Working abroad

A career in the pharmaceutical industry offers great prospects for working abroad.

As an increasingly globalised industry, with high demand for skilled workers, it can provide you with the opportunity to gain international experience working in a key regional market in Europe or internationally.​

Why work abroad?

Some interesting statistics are presented in a 2016 report carried out by Hobson Prior - 'Global mobility in life sciences'. The report is based on a survey of 1,527 Life Science professionals, 48% from the UK and 56% working within the pharmaceutical industry. 

The most popular reasons given for moving to work abroad were:

  • To gain international experience (85% of respondents)
  • For better career progression (78% of respondents)
  • For a better job (66% of respondents)
  • For the culture, better quality of life and higher salaries (other popular reasons).

Of respondents from the UK included in the survey, a quarter had moved internationally for work. This is a smaller proportion than seen for most other European countries with 58% moving from France, 59% moving from Germany and 60% moving from Eastern Europe. This has been attributed mainly to language barriers (31% of UK professionals mentioned this as a concern). 

Once you have moved abroad, what is the likelihood that you will be happy with your move? The same survey showed that the vast majority of life science professionals were happy for both career and lifestyle reasons.

It is an exciting opportunity, and does not have to be a permanent decision, with 6-12 month contracts giving you the chance to experience working abroad without making a permanent decision.

Where can I go?

The Hobson Prior report found that, of UK respondents who moved abroad:

  • 21% moved to Switzerland
  • 14% moved to the USA​
  • 10% moved to Germany

Working outside of the EU will require a working visa, however if you have a job set up, or possess skills that are desirable to employers, this will be attainable. For more information on working outside the EU, as well as up to date information on working within the EU, please see

If you have an undergraduate or post graduate qualification, or have experience within the pharmaceutical industry, you will have skills and attributes that make you employable across the globe. In addition, with English being a widely spoken language, you may not need to learn another language. However, proficiency in speaking other languages could help open doors to more job opportunities.

What can I ​​​do?

Pharmaceutical careers are available in all the usual capacities as in the UK. From the Hobson prior report, it was found that the most mobile pharmaceutical professions were:

  • Clinical R&D (57% had worked abroad)
  • Clinical data management (51% had worked abroad)

As well as these, other professions, which saw 30%-40% of respondents work abroad, included clinical operations, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance/drug safety and medical sales.

Specific information on pharmaceutical careers can be found on our page; working in the industry.​

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023