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What Degree Do You Need For Pharmaceutical Sales

By David Krug 8 minute read

A pharmaceutical sales representative is what? While the rest of us are sneezing and coughing in the waiting room, they’re dressed to the nines at a doctor’s office. A huge pharmaceutical firm employs them, so they always have freebies on hand to entice doctors to use their medication as a sales tool.

Prescription medications and medical supplies such as intravenous devices are sold by pharmaceutical sales agents. However, you may also find yourself at pharmacies and labs on a regular basis.

Bonuses and other perks are common perks of their profession, as are many travel possibilities and the use of a corporate vehicle. There is a lot of money to be made in the pharmaceutical sales industry. It is estimated that pharmaceutical sales reps would be paid between $80,000 and $110,000 in 2020, according to the Houston Chronicle’s projections. 

This does not include the bonuses, which, according to pharmaceutical industry recruiting agency Global Edge Recruiting, may sometimes boost yearly earnings for pharmaceutical sales professionals as high as $130,000 or even $150,000.

While it may not be surprising to learn that in the greater sector of sales representatives for wholesale and manufacturing technical and scientific items, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a salary disparity of $111,580 per year between the highest and lowest earnings in 2015.

A pharmaceutical sales representative’s job is at the crossroads of pharmaceutical research and sales, and you may be wondering how to get started. Investing in a college education will help you land a job in pharmaceutical sales in the future.

About Pharmaceutical Rep School Requirements

Having a bachelor’s degree is more crucial for pharmaceutical sales reps than what they studied in college. A bachelor’s degree in any topic is a standard prerequisite for potential job seekers in this highly competitive industry, despite the fact that some sales representatives succeed without a four-year degree.

As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

Of course, you’ll need a degree in order to get a job. If you already know that you want to be a pharmaceutical sales professional, it makes sense to pick a major depending on your future ambitions.

Most firms don’t restrict their credentials to people who have chosen a certain academic discipline. This group has come to realize that a wide range of academic programs can provide students with the necessary skills for a career in pharmaceutical sales.

These include interpersonal and customer service competencies as well as the ability to sell and communicate effectively with physicians and other healthcare professionals. They’re not simply selling any old goods, though; they’re selling prescription pharmaceuticals that are intrinsically linked to disciplines of science like chemistry and biology.

If you want to work in the pharmaceutical industry, a background in science or health is essential. However, a wide range of fields, such as business, marketing, and communication, as well as the humanities and social sciences, contribute to a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

By getting a bachelor’s degree, most pharmaceutical sales representatives may begin their careers in about four years. An advanced degree might help you land a position with more authority and responsibility.

The Top Majors for Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives

Are you a fan of getting dressed up? The ability to persuade others is an important skill. A pharmaceutical sales representative needs more than just good people skills; they must also have a thorough understanding of the pharmaceutical industry in order to effectively sell their clients on their product’s advantages.

On the job training can provide this knowledge, although having a basic understanding of science is typically helpful in this line of work.

The Case for a Science Major

Even if you don’t plan on becoming a scientist, a degree in science can be a challenge because of the considerable laboratory and research work required. Having a bachelor’s degree in a field like biology or chemistry will help you better grasp how pharmaceutical goods function, including their qualities, their applications, their methods of action, and their possible adverse effects.

Understanding a wide range of biological and chemical concepts will help you feel more confident while interacting with doctors and pharmacists. A job in pharmaceutical sales can draw on both a background in chemistry and a background in biology. The study of chemical characteristics and reactions is known as chemistry.

The study of living beings is known as biology. While chemistry focuses more on the molecules in pharmaceutical goods, biology focuses more on the systems of the human body in which medications are used.

Both chemistry and biology students tend to take courses in other physical and natural sciences, such as physics and math, as well. It is possible for chemistry students to take courses in the fundamentals of chemistry as well as courses in specialized areas of interest. 

For biology majors, subjects including functional biology, organismal biology, microbiology, genetics, zoology, botany, ecology, and physiology are likely to be taken. Some pharmaceutical sales reps may want to specialize in a certain area of research, such as pharmacology or genetics. Biochemistry, human physiology, pharmacology, and genetics are frequently included in a pharmacology bachelor’s degree program. Students who know they want to work in the healthcare or pharmaceutical sectors but aren’t sure which career path they want to take, such as pharmaceutical sales reps, pharmacists, doctors, or biological researchers, might consider this choice.

The study of drugs and their mechanisms, discovery and development, dosage forms, immunology, and concepts of pathophysiology and medication action are all topics covered in the pharmaceutical sciences major.

Toxicology, the scientific study of poisons, toxins, and the harmful effects chemical compounds have on humans, is a common educational background for pharmaceutical sales representatives. Students pursuing a degree in toxicology may expect to take classes in biology and chemistry laboratories, as well as toxicological concepts, pharmacology, analytical and quantitative methods, and molecular toxicogenomics.

You may anticipate spending a significant portion of your time in the lab and studying about the fundamental ideas and practical procedures that are employed in the field of science, regardless of the major you pick.

Business, Marketing, and Other Majors

Despite the fact that the pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on scientific concepts and methods, pharmaceutical sales representatives do not constitute scientists. They’re in the corporate world, and they know what they’re doing.

As a result, it makes sense to get a business administration or marketing degree in order to prepare for this vocation. If you’ve worked in a business environment before, you’ll have a better understanding of the demands of physicians and how to create a connection with them.

If you want to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, you’ll need to take courses in all areas of business administration, from accounting and finance to marketing and management, which are more relevant to your job. Most bachelor’s degree programs in business administration allow students to select a specialty in which they take additional courses to gain a deeper understanding of a particular subject.

It is expected that non-BBA majors in marketing would take fewer business courses and more marketing-related coursework. There is a wide range of corporate writing and communications, marketing concepts, consumer behavior, marketing research, strategies, marketing communications, branding, personal selling, and digital marketing courses.

Communication’s significance should not be understated. The ability to communicate effectively is critical to success in any sales position. In order to persuade doctors to use or prescribe your medication, you must communicate authority and trustworthiness in your discussions with them in addition to providing them with accurate and helpful information about the drug.

Having excellent communication skills is a must if you want to persuade as well as educate. With a degree in journalism, mass communication, public relations, or professional writing, you’ll be well-prepared to enter the pharmaceutical sales industry with the necessary communication abilities.

If you want to work as a pharmaceutical sales representative, but you’re majoring in business, you might want to continue your education past the undergraduate level. MBAs in pharmaceutical marketing or management may be of interest to people aiming for supervisory roles at the top of the pharmaceutical industry.

Students Can Get the Best of Both Worlds with Specialized Degree Programs

A doctor’s office will see through you if you don’t have a comprehensive grasp of your product or if you just grin and talk about it. No matter how good you are at the technical aspects of medicines, if you lack the ability to interact with others or the courage to walk into a doctor’s office, you will find it difficult to succeed in this position. For this career, mastering both sides is crucial.

To get the best of both worlds, you may want to choose a degree in pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing, healthcare sales, or pharmaceutical and healthcare business. There are a lot of fundamental business classes that you’ll take in a program like this, but you’ll also take a lot of seminars on pharmaceutical marketing research and strategy, as well as classes on sales and promotion management for pharmaceuticals.

The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Professional and Continuing Education department offers non-degree choices for preparing for this career path, such as the Certified Pharmaceutical Sales Representative online course.

While a bachelor’s degree is required for many of these programs, many aspiring pharmaceutical sales reps do not feel ready for the industry despite having earned one. Coursework typically includes topics such as medical terminology, pharmaceutical science, anatomo-pharmacological effects of drugs, and pharmaceutical marketing regulations.

Having a college degree isn’t enough to land a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Pharmaceutical sales and marketing internships can be compensated, but many professionals get their start through networking, according to the Monster job search website.

Is a Career as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Right for You?

Different drug companies have different requirements for Pharmaceutical Sales roles, but you may expect to focus on one or more subspecialties of medicine, such as psychiatry or gastroenterology or cancer or biochemistry.

It is very beneficial when you have a limited scientific background to specialize in order to have a thorough understanding of the key area of research and medicine in which you operate. Only one or two classes’ worth of college-level science knowledge could be available if you didn’t major in science, and even if you did major in science, your level of science knowledge probably isn’t as high as that of drug researchers, pharmacists or physicians.

This sort of job comes with pros and cons, and it is important to consider both. In order to sell their products, sales representatives must travel regularly. There will be plenty of opportunity for schmoozing and “pill-pushing,” so be prepared to spend a lot of time in your car or on the road.

A pharmaceutical sales professional may find his or her job tiresome at times, even if the drugs he or she is selling are meant to heal patients. With the right mentality and skill set, you’re likely to be content with your work and your salary in this area, even if juggling family and work is a challenge.

David Krug