While I was interviewing, I had to make the decision between working in process chemistry and medicinal chemistry. There is one major difference between the two job, biology. As a process chemist, you spend your day doing chemistry. You're trying to make something in a faster, better, cheaper manner than it has been made before. You need to know a lot about chemistry and how to be extremely efficient. While I love chemistry, I thought that I would like to work in medicinal chemistry and keep learning.
As a medicinal chemist, you spend your day doing some chemistry, but also thinking a lot about biology. Medicinal chemists are working very early in the drug discovery pipeline, trying to design the new drugs. They have to look at proteins and amino acids, think about cell permeability and toxicity, and these are all things that are new to me.
A synthetic chemist, right out of academia, doesn't know much about these things. I took biochemistry in 2001 and haven't looked at an amino acid since then. I was thrown in, head first, into the deep end of medicinal chemistry. I've been reading tons of papers and books to try and acclimate myself to this new field. Let me tell you, there are A LOT of acronyms! I've got a lot to learn, but it's just what I wanted.