What does it do?

Pronounced like the soft drink, Tizer, Pfizer is the biggest drugs company in the world. Its scientists develop, manufacture and market medicines and treatments found in hospitals and bathroom cabinets just about everywhere. It claims that, every day, 2.7 million Brits take a Pfizer medicine. The company markets five of the world's 25 top-selling medicines, including Viagra, the drug whose newspaper mentions dwarf all other branded products. Pfizer is also the largest supplier of medicines to the NHS. Founded in New York in the middle of the 19th century, Pfizer now operates in more than 100 countries worldwide. Its research and development arm is currently engaged in more than 200 therapy areas, including cancer, HIV/Aids and smoking cessation. In 2000, Pfizer merged with rival firm Warner Lambert, adding a number of over-the-counter brands to its stable, including Benylin and Listerine.

Vital statistics:

Of the worldwide workforce of 115,000, which generates annual revenues of around £30bn, more than 6,000 work in the UK.

The office:

Pfizer's UK commercial headquarters are at Walton Oaks, in Surrey, where about 700 people work. But the majority of UK staff are centred at the company's European R&D base at Sandwich in Kent.

Is this you?

Every year between 20 and 40 graduates are taken on at the Sandwich laboratories. For these posts, you'll need a chemistry, pharmacology or related degree, and preferably also some lab work experience. This year there are also five graduate positions in external relations, located at the Surrey site.

The recruitment process:

If it's not too late, you could start by applying for one of the hundred or so annual mid-degree work placements at Sandwich and Surrey. Failing that, send a CV and covering letter via the website, www.pfizer.co.uk. Two rounds of interviews, the first off-site, lead to job offers. At Sandwich, training lasts 18 months and consists of two or three internal placements, working alongside established could include dealing with national newspaper journalists, working with charities, or meeting politicians, to discuss science and innovation policy.

Top dollar?

For the R&D roles, the starting salary is at least £23,000, plus a relocation allowance. The external affairs trainees start on a little less, around £20,000.

Beam me up Scotty?

After four or five years, scientists will still be spending most of their time in the lab, but can expect to be working more independently, or running their own projects. Occasionally, opportunities arise to move to Europe, the USA or Japan.

Who's the boss?

Chemistry graduate and PhD from Imperial, Annette Doherty, runs Pfizer's Sandwich Laboratories. In her career she's published more than 100 scientific papers in numerous therapeutic areas.

Little known fact:

The entire process of developing just one new drug treatment can take up to 15 years. Each new medicine that reaches patients costs, on average, £600m.

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