Pharmaceutical Sales RepresentativeJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Pharmaceutical sales representatives meet with health care providers such as doctors, clinics, and hospitals and persuade them to order and prescribe drugs manufactured by the companies they represent. Unlike other sales positions, many pharmaceutical sales representatives are not responsible for direct sales. Instead, their goals are to assess the needs of a health care provider’s patients and make the health care provider aware of products that can meet their patients’ needs.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives must possess presentation skills in addition to being adept at relationship-building, influencing, and communication. They tend to visit the same health care providers multiple times to make sure they know the latest pharmaceuticals for sale. Also, pharmaceutical sales representatives attend conferences and industry events to network with pharmacists and other health care providers.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for a motivated and competitive pharmaceutical sales representative to become a key link between our company and healthcare professionals. You must have exceptional people skills, attention to detail, and a persuasive personality to thrive in this fast-paced position. As a pharmaceutical sales rep, you will need to assess client needs and recommend products to present to them. Your ultimate goal will be to increase the visibility of our products and to maximize sales.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Assess client needs and promote suitable products
  • Meet with targeted doctors and health care providers and utilize sales skills to persuade them to prescribe the company’s products
  • Give providers product information and deliver drug samples
  • Develop relationships and network with doctors, health care providers, and pharmacists

Education and experience

This position usually requires a bachelor’s degree. College coursework in life sciences such as biology and chemistry, as well as sales, marketing, advertising, and business administration, are most common in this occupation.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Written and verbal communication skills, including relationship-building and influencing
  • Working knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite or similar software, including spreadsheets and databases
  • Expertise in negotiation skills
  • Strong sense of organization and time management

Preferred qualifications

  • Personable, extroverted personality
  • Ability to recognize and generate sales leads
  • Ability to exercise independent judgment

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a pharmaceutical sales representative is $89,400 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$88,900$120,300
Los Angeles, California$100,300$135,700
Denver, Colorado$83,600$113,100
Washington, DC$101,850$137,750
Miami, Florida$83,200$112,600
Orlando, Florida$76,750$103,850
Tampa, Florida$77,500$104,850
Atlanta, Georgia$81,300$110,000
Chicago, Illinois$93,450$126,450
Boston, Massachusetts$101,050$136,750
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$80,550$109,000
New York City, New York$106,400$143,950
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$86,650$117,200
Dallas, Texas$84,350$114,100
Houston, Texas$83,600$113,100
Seattle, Washington$97,250$131,600
National Average$76,000$102,800

Typical work environment

Pharmaceutical sales representatives typically work out of an office in their employer’s headquarters or from their own homes. Most of their time is spent on the road meeting with healthcare professionals whenever they have open time in their schedule.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a pharmaceutical sales representative are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Available certifications

As a quickly growing industry, becoming a pharmaceutical sales representative is extremely competitive. In order to get your foot in the door, consider gaining certification through one of the following programs:

  • Pharmaceutical Representative Certification (PRC). UTSA offers a fully online certification program to anyone looking for a complete foundational knowledge of being a pharmaceutical sales representative. This course is entirely self-paced and guides you through medical terminology, pharmaceutical ethics, communication skills, and selling techniques. You must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or at least two years of professional sales experience in a related field to qualify. Once you do, you have six months to complete the course and prepare for your PRC exam. 
  • Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP). Gain a broad knowledge in the world of sales through a Certified Professional Sales Person course. You will learn the best sales habits and behaviors to make you stand out among other sales representatives in any field. There are no prerequisites to start a CPSP course. However, as it focuses only on sales, you will have to seek out other programs to learn the pharmaceutical side of the industry.

Career path

While larger pharmaceutical companies do hire new college graduates as pharmaceutical sales representatives, many small- to medium-sized companies look for candidates with proven track records in sales. Successful pharmaceutical sales representatives can advance to management positions in sales. Others often utilize the knowledge of pharmaceuticals they gain in this position to go back to school and pursue advanced degrees in pharmacy and pharmacology.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 41-4000

2020 Employment1,625,700
Projected Employment in 20301,703,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 5% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift77,600 increase

According to the medical sales career website MedReps, pharmaceutical sales in the U.S. could change drastically in the next few years. New government and health insurance policies regarding what drugs doctors can prescribe, and how often they can prescribe them, will force pharmaceutical sales representatives to take a more targeted approach to pharmaceutical sales. Also, health care providers are asking for pharmaceutical sales representatives to provide more data than before regarding how effective their products are both clinically and in terms of cost.

Sample interview questions

  • What education and training do you have that prepares you for a position as a pharmaceutical sales rep?
  • What methods do you use to ensure you meet your sales goals?
  • What sales accomplishment are you the most proud of?
  • What methods do you use to identify new prospects?
  • How do you assess the needs of a potential client?
  • How do you prepare a sales pitch for different audiences?
  • How do you build a rapport with potential clients?
  • What do you do about a firm “no” answer from a prospect?
  • Tell me about a time when you closed a difficult sale? How did you overcome the challenges?
  • What would you do if you saw a doctor or colleague doing something unethical?
  • What is the best sales advice you’ve ever received?
  • What motivates you the most in this job?
  • Try to convince me to prescribe this drug to my patients as if I am a doctor.

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