European Pharmaceutical Industry: Who’s in the Best of Health?

Published on Oct 27, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques


Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for bringing new medicines to market and driving quite literally life-changing scientific discoveries. But they are also a critical asset for the European economy. In 2021, this industry invested an estimated €41.5 billion in R&D in Europe. Furthermore, it directly employs about 865,000 people in EFPIA countries (33 European countries, members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations). 

As it turns out, medical progress is just what the doctor ordered in Europe. So, how does this progress reflect on these companies’ internal operations? This article explores some of the leading Pharmaceutical companies with the highest recruitment activity and their most in-demand occupations and skills. 

The data used in this blog is available on our brand new European Skills Transformation Index, which shows you the latest trends across key industries in Europe. Check out the full index if you are interested in exploring this data in more detail, or have a look at how other sectors are performing.

The leading Pharmaceutical recruiters in Europe

To make these insights more comprehensive, we included some US-based pharmaceutical multinationals with a strong presence in Europe. Sanofi was the Pharmaceutical company with the highest recruitment activity out of the 10 leading Pharmaceutical companies we studied - 17.6% of job postings were advertised by this French multinational. The second and third top recruiters were Johnson & Johnson and Roche, with a share of 16.5% and 10.8% respectively. 

As one of the world’s leading Pharmaceutical production markets, Germany is the base of three of the top recruiting Pharmaceutical companies: BioNTech SE, based in Mainz; Bayer AG, based in Leverkusen; and Merck, headquartered in Darmstadt. These multinationals are some of the largest in the world, both in terms of number of employees and sales revenue. Out of these three companies, Bayer had the highest recruitment activity and took 6th place on our list.

The 10th biggest Pharmaceutical recruiter out of the companies we studied, and bottom of the list, was North Chicago-based AbbVie, with a 4.9% share. Other leading companies we studied include British-Swedish AstraZeneca and the Swiss-based healthcare multinationals Novartis and Roche.

Top Pharmaceutical occupations

Advertising & Marketing Professionals, Sales & Marketing Managers, and Systems Analysts were the most popular occupations, present in 9 out of 10 companies’ top 10 most-in-demand occupations list. The exceptions were Biontech for the first two occupations and Thermo Fisher for Systems Analysts.  

But there are plenty of unusual occupations, too. For example, Bayer’s 3rd most in-demand occupation was Accountants, and 6th on the list was Financial & Investment Advisers, with 4% and 2.8% of Bayer’s job postings advertising for these roles, respectively. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca’s most sought-after occupations include Authors & Related Writers, Legal Professionals, and Mathematicians, Actuaries & Statisticians. Roche was also actively looking for Valuers & Loss Assessors - its 6th most in-demand occupation. 

Most in-demand skills for Chemical & Biological Science Professionals

We analysed the most sought-after skills across the ten Pharmaceutical companies studied when hiring Chemical and Biological Science Professionals in 2022. Therefore, when we refer to the frequency or share of skills mentions in job postings, these include job postings advertising exclusively for the occupation of Chemical and Biological Science Professionals. 

Candidates for Chemical and Biological science-related roles may want to add “good manufacturing practices” to their CVs. The average frequency of mentions of this skill in job postings hiring for Chemical and Biological Science Professionals was 35.51%. Merck and Novartis took the lead, requiring this skill in 58.1% and 43.4% of its job postings. 

AstraZeneca requested this skill the least, mentioning it in only 11.4% of its postings. Pharmaceuticals, biology, oncology, drug development, and drug discovery were some of the most sought-after skills for the British-Swedish multinational. Both drug development and drug discovery weren’t very popular among the remaining companies, especially for Merck, which had no mentions of these skills in in its postings for Chemical & Biological Science Professionals. 

Pharmaceuticals is another highly sought-after skill, appearing an average of 32.71% in job postings for this occupation. Novartis was particularly interested in this skill, requesting it in 59.3% of its postings. 

An interesting skill that stands out is mRNAs, which are present in 60.7% of Biontech’s job postings. The average share of this skill in all ten companies’ job companies is just 7.56%, and a lot of the companies (like Abbvie and Bayer) don’t mention this skill at all. Other more unusual skills include data analysis, analytical techniques, and automation, though most in-demand skills are highly specialised, such as immunology, biotechnology, and clinical trials.

Get more European data 

The Pharmaceutical sector is alive and well - but some of the insights we gathered lead us to believe that there is much more to Pharmaceutical companies than drug development. For instance, the focus on hiring Marketing and Sales Professionals may mean that they are restructuring their sales and marketing strategies or entering new markets. 

If you’re interested in exploring the data for yourself, you can head to our European Skills Transformation Index. And because good things come in pairs, we have also launched a DACH Skills Transformation Index specific to the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland). PS: Don’t worry; the Index is not in German, so non-German speakers can explore away, too. 

As an educational institution, our labour market data can help you understand the most in-demand skills across industries and adapt and market your portfolio so your students are fully equipped to meet employer demand. 

Similarly, as a talent leader, Lightcast can help you transform your organisation’s workforce data into a new skills-driven paradigm, opening up many opportunities to radically improve your workforce planning. This includes benchmarking against competitors, understanding what skills your company should be hiring for, and where to find the best talent. 

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how our data can help you unlock opportunities and solve labour market challenges, get in touch with our team below. 

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