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Medical Science Liaison Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical science liaison. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about required skills, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

As employees of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, medical science liaisons provide information about new products, drugs and research to doctors, regulators and investors. They must have scientific expertise, business savvy and excellent interpersonal skills. A doctoral-level science degree is required by most employers.

Required EducationDoctorate degree
Projected Job Growth* (2012-2022) 14% for pharmacists
Average Salary* (2013) $122,010 annually for pharmacists in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Educational Requirements for Medical Science Liaisons

Employers often require medical science liaisons, also known as MSLs, to have a doctorate in medicine or a life sciences field with a human-health focus. Common degrees in this profession include Ph.D., Medical Doctor (M.D.) and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D). Clinical research experience and expertise in a therapeutic area of medicine, such as oncology, cardiology or infectious disease, can also be valuable in the medical science liaison job market.

Regardless of a student's area of concentration, many employers seek candidates who have taken courses in pharmacy and epidemiology. Additionally, because medical science liaisons often interact with regulatory agencies, students interested in this field might consider classes in health policy or health economics. Courses in public speaking might also be beneficial.

Career and Salary Information

Medical science liaisons are scientific experts who provide information about their employers' products, such as medical treatments, devices and drugs. They represent their companies and their products to decision-makers in the medical community, often known as key opinion leaders (KOLs), as well as government regulatory agencies and investors. Medical science liaisons are primarily employed by pharmaceuticals manufacturers, biotechnology firms and medical device companies, but some also work for consumer products manufacturers, such as cosmetics companies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list medical science liaisons in their career data. However, the job description of pharmaceutical industry pharmacists encompasses the role of the medical science liaison. The BLS includes pharmaceutical industry pharmacist in the more general category of pharmacists when predicting a 14% job growth for the period between 2012 and 2022. The average annual salary for pharmacists in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing was $122,010, per BLS.

Job Duties

The medical science liaison has a highly visible role in which he or she acts as an advocate for a company and its products. Medical science liaisons must not only interact with their companies' scientific research departments to gain expert knowledge of products, but must also have in-depth knowledge about the medical conditions these products are intended to treat and current knowledge about relevant research being conducted throughout the industry. Medical science liaisons also ensure that their companies are in compliance with government regulations.

The other major component of the job is related to promotion of the product, which entails building relationships with decision-makers. As a member of a company's medical affairs department, the medical service liaison may be assigned a territory to cover, often requiring extensive travel. He or she may conduct one-on-one meetings with physicians, participate in panel discussions or address large groups.

Required Skills

In addition to having a solid scientific background with clinical research experience, medical science liaisons must have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They must be comfortable speaking in front of large groups and be able to build relationships with key decision-makers.

Current knowledge of regulatory compliance requirements is essential. Medical science liaisons must also know about relevant industry-wide developments related to their products. Experience in writing and publishing materials that have appeared in peer-reviewed publications might also be helpful.

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