Pharmaceutical quality control inspector

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Carol Jackson is a quality assurance assessor with a major international company that develops and manufactures medicines and vaccines. She helps to determine whether batches of drugs are of the right quality before being released for use by patients.

What does your job involve?

My job involves the certification of drug substances. These products need to be continually checked to ensure they comply with stringent official regulations regarding the quality and safety of the ingredients and the production processes. It is vital as the primary role of certification is to ensure product safety for patients who are prescribed these drugs for treatment.

Who do you work with?

I work with product focus teams on a daily basis. The teams include process chemists, logistics personnel, production leaders, operational personnel and quality control personnel and I need to look at all the records they compile to ensure we have all the information for compiling the certification dossier.

Do you have a typical day?

My typical daily activity is based on reviewing production and quality records on a drug to decide whether we can release them for use by patients. This involves the monitoring of key performance indicators such as the type and amount of production problems during manufacture, results of laboratory tests that are done regularly to ensure the consistency and purity of the substances and information on any customer complaints. Quite a lot of my time is spent in the laboratory checking the records of various quality control tests done on the products during manufacture. I work a normal 38-hour week.

What equipment do you use?

Mainly it is a computer and specialist programs. For instance, I use a specialist Laboratory Information Management System. This is a valuable computer package that helps us track each production batch of products and holds all the necessary information and approval procedure details we need achieve certification.

What was your route into this job?

I started as a trainee laboratory technician at a multi-purpose chemical plant. I progressed to become an experienced laboratory technician and team leader before becoming involved in quality control. I enjoy the role because I have done many of the testing procedures beforehand, for instance.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I enjoyed science at school and working in the laboratory. I thought working within the pharmaceutical industry would be challenging and satisfying. I like my job because it enables me to get involved in a wide range of activities. I enjoy working with different people within the organisation to achieve common goals. I also enjoy working with chemical compounds that I know will improve patients' health.

What are the skills and qualities needed?

A quality assurance assessor has to be committed and motivated, able to make decisions and work to deadlines. You also need to be a good communicator.

What are your long-term career goals?

I would like a leadership role in quality control within the pharmaceutical industry. This could involve leading a group of quality specialists, managing the auditing processes or working with external regulatory authorities.

Carol's route to her pharmaceutical quality control inspector job

  • S levels (GCSEs in England).
  • H levels (A levels).
  • National Curriculum mathematics modules.
  • ONC Chemistry.
  • HNC Chemistry.
  • BSc (Hons) Chemistry.

Carol's tips

  • Be ambitious.
  • Be passionate about your career goals.
  • Be eager to learn and develop yourself.

Quality control inspector related jobs

  • Chemist
  • Consumer scientist
  • Laboratory technician
  • Manufacturing production manager

Salary of a pharmaceutical quality control inspector

  • Salaries of people working in quality control and assessment depend upon their qualifications and the area in which they are working.
  • A starting salary for a graduate would be around £23,000 rising to £35,000 with experience.
  • Team leaders and managers could earn up to £50,000.

Getting in

  • All kinds of manufacturing and processing companies employ quality control inspectors or assessors. They include pharmaceutical, automotive, cosmetics, food, textiles, electrical and steel.
  • The routes in depend upon the industry. Some inspectors start straight from school as quality control assistants. They are likely to need at least four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English, maths and science. In some industries such as engineering, ceramics, food and drink and manufacturing, young people can train through an Apprenticeship (Skillseekers in Scotland).
  • However in an industry with more complicated technology, quality control inspectors are likely to need A levels/H grades, an AVCE/GSVQ Level III, a BTEC/SQA national award, an HND/HNC or even a degree in science or technology. Some Quality Assurance Assessors in the pharmaceutical industry require a degree in chemistry.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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