Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

Chemical and pharmaceutical

22 Jun 2023, 13:19

Careers in Ireland's pharmaceutical and chemical sectors.

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The Republic of Ireland remains a location of choice for international companies, with nine of the top ten pharmaceutical organisations worldwide having operations here. Engineers work in many roles ranging from the research and development of new processes and products to the design, construction and management of industrial plants. Essentially they are engaged in the process of changing raw materials into finished products, often with life-saving and health-enhancing consequences.

Chemicals industry

The chemicals industry develops and manufactures the chemicals we need in everyday life in a safe, environmentally friendly and economical way. It’s a diverse industry ranging from pharmaceuticals to biotechnology. Other companies in this sector produce finished products such as adhesives, sealants, paints, fertilisers, resins and other petrochemical products.

Chemical and process engineering

Chemical and process engineering graduates work in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and cosmetics sectors, as well as in the food and drink, chemical products, materials, plastics and polymers industries. Applying knowledge of organic and inorganic chemistry, chemical and process engineers change raw materials into finished products. Engineers have a key role in the production process as well as the planning, design, construction and management of industrial plants.


The pharmaceutical industry is about the discovery and manufacture of effective medicines and is a significant employment sector in the Republic of Ireland due to the large number of multinational companies based in the country. Many of the world’s top-selling drugs are produced in Ireland. Along with research and development, there are also jobs available in process development and production management.

What does the work involve?

Engineers working in pharmaceuticals and chemicals can find themselves engaged in a wide range of activities, including:

  • Developing and implementing processes to produce drugs and medicines, food and drinks.
  • Producing new, cleaner fuels from natural resources.
  • Designing pollution prevention technologies to protect the environment and human health.
  • Research and development: collaborating with scientists and other disciplines in the design and implementation of new products and production techniques.
  • Design and construction of chemical and pharmaceutical plants from start to finish.
  • Consultancy: providing engineering services to manufacturing companies.
  • Manufacturing: working in production, trouble shooting and adapting and optimising production processes.

Skills required

As well as technical skills and knowledge, graduates will need to be able to work in large multidisciplinary teams, show flexibility and innovation, and have excellent communication, problem-solving and project management skills. Commercial awareness and an ability to work to deadlines are also very important.

What degree do I need for this career?

  • Chemical engineering
  • Process engineering
  • Biochemical engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Also open to civil/structural, control, electrical, electronics, environmental, instruments manufacturing, materials, mechanical and software engineers.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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