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Medical Science Liaison: Job Description & Career Info

Acting as the connection between the healthcare industry and product development, medical science liaisons are skilled clinical researchers and talented 'people persons' who bring the latest research and knowledge of therapeutic specialties to the people who develop therapeutic products. Keep reading to learn the requirements and benefits of this dynamic and unusual career.

Career Definition for a Medical Science Liaison

To fulfill their responsibilities for pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies, medical science liaisons act as conduits of information about new research developments, clinical trial activities and therapeutic approaches. The job involves cultivating and maintaining relationships with academic researchers and leaders, attending conferences and talks, presenting information to pharmaceutical product teams and marketing new therapeutic products to physicians and other healthcare professionals. Medical science liaisons travel often, work intensively with people at every step of the therapeutic product development process and translate dense, academic information into engaging, persuasive messages.

Education Doctorate's degree
Job Skills Interpersonal communication, mathematics, observation, research
Median Salary (2015)* $113,206 (all medical science liaisons)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% (all physicians and surgeons)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

According to the Medical Science Liaison Institute, an advanced degree, such as a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Medical Doctor degree or Ph.D. in a research science, is preferred. However, some medical science liaisons have RN (Registered Nurse) or MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degrees and acquire several years of experience in a particular therapeutic field: pain management, oncology, metabolism and cardiovascular are just a few specialty areas.

Skills Required

Because medical science liaisons act as consultants for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, relaying information gathered from biotechnology thought leaders, candidates must have superior interpersonal skills, including the ability to create and sustain relationships with industry leaders. These individuals should be skilled in clinical research and understand the process of that research and of pharmaceutical product development and approval, according to The medical science liaison: An A to Z Guide (Albert, E., and Sass, C., 2007).

Career Outlook

This career is still somewhat unknown, even in the medical field, but will continue to grow as the demand for new therapeutic solutions increases (and, with it, pharmaceutical companies' need for experts dedicated to building relationships with industry thought leaders). PayScale.com reported the median salary for medical science liaisons to be around $113,206 as of January 2016. Because of the relative novelty of the field, an unsaturated market should result in good job prospects for aspiring medical science liaisons. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment for all physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 14% from 2014-2024.

Alternate Career Options

Those with an education in medicine may be interested in related occupations dealing with medical research and improving community health.

Medical Scientist

Normally holding a Ph.D. in Chemistry or Biology, a medical degree, or both, these scientists perform research geared toward the improvement of general human health. As of May 2015, the BLS reported their median annual earnings as $82,240 and projected average employment growth of 8% from 2014-2024.

Health Educator and Community Health Worker

These professionals collect data, plan and implement ways to improve individual and community-wide health. Entry-level jobs may be available with a bachelor's degree, but many positions require graduate degrees. According to the BLS, the median annual income in 2015 for this field overall was $43,840, and those working in hospitals earned the top wages. A faster-than-average spike in available positions of 13% during the 2014-2024 decade was predicted for this field in general by the BLS.

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