinical drug candidate. Then, when you look into the drug safety profile, you work with toxicologists and pharmacologists."


Educational Requirements

Pharmaceutical chemists usually need a bachelor's degree or higher level of education, either in pharmaceutical or organic chemistry. For those without specific training in medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry coursework may enable them to get started in the industry, where they can gain the rest of the knowledge required. For those involved in graduate study, workshops such as one offered by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca offer a glimpse into the requirements of the profession.


Median Salary 2011

The 13,960 chemists employed in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in 2011 were paid an average yearly salary of $71,990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Want to know more?

ACS-Medicinal Chemist

Chron-Medicinal Chemist

Explore Health Careers-Pharmaceutical Scientists


Get Connected

Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists

American Chemical Society

Medicinal Chemistry & Drug Discovery LinkedIn Group

Medicinal Chemistry LinkedIn Group

List of Professional Organizations

The Career Connector for Purdue College of Science Students & Alumni


Get Experience

Research & Internship Listings


Find a Job

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists

Job Search Sites Related to Your Major


Information retrieved from ACS-Medicinal Chemist, Chron-Medicinal Chemist



Purdue University College of Science, 150 N. University St, West Lafayette, IN 47907 • Phone: (765) 494-1729, Fax: (765) 494-1736

Student Advising Office: (765) 494-1771, Fax: (765) 496-3015 • Science IT, (765) 494-4488

© 2015 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact the College of Science Webmaster.