It’s also intense, extremely competitive and sometimes stressful and frustrating. Many job seekers find trouble getting their foot in the door, and when they do, often encounter challenges to excel once they’ve landed their first sales gig.
But if you’re looking for a fast-paced job that rewards dedication, knowledge and assertiveness, a job in pharmaceutical sales may be right up your alley.
“If you think you will be bored or put off by the effort required to master a new field of study, then working as a pharmaceutical sales representative isn’t for you,” writes Tom Ruff in his book, “How to Break into Pharmaceutical Sales: A Headhunter’s Strategy” (Waverly Press, $29.95). “But if you require mental stimulation to enjoy your profession, you stand to enjoy a long and rewarding career in the field.”
Pharmaceutical sales representatives spend a lot of time on the road, talking with pharmacists, hospital personnel, physicians, patient advocacy groups as well as in retirement homes, with a goal of increasing the visibility of their company’s products and generating sales.
Working with a smaller company could bring some travel, while reps with larger companies typically cover part of a metropolitan area.
Weathering the storm
Even in a rocky economic period, pharmaceutical sales representatives remain an in-demand profession. With a Baby Boomer population reaching 80 million in the United States, the need for pharmaceutical drugs is high and expected to keep rising.
“(Baby Boomers) are aggressively seeking treatments and cures for everything that ails them. As this population continues to mature, the demand for constantly improving remedies will continue to grow,” Ruff says. “The size of this aging demographic continues to drive growth in the industry.”
With a salary, commission and bonus, a successful rep can take home a substantial income. The average salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep in the is about $98,000, according to CareerBuilder.com, but adding commission and bonuses can often boost annual earnings considerably.
Pharmaceutical sales reps should be well versed in data, statistics and issues in the health care community. Continual education is also required to stay up to date on advances in medicine and new products.
A bachelor’s degree is standard for the job, but many employers prefer master’s-level candidates who have some education in biology, chemistry, biochemistry or organic chemistry. Coursework in English, public speaking, finance and negotiation techniques can also be very helpful.
Not only is sales competition fierce once you’ve entered the field, but just landing a job can be very difficult with so many candidates striving to get their foot in the door.
“The result is an increasingly competitive job market,” Ruff writes. “Candidates looking to break in need all the help they can get.”
Additional training available
The American Pharmaceutical Sales Association (APSA) provides ongoing training programs and certification courses each year for entry-level sales representatives.
However, pharmaceutical sales jobs aren’t just for candidates fresh out of college, and attendance at APSA programs reflects this, with about 70 percent consisting of people changing careers.
For those considering a job in pharmaceutical sales, talking one-on-one with a sales rep in the field could provide some valuable insight into whether this career is right for you.