Medical Science Liaison Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a medical science liaison's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a medical science liaison career.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Science Liaison Career

Medical science liaisons use their medical knowledge and experience in the healthcare industry to provide scientific information about therapeutic products, including drugs and medical devices, to healthcare leaders. Check out the pros and cons of becoming a medical science liaison to see if it's the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming a Medical Science Liaison
High paying (most were earning about $71,000-$156,000 as of September 2015)*
Good non-clinical job option for medical school graduates**
Work both independently and with a team**
Interact with other healthcare leaders**

Cons of Becoming a Medical Science Liaison
A doctoral degree is required**
Most medical science liaisons need clinical experience**
Job requires extensive travel (50%-60% of time on road)**
Must stay up-to-date on the latest scientific research**

Sources: *PayScale.com (2014), **July 2012 job advertisements

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Medical science liaisons are responsible for exchanging scientific information between the company they work for--which typically includes biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies--and healthcare professionals. These liaisons usually have extensive knowledge and experience in specific branches of medicine, such as immunology, oncology and nephrology.

In this position, you'll spend over half of your time traveling to healthcare facilities in your assigned area to meet with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), who are leading doctors chosen for their ability to influence their peers. While meeting with KOLs, you'll make presentations detailing the clinical trails and research developments behind a product. You'll also report back any issues or needs expressed by KOLs to the company's development or manufacturing teams.

Salary Info

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data were not available for this job specifically, though medical science liaisons are medical or pharmaceutical doctors, with pay comparable to their peers working in those professions. The BLS indicated that physicians and surgeons averaged $194,990 as of May 2014 while pharmacists averaged $118,470 in the same year. According to PayScale.com, the salary range for medical science liaisons was $70,993-$155,595 with a median salary of $114,17 as of September, 2015. Medical science liaisons with at least five years of related work experience and who have earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree rather than a PhD are likely to earn the highest salaries.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

Aspiring medical science liaisons begin their careers by earning 4-year bachelor's degrees, usually in a scientific field. While earning this degree, you'll be required to take specific math and science classes that are needed for admittance into a medicine or pharmacy school. After completing an undergraduate program, you'll then spend about four years pursuing either a Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Medicine. These degree programs include classroom instruction and clinical training in healthcare facilities.

Experience/Skills

Since most employers require medical science liaisons to have several years of work experience, you can complete a fellowship or residency program after earning your doctoral degree. These training programs allow graduates to practice medicine in their specific fields of study. In addition to extensive pharmaceutical and scientific knowledge, other highly valued assets include excellent teaching and presentation skills, self-motivation, strategic thinking, ability to work under pressure,

What Employers Are Looking For

Job postings for medical science liaisons typically request candidates who have advanced degrees and are willing to travel at least 50% of the time. Employers also look for applicants who have clinical experience in specific fields of healthcare, such as oncology or immunology. Here are a few examples of actual job postings in July 2012:

  • A pharmaceutical company in Denver, CO, sought a medical science liaison with a doctoral degree and two years of work experience, preferably in the fields of rheumatology or nephrology. Other qualifications included excellent pharmaceutical knowledge, leadership skills, teaching skills, and the ability to make effective presentations during conferences, meetings and advisory boards.
  • A Massachusetts corporation wanted candidates who had knowledge in immunology or rheumatology to provide information about hereditary angioedema to professionals in the healthcare industry. Applicants needed at least three years of experience working as medical science liaisons, customer service skills and communication skills. The employer preferred candidates who had experience working with specialty diseases.
  • A biotechnology company in San Diego, CA, was looking for a medical science liaison with an M.D. or Ph.D. and at least five years of experience working in genetics, women's health, prenatal diagnosis or obstetrics. The liaison would be responsible for building relationships with KOLs to promote the company's products.
  • A Minnesota employer in the pharmaceutical industry was advertising for candidates with advanced degrees in healthcare administration or the clinical sciences. Candidates must have experience working in the field of oncology; experience in pharmaceuticals was preferred. The job posting listed strategic thinking, the ability to understand scientific data and interpersonal skills as requirements.

How Can I Stand Out?

Medical science liaisons who list membership to professional organizations on their resumes may increase their chances of employment. Membership shows potential employers your dedication and willingness to expand your skills and knowledge. Organizations such as the Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and the Drug Information Association are open to those with doctoral degrees. These organizations offer their members access to education courses, conferences, publications and job boards. Other benefits include the opportunity to exchange information with other professionals, familiarize yourself with competitor's products and participate in volunteering, which can help you get needed work experience.

Other Careers to Consider

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

Closely related to medical science liaisons, pharmaceutical sales representatives provide samples of their company's product to physicians. Unlike medical science liaisons who are members of medical teams, these representatives are part of the sales staff; therefore, they can only promote drug uses approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a field such as biology or chemistry. Most companies also require their sales representatives to complete on-the-job training programs that can last a year. According to the BLS, sales representatives who sell pharmaceuticals earned median annual salaries of about $75,000 in May 2011.

Medical Scientist

Medical scientists work for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies where they conduct studies to find the causes of diseases and investigate treatment options. Their duties include conducting clinical trials, writing research grants and analyzing medical samples. Medical science liaisons often present scientific research conducted by medical scientists to KOLs when promoting products. To work as a medical scientist, you'll need a Ph.D., and if your job requires performing medical procedures, you'll need to be a licensed physician. The BLS reports the median annual salary of medical scientists at around $76,000 in 2011; however, those working in pharmaceutical manufacturing earned closer to $96,000.

Marketing Manager

Before making presentations to healthcare professionals, medical science liaisons often work with marketing teams to find the most strategic ways of creating interest in their product. Marketing teams usually include a marketing manager, whose duties include researching product demand, making advertising campaigns, choosing advertisement mediums and developing budgets. Marketing managers need bachelor's degrees and experience working in sales or advertising. Marketing managers made median annual salaries of approximately $116,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

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Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Public Health

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Public Health
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration
  • MS in Health Administration - Informatics

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