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Pharma Sales Representative: Education Requirements & Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pharmaceutical sales representative. 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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It may be possible to begin a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative with a high school diploma; however, most positions will require a college degree. Certification may also be required.

Essential Information

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are professionals in the healthcare industry that strive to introduce a company's portfolio of drugs to the market by discussing the products with physicians, pharmacists or healthcare administrators. They are the first point of contact for information between the company and the client. While there are no standard requirements for this field, many employers seek applicants with a college degree in a relevant field.

Required Education Varies by employer; college degree in business, marketing or biological sciences are some options
Other Requirements Certification and/or vocational training may be necessary; advanced communication skills are essential
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for all wholesale, manufacturing, technical and scientific products sales representatives
Median Salary (2015)* $76,190 for all wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products sales representatives

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

There is no set educational requirement to be a pharmaceutical sales representative (PSR), though most positions require a college degree. An aspiring PSR could benefit from having a degree in a relevant field, like the biological sciences, marketing or business. A PSR is typically expected to understand medical terminology, details of the sales and regulations which govern the pharmaceutical industry. Any courses at the college level enhancing this knowledge could improve the employment prospects.

Training and Certification

Most companies train newly hired PSRs to help them understand the details of their products. Vocational certification programs certify that the applicant has met the product and regulatory industry requirements to be a PSR. Through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, professionals in this field can earn the title of Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative. The courses can be taken online or in a class setting.

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Skills Required

More than education, it is the attitude that is important for being a successful PSR. An individual in this field should be outgoing, personable, entrepreneurial, be convincing without being overbearing and possess above average communication skills.

A PSR is typically assigned a particular region or territory. This could involve traveling by the road or by air, overnight stays or being away from home for several days to weeks. A PSR is expected to have in depth knowledge of the portfolio of a company's products, abreast with latest in the market and the products of the competitors. This knowledge may be acquired through training, workshops and seminars. Most of a professional's working hours are filled by meetings with physicians and decision-making healthcare professionals; hence, the sales report and other paperwork need to be completed outside of the working hours. It is also important to note that this is typically a commission-based job, and a large part of the salary may be dependent on the sales closed.

Salary Information

The salary of a PSR may vary widely based on educational qualification, experience, demographic location and employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of the sales representatives working in wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products was $76,190 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).

With a bachelor's degree and certification, applicants will be able to compete for positions as a pharmaceutical sales representative. The ability to demonstrate strong communication skills will be an asset to applicants, and knowledge of basic medical terminology will also help applicants seeking employment. Those entering this field should expect to travel regularly to meet with prospective customers and arrange sales of goods.

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