Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Career Overview
Pharmaceutical representatives, also known as drug reps or pharmaceutical salespeople, provide drug information and product samples to physicians. Also, pharmaceutical reps monitor prescribing patterns of physicians in a given geographic territory.
As a pharmaceutical representative, one would typically represent a particular drug or group of drugs and would meet with physicians who specialize in the applicable medical field.
For example, a drug rep who manages a territory for a drug which treats heartburn would most likely call on gastroenterologists and internists.
Typical Work Week and Environment
A drug rep may work out of a home-based office and a company car. They may be required to check in at a regional or local office. However, most of the rep’s time will be spent in their territory, or “in the field” meeting with physicians, or attempting to meet with them by visiting the physicians’ practices. Therefore, a potential rep should be very comfortable being in a car much of the day, traveling to anywhere from four to eight physicians’ offices daily.
In addition to the daily physician visits, reps may be required to attend sales meetings, conference calls, or training sessions with the management team. Drug reps may also do lunchtime presentations at physicians’ offices, supplying lunch for the office staff and discussing the drug’s indications, side effects, features, and benefits.
Most pharmaceutical companies prefer to hire college graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree, and many of the big companies look for the top graduates and top performers of the class.
In addition to the college degree, pharmaceutical reps must be very polished, professional, and well-spoken.
They must be highly organized in order to manage their territory and time optimally. Additionally, reps must have the ability to memorize vast amounts of medical terminology and detailed information about the medication they represent and be able to intelligently relay the information to physicians. Pharma sales can be stressful, so they must be able to handle the pressure of meeting productivity goals and deadlines.
There are many reasons why pharmaceutical jobs are coveted by many aspiring job seekers in the medical industry. The earning potential for pharmaceutical reps is strong, especially when compared to other sales jobs. Also, the perks are good such as the company car, trips, bonuses, and benefits such as medical, tuition reimbursement, retirement, 401k, etc. Additionally, if you establish yourself as a successful rep, your career track options will multiply and you can have a very long, successful, lucrative career.
The days of the cushy pharmaceutical sales jobs are over. Due to the abundance of companies, drugs, and reps in the industry, and also due to the continual push for doctors to see more patients in less time, many physicians refuse to speak with reps on a regular basis.
Other physicians have significantly cut back on the time they will spend with drug reps and which ones they will meet. Pharma reps must be patient and persistent when working in their territories to speak with as many physicians as possible. Often, reps may spend more time in the waiting room than in front of a physician.
In the past, pharmaceutical reps frequently enjoyed entertaining doctors at high-end dinners, concerts, and resorts. Although the perks are still great for pharma reps, there has been somewhat of a “crackdown” on the sales tactics of big pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, the activities of the reps are tracked much more carefully than they were in past years.
Additionally, modern technology such as electronic signature pads and GPS tracking on the company cars has caused reps to be held much more accountable for their whereabouts on an hourly and daily basis.
Career Path and Advancement
Pharmaceutical representatives who wish to advance into management roles have a variety of choices. There are many levels of management and a variety of departments within most established pharmaceutical companies. For example, a sales rep can become a district or regional manager, or a Director of Sales, then Senior Director, on up to Vice President.
Additionally, reps can transition among various departments and manage different drugs and drug launches. Once you work your way up the chain, you may have to consider relocation to the headquarters, so be prepared to hit a ceiling or move. There are drug companies headquartered in a variety of locations nationwide, but California and New Jersey are major hubs, along with the midwestern region of the US.