Pharmaceutical Sales Career Information and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed for a pharmaceutical sales career Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Pharmaceutical sales representatives generally work for drug or medical supply companies and sell pharmaceutical goods to individual clients in the medical industry on a wholesale basis. Most positions are of the outside sales variety, often entailing frequent travel from one prospective customer to the next. In-depth knowledge of the pharmaceutics being sold is required for most positions, and these professionals usually hold a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical science, pharmacology or another pharmaceutical-related field. Customer service and communication skills are essential for making successful sales pitches.

Required Education Bachelor's degree related to pharmaceutical studies
Required Skills Pharmaceuticals knowledge; customer service and communication skills
Projected Job Growth10% for all sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products from 2012-2022*
Median Salary (September 2014) $66,783 annually for pharmaceutical sales representatives**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Career Information about Pharmaceutical Sales

Individuals in the pharmaceutical sales field are responsible for selling both prescription drugs and equipment used to administer them, such as intravenous devices, to various clients. These clients are generally medical doctors, pharmacists and biomedical scientists, and products are generally sold in bulk on a wholesale basis. The vast majority of employers pay commission for any sales a representative closes; however, many sales reps receive a base salary as well.

While exact job descriptions tend to vary from one company or position to the next, pharmaceutical sales representatives are often employed directly by drug manufacturers. Depending on the size of the company employing the representative and the range of products they have available, sales reps may also specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as gastroenterology, oncology, biopharmacology or psychiatry.

Important Attributes

Most pharmaceutical sales representatives work in outside sales, requiring them to travel to prospective clients' workplaces and provide information or demonstrations of the products they're trying to sell. Many employers require pharmaceutical sales reps to have a reliable vehicle to transport them from one sales call to the next.

Due to the technical nature of the pharmaceutical field, sales representatives must be extremely well-versed in all health science concepts related to their exact job description, including chemical makeup of products, disease pathology, drug interactions and more. Since customer service is often viewed as a crucial component of successful sales, pharmaceutical reps must also have strong communication skills and be proficient at tailoring sales pitches to a client's exact business type or needs.

Educational Requirements

While sales representatives do not typically need a college education to obtain employment, the highly scientific nature of pharmaceutical sales requires an in-depth understanding of complex health sciences like biotechnology, pharmacology and epidemiology. Therefore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that aspiring pharmaceutical sales representatives possess a bachelor's degree in an area related to pharmaceutical studies (www.bls.gov). Many pharmaceutical sales classified postings on popular online job boards, such as Monster.com, also specify that a bachelor's degree is required for applicants to entry-level positions.

Degree Options

Students interested in pharmaceutical sales careers can pursue a Bachelor of Science in pharmaceutical science, pharmacology, toxicology or related fields. Some programs are even geared specifically toward students interested in pharmaceutical sales, with sample degree program offerings in this area including pharmaceutical marketing and management. Students in standard bachelor's degree programs in the pharmaceutical sciences may also incorporate sales studies into their education via a minor in marketing or business administration.

Curricula

Bachelor's degree programs in the pharmaceutical sciences provide students with a foundational understanding of all relevant health science topics, including anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, physics, toxicology and immunology. Students also take courses in pharmaceutical writing, business communications and research analysis. Some programs also include professional education classes, which provide students with information about various pharmaceutical sales career options.

While exact graduation requirements vary from one institution to the next, course curricula for bachelor's degrees in the pharmaceutical sciences often consist of approximately 120 credit hours. These degrees can generally be completed in four years of full-time study.

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