How to Become a Pharmaceutical Representative

Become a Pharmaceutical Representative

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New medicines and treatments are being developed all the time. A key player in distributing and sharing information about those medicines and treatments is the pharmaceutical representative. The pharmaceutical representative is a highly knowledgeable sales professional who learns about the new developments and then communicates that knowledge clearly to the medical professionals who buy these treatments.

Career Skills: Pharmaceutical Representative

Do you have what it takes to be a pharmaceutical representative? There is a certain resilience involved in being able to repeatedly meet customers about your product, some of whom are new and don't have a vested interest in that product yet. You typically need a keen interest in the medical profession and the treatments of various diseases and conditions. You should be able to learn new material quickly and communicate that material clearly. You should love the process of selling--which does require a certain independence.

Career Advice: Develop Your Career Skills

You can start as a pharmaceutical representative with a high school diploma, but to move forward and capture the more interesting and better paid jobs, you should look to improve your skills through focused career retraining. Have you considered exploring further education whether online or in a campus-based environment? Today, you can take online pharmaceutical representative training courses to deepen your knowledge of both sales and the medical profession. Continuing education is vital in this industry as pharmaceutical products continually evolve and pharmaceutical representatives traditionally need to stay current with all that is happening in the field.

If you are self-motivated and hard working, sales can be an excellent way to make a high income, and--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics--employment growth in the pharmaceutical industry should continue into the near future. While many successful salespeople may only have a high school degree, it is generally recommended that you look to improve your skills through either online pharmaceutical representative training courses, an associate's or bachelor's degree program, or other educational avenues.

Career Outlook

  • Preferred education for pharmaceutical sales representatives: bachelor's degree
  • Recommended coursework and majors: biology, chemistry, health sciences
  • Additional training: business sales, pharmaceutical sales
  • Typical experience: general sales experience, health care or clinical background, knowledge of medical terms
  • Additional training: company product line education
  • Sales representatives employed, 2006: 8,000
  • Percentage of pharmaceutical industry: 3 percent
  • Projected growth, 2006-2016: 26 percent
  • Total marketing and sales managers employed: 3,000
  • Typical job duties: describing company products to physicians, pharmacists and other health services providers, communicate between companies and clients, in-store quality control
  • Also known as: detailers
  • Typical benefits: extensive travel, company car, health plan and retirement benefits
  • Recommended skills: communication, self-starter, performer under pressure, good memory, strong sense of independence, willingness to work alone
  • Elements changing sales careers: specialized medicine, e-sampling, e-detailing, outsourcing, variable sales reps

Bureau of Labor Statistics
BLS Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing