MS in Pharmaceutical Systems Management - New Graduate Degree

MS in Pharmaceutical Systems Management - New Graduate Degree

If you are working in the pharmaceutical industry yet want to earn a master’s degree, NJIT has the program for you. The university offers a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Systems Management. The degree, which combines engineering management and pharmaceutical engineering, teaches students to work as technical managers in the pharmaceutical industry.

New Jersey has one of the largest pharmaceutical concentrations in the world, and the job market for people who can work as technical managers in the field is extremely strong. By earning a master’s degree in the field, you will be poised to launch a creative and lucrative career.

In this interview, Sanchoy Das, a professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, discusses the new master’s degree. Das uses simulation methods to make manufacturing -- including hospital and pharmacy operations – more productive. He’s also designed flexible manufacturing solutions for small and medium-sized companies.

Does this program teach students engineering management techniques as well as teach them how the pharmaceutical industry works?
The new master’s degree program integrates management methods and tools with pharmaceutical research and processing knowledge. The degree is designed to give students knowledge of the analysis, planning, implementation, project management and evaluation of all operational components in the pharmaceutical industry. Currently we have two popular master’s programs in the areas of Engineering Management and Pharmaceutical Engineering. This new program blends the curriculum of these two into a focused program for the pharmaceutical industry.

What are the main challenges in managing the business side of a pharmaceutical company? How do you prepare your students to meet these challenges?
There are many challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry, ranging from the need to lower costs in development, manufacturing and distribution to competition between branded, generic and over-the-counter products. Analysts expect that the pharmaceutical industry will soon achieve the same levels of productivity and efficiency as the consumer products industry. The pharmaceutical industry has usually enjoyed relatively high profit margins, but this has been declining. As a result, the industry is becoming more focused on cost and productivity. Thus, the curriculum of the new degree program follows a systems approach and is designed to give graduates the skills to analyze and manage the increasingly complex global pharmaceutical industry. These will include classical engineering management approaches and methods, coupled with more powerful software-based analytical tools. For example, students learn how to apply systems simulation tools to model the pharmaceutical supply chain and then identify bottlenecks and primary cost drivers.

What is particular about the pharmaceutical industry that calls for students to get a specialized degree in the field? Wouldn’t an MBA serve them just as well?
The program is designed for technical managers in the pharmaceutical industry, whose duties involve technology development. These include the areas of drug discovery and clinical research, manufacturing operations, packaging and distribution, quality control, regulatory compliance and product management. Many of these managers are looking for an advanced degree that provides a combination of managerial and technical training. The dual focus of this new program -- a systems management approach combined with knowledge of pharmaceutical industry process -- meets this need. This new program is quite different from an MBA, which focuses primarily on the business management side.

Can you give a few examples of classes that are offered? And do you offer evening classes?
The program is designed to meet the need of working professionals, so all the courses are offered in the evening. Some classes are even offered online. One of the core courses offered is Project Management. Pharmaceutical managers work on projects and this course introduces students to the techniques used to plan and control the resources needed to accomplish projects. While the focus is on technically oriented projects, the principles discussed are applicable to the management of any project. Another course offered is Principles of Pharmaceutical Engineering, which gives an overview of the pharmaceutical industry, including information about drug discovery and development, federal requirements and the role of key operational units in drug manufacturing processes. Another course, Pharmaceutical Product Management, was developed specifically for this program. It will focus on sales and distribution in the pharmaceutical industry. Areas explored in the course include market analysis, distribution planning, new product launches and how to commercialize pharmaceutical products.

Will there be a good job market for graduates of this program?
New Jersey has one of the largest pharmaceutical concentrations in the world, and it is the backbone of our knowledge-based economy. Companies such as Johnson and Johnson and Merck rank among the top 25 largest employers in the state.  In 2006, New Jersey had 14 percent of the nation's total employment in the pharmaceutical industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is an extraordinary concentration and powerful economic presence. The job opportunities for technical managers in the pharmaceutical industry continue to be strong. And by getting this master’s degree, you are increasing your skill base and facilitating your career growth.

What kind of jobs will graduates get, and will those jobs be creative and well paying?
Graduates will work at a variety of jobs. They'll work as project leaders, managers and senior managers, associate directors and scientists. The pharmaceutical industry is by nature a knowledge-intensive field and most jobs have a creative and innovative component to them. In general, the compensation programs offered by the pharmaceutical industry are very attractive, and we believe graduates of this new program will do very well.

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)