Pharma or Navy?

  • Pharma

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • Navy

    Votes: 1 33.3%
  • Take whatever you get first

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters

I am a 23 years old woman and I have recently had my eyes opened to a career in the Royal Navy. My boyfriend just joined at a time where I am quite lost with regards to my own career direction. After hearing more about the lifestyle, the potential career progression and the opportunity to see the world, I have looked into a number of different roles. I have a scientific background - I have a first-class degree in Biochemistry and graduated last summer 2017 with a hope to follow on into the pharmaceutical industry and early drug discovery. I took a year out and have applied (and got an interview in the next few weeks) for a graduate scheme in a pharma company which would last 2 years, start on a very generous salary and involves different rotations in the laboratory in different aspects within drug discovery and development. This is definitely a civilian career I could see myself in, would be an amazing opportunity at a fantastic company and I would have an insight into which area of drug discovery I want to go into/what I am good at. However, there is no guarantee of a job at the end of the 2 years and essentially, afterwards I would be back to square one, but with a lot more experience. I would be consistent in my career path however, and could potentially get long term work in the industry. Having already experienced working at the same company in a year in industry placement, I decided I did really like living the 'normal' life in a pharma company. The job is 9-5 Monday to Friday, I can have my own time in the evening, see my friends and family at weekends and also focus on my health and fitness. The work is exciting and rewarding as you are working towards saving lives but can sound quite boring 'working in a lab or office for the rest of my life'. If I went back to the company I would be living with one my best friends again which I would love. However, I seem to remember after finishing my placement, I wasn't convinced that this was all that what I wanted in life. I think I felt, and still feel now with my normal job (working in a restaurant to tie me over) a bit trapped, like in a repeated cycle with no end. I feel like I expected more of my career and life. Also, I tend to get bored easily and like a change.

SO, this is where the Navy comes into it. Thinking about the lifestyle I could have in the Navy excites me. I don't want to feel trapped in normal life, I want to be able to reach my full potential and I truly believe a career in the Royal Navy would let me do this. But I haven't experienced it yet so how do I actually know. If I imagine me working at the pharma company for the rest of my life with my boyfriend travelling around the world, experiencing life at all levels, I just think why the hell wouldn't you want to do the same as him? You only have one life. The salary is incredible, the training is world class and in the future if I chose to finish serving anyway the employers would go crazy over the skills I would have gained - but again I would have to choose another career direction. My mum and dad are behind this navy idea and would be so proud if I did this. My dad said 'You can't get any better than becoming an officer in the Royal Navy'. They would be equally as proud if I worked at the pharma company however, I think they want to see my really happy, living life and reaching my potential. They just say I am only one to make the choice. I know my dad believes I would be stupid if I didn't go for this. I think I would truly enjoy it but there are a few aspects that stupidly worry me. I am quite a girly girl - I like my makeup, nice clothes etc. but I guess I would adapt to the Navy lifestyle and find a medium that suits me. Also, as my boyfriend is in the Navy I am worried I would never see him. But I won't see him much anyway as a civilian. I am also having difficulty choosing a job role. But that is for another discussion!

As you can see I am in quite a dilemma. I am very lucky to have so much choice but this is a really tough decision for me. To be honest though, I haven't actually got either job yet but this is hypothetical if I got the graduate scheme at AZ after my interview in a couple of weeks, haha. I am dying to finally start my career and work towards something meaningful so part of me also thinks just take the first opportunity that comes up!

Please please help me and give me your opinions and advice!!
This isn't an easy one to comment on, ultimately, the choice is one only you can make.

In terms of advice, I am wondering whether it would be a good idea for you to ask whether the ACLO at your nearest AFCO would be willing to see you for a chat about what your options would be. You might find any choices you need to make easier when you know which of the Officer routes would be open to you as someone with a First in Biochemistry.

My one worry is the interview you have coming up with AZ - if you were to start an application for the RN this week, you would only be in the very earliest stages at the point when AZ were to make you an offer and you would be saying yes or no based on a hope that you would be offered a place at Dartmouth. I am wondering whether it is worth enquiring whether AZ offered deferred places. If your AZ offer could be deferred for a year, you would know before your start date there, I would imagine, whether you had been offered a place at BRNC.

Could I add that you can be feminine and an Officer in the Royal Navy? You can like make-up and nice clothes, too. Your make-up when in uniform has to be discreet and things like false lashes and coloured nail varnish are out, but I'm sure that you know how to do a discreet make-up already, so that wouldn't be a problem. Properly managed, your salary would allow you to buy some nice clothes to wear when not in uniform, so that's not something I would worry about.

If I were you, I would contact your local AFCO this week and ask when would be a good time to go in and then think things through. I think that it would help you to decide if you knew whether you could defer any offers from AZ, but I don't know whether to suggest asking about that at this point. Perhaps wait until the offer comes.

PS If you want assistance with fitness, there are people in the Royal Navy who will be more than happy to help. Check out the sports opportunities in the RN. You would be surprised what there is.

For what it's worth, in my personal opinion, at 23, I would give the option of a career in the Royal Navy some real consideration.


Really interesting perspective, I've known a few people who spent their whole career in early drug discovery (a lot of it at AZ), some loved every minute and some wish they had just opened a bike shop.

If you like your current career but are looking for something a bit different as well, you're the poster child for RNR Officer. You'll get to keep the nice pharma job, if you get it, and also get to try new things. It can go three ways:
  1. You'll love it so much you'll be able to go full-time knowing you made the right decision.
  2. You'll like the mix of both worlds and the ability to go away for a few months a do something different if the job gets stale.
  3. You'll realise it's not for you, ditch it and continue with your pharma career.
Thank you for both of your replies. Really helpful advice and opinions.

I know the decision will take some thought and time. The real dilemma for me will come IF I get offered a place on the programme. I don't think I will have the opportunity to defer my offer unfortunately and I would never want to accept the place and then reject if I change my mind. For the time being, I shall continue my interview prep for AZ, shall look into my options/mull things over and also speak to an ACLO for some advice.

I hadn't even considered joining the RNR as an Officer but I am going to look into it too. Thank you so much!
It seems to me RNR is the best option at the moment, best of both worlds and if one career choice really floats your boat then go for that one. If you stick as RNR, just volunteer for everything that gets you on foreign trips, with the RN paying!
I heartily agree with the suggestions already made about the RNR.

Have your cake AND eat it.

Out of interest, how are you finding the transfer from biochem to pharma? Or did your first degree have a lot of organic chemistry/pharmacology content? (seems to vary wildly between universities - mine was very focused on genetics)
I heartily agree with the suggestions already made about the RNR.

Have your cake AND eat it.

Out of interest, how are you finding the transfer from biochem to pharma? Or did your first degree have a lot of organic chemistry/pharmacology content? (seems to vary wildly between universities - mine was very focused on genetics)

My Biochemistry course had a very wide content range and much of it was very relevant to drug discovery and development. I went to Leeds - the research centre is very interdisciplinary encompassing chemistry, physics and biology. This was reflected in our course which wasn't generally very focused on one area of science. We were taught organic chemistry early on in my degree and also I broadened my own scope of knowledge by choosing pharmacology optional modules and advanced topics. It was always my aim at the end of my degree to go into the pharmaceutical industry so I wanted to better my chances as much as possible. Also, I completed a year in industry at AZ which was obviously an incredible insight into the world of pharma! :)
Although the RN is a fantastic career, there is a bigger picture and we need to get more talented people into research / STEM. We really need some new antibiotics, too... I have a feeling your obvious enthusiasm and aptitude in medicinal science might not be fully appreciated or explored in a full time RN career.

That said, there are opportunities to transfer from RNR to RN (and back again, to your heart's content...) if you later decide pharma is not for you.

You can apply directly to be an officer in the RNR. The recruitment process begins with your local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO), and can take several months. That said, a lot of RNR units are happy to get you in doing stuff before the whole process is finished.

To be an RNR officer you need a pass at the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB). Loads of info on that elsewhere on this forum/the wider internet. When you pass, you become an Officer Cadet and start initial officer training. The annual commitment is generally 24 days made up of drill nights, weekends, and 1 or 2 week courses. The officer training package generally takes two years to complete, but there is the opportunity to do this as an 8-week course over the summer through the Accelerated Officer Program (AOP).

Once you have completed officer training, you pick a branch (specialism) to start training in - things like Info Ops, CIS, Maritime Trade Operations, Amphibious Warfare. Diving and Intelligence are also available but entry to these is very selective. Don't worry about these too much yet as you won't have to choose for a while, and there will be lots of info available to you from your unit.

Once you have completed branch training, you will probably be a Lt and will now be deployable. The average rate of deployment is once every 5 years but depends on a lot of things, including choice of branch.

If you choose not to become an officer, or are unsuccessful, you could be a rating instead. Roles are generally more "hands-on" than for officers. The basic training is only around 1 year, but there's (currently) no Accelerated path. Branch training and deployment roughly similar to officers, but a slightly different choice of branches/roles. There are many ratings who have well regarded civilian jobs but decided not to become officers, so it's completely up to you based on what you'll enjoy most - and you're more valuable to the RNR if you're motivated and engaged, too.

Please let me know if there's anything else you want to know about the RNR.

I guess I have found my role if I join the RN then haha! Writer?
Well, the RN does have Writers... And POETs. Nothing to do with Shakespeare though.
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