Medical Sales Rep Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a medical sales rep career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a medical sales rep is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Sales Rep Career

Medical sales reps, also known as pharmaceutical or drug representatives spend a great deal of time on the road. Read on to see more pros and cons of a career as a medical sales rep.

Pros of a Medical Sales Rep Career
High earnings (median salary was about $65,000 as of 2015)*
Many educational paths are applicable***
Strong job prospects due to fast turnover rate**
Steady job growth (9% from 2012-2022)**
Work activities vary on a day-to-day basis (traveling, making calls, performing administrative tasks, meeting with buyers, learning about products, etc.)**

Cons of a Medical Sales Rep Career
Often requires extensive travel to meet with clients and sell pharmaceuticals**
Can require overtime (nearly six in ten worked 40 or more hours per week in 2012)**
Stress involved with meeting quotas and working on commission**
Evening and weekend hours may be necessary**

Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Indiana University.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Medical sales reps promote the sale of medical devices and pharmaceuticals by making presentations to physicians, hospitals and treatment centers, pharmacies and advocacy groups. In this position, you may set up meetings by performing cold calls, networking with individuals in the medical profession and attending events. You may spend days or weeks traveling to make presentations and promote products.

In addition to locating new clients, you must keep up communication with existing buyers. You'll need extensive knowledge of the products you're selling so that you may answer questions, negotiate prices and ensure that your clients are satisfied. Administrative work, including making travel plans, filing expense reports and scheduling appointments, is also part of the job. Because medical sales reps spend business hours meeting with clients and making calls, weekend and evenings hours may be required to complete administrative duties.

Salary Information and Career Prospects

According to September 2015 data from Salary.com, the median average salary for sales reps in the field of biomedical sales and supplies was about $65,000. Nearly all reps in this field earned between $45,000 and $77,000. Pay for medical sales reps is usually based on a combination of salary and commissions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected outlook for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives to grow about as fast as average - at a rate of 9% - between 2012 and 2022.

What Are the Requirements?

Medical sales reps are generally required to have a bachelor's degree. While pharmaceutical sales programs are available, many degrees are applicable to this career. You may consider coursework or a major in communications, life sciences, marketing or health business. You may also need industry-specific training. This usually takes place on the job and can last up to one year.

In addition to education and training, medical sales reps must stay up-to-date on the latest products in their field by conducting research and attending conferences. To be successful, you'll need strong written and verbal communication skills, the ability to persuade others and a strong understanding of business.

What Employers Are Looking for

While some employers prefer to hire medical sales reps with college education, many emphasize sales experience more strongly. You may need to provide prospective employers with proof of a strong track record in medical sales. Read on for a sample of real job postings from May 2012 and see what employers were seeking.

  • A medical company in Texas is seeking a medical sales representative to handle sales calls to and from clients. Applicants must have two years of experience in sales and a proven sales track record. Applicants who've completed some college and are bilingual in Spanish and English are preferred.
  • A medical device company in Texas needs a part-time sales representative to sell medical devices and maintain relationships with physicians' offices. Ideal candidates will have a flexible schedule and at least three years of experience in medical sales.
  • A Maryland healthcare products manufacturer seeks a sales representative with a bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience. Applicants must have strong business and critical-thinking skills.
  • A medical technology company in Minnesota needs a medical device sales representative to work in doctors' offices and hospitals. Applicants should be self-motivated, goal-oriented and strong communicators as well as having a bachelor's degree and 2-4 years of experience.

How to Beat the Competition

Get Certified

Entering a career in medical sales can be competitive, but there are a number of ways you can beat the competition. Through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPR), you can become a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR). This designation will allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of products, industry regulations, managed care and effective selling techniques. To become a CNPR, you must pass an online exam. Study material is available though the NAPR or through affiliated colleges and universities.

Gain Sales Experience

Having sales experience can also help you stand out in this field. Even if your previous experience isn't in the medical industry, having sales experience on your resume can show employers that you know how to communicate with customers and understand the sales industry. You might find entry-level sales experience with retail or manufacturing companies.

Other Careers to Consider

Insurance Sales Agent

If you want to work in sales, but you don't want to work with pharmaceuticals or medical equipment, an insurance sales agent career may be for you. In this position, you'll generate business for insurance companies by locating potential customers and selling them insurance policies. While many employers require only a high school diploma, the BLS reports that more than a third of insurance sales agents have bachelor's degrees. Demand for this career was expected to grow at a rate of about 22% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS, which exceeds the national average of 14%. As of May 2011, the average salary for this career was about $63,000.

Medical Scientist

If you want to work in the medical or pharmaceutical industry, but you don't want a career in sales, you may enjoy a career as a medical scientist. In this position, you'll conduct research and clinical trials to develop new medical products and improve human health. Outlook is very bright for this field; the BLS predicted that jobs for medical scientists would increase at a rate of 36% from 2010-2020. Average yearly earnings reached about $88,000 as of May 2011. While these statistics are promising, a Ph.D. is usually required to work in this field.

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