How To Become A Pharmaceutical Rep In 2023 | An Ultimate Guide

Ever wondered how to become a pharmaceutical rep? I hope it will not beat your imagination that pharmaceutical reps earn good pay. Well, the reason is that pharmaceutical reps (PSRs) are in demand because the pharmaceutical industry is growing rapidly every year.

The advent of technology gave rise to the rapid growth of the pharmaceutical industry. Consequently, new drugs are discovered daily, increasing the need for pharmaceutical reps. PSRs have a better understanding of pharmacology.

Are you seeking a healthcare field that blends medical knowledge with sales skills? If yes, you should consider a pharma reps (PSRs) career. But first, you must know the requirements for becoming a pharmaceutical rep.

Therefore, I will put you through a step-by-step guide to becoming a pharmaceutical rep. The guide contains the education required to become a pharmaceutical rep, how much you would make, and the job prospects for pharma reps.

Below is the table of contents. You can glance through to get the highlights of the article.

Who is a Pharmaceutical Rep?

A pharmaceutical rep or sales rep (PSR) is a healthcare professional who teaches physicians and other healthcare professionals on new developments in the pharmaceutical industry.

PSRs are saddled with selling a company’s pharmaceutical products. Pharma reps educate providers on the drugs and treatments necessary to give forefront care to their patients. These providers include physicians, pharmacists, healthcare facilities, and consumers.

They also convince medical experts that the drugs, treatments, and devices that they give are perfect for patients and superior to medications provided by competitors.

Pharmaceutical reps know how medications can have a good or bad effect on the human body. They also know the medications that treat each disease or condition.

PSRs must have a strong background in pharmacology because it will help them to answer questions about how drugs work, their side effects, and any interactions with other medications. To have a comprehensive knowledge of drugs, pharmaceutical sales reps specialize in a specific class of pharmaceuticals.

Generally, the duties of pharma reps include;

  1. Organizing and attending meetings within a location.
  2. Monitoring leads and searching for new clients.
  3. Making contacts during conferences and events.
  4. Offering continuing education sessions for healthcare professionals.
  5. Overseeing the use of pharmaceutical products and prescription patterns.
  6. Conducting surveys for reactions to novel pharmaceuticals.

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How long do I have to go to school to become a pharmaceutical rep?

Although you can become a pharmaceutical rep without any qualification, a bachelor’s degree will advance your career.

Generally, pharmaceutical companies hire PSRs that hold a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree in life sciences from a recognized university. The bachelor’s degree program in pharmaceutical sciences can be completed within four years.

You may also pursue a graduate degree, including a Master of Public Health, Master of Health Science, or Healthcare MBA.

How much can I make as a pharmaceutical rep?

According to the Pharma Sales Salary Report, the median salary of entry-level pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S is $122,107 annually. Specialized pharmaceutical sales representatives make higher salaries of $138,150 annually.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives with over 20 years of experience make an average of $154,283 annually. PSRs that advance into executive positions make an average of $200,455 annually.

On the other hand, PSRs that work in small pharmaceutical companies earn less than $119,933 per year. The highest salary for a pharma rep in a multi-national pharmaceutical company is $133,407 per year.

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What is the job outlook of pharmaceutical reps?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of pharmaceutical reps is expected to grow by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029. This is the average growth across other jobs.

Experienced PSRs who can keep up with the rapidly changing industry and communicate well with other healthcare professionals are in demand. In addition, pharma reps with a graduate degrees in the life sciences, business, and statistics are also in demand.

How do I become a Pharmaceutical Rep?

If you wish to become a pharmaceutical rep, below are the steps that you should take to have a rewarding career:

  1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED
  2. Earn a bachelor’s degree
  3. Consider acquiring a graduate degree
  4. Gain on-the-job training and continuing education credits
  5. Acquire certification
  6. Build connections
  7. Acquire more skills
  8. Create a resume and cover letter

1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED

The first step towards your pharmaceutical sales representative career is to acquire a high school diploma or GED. You must hold a high school diploma or GED while pursuing a degree in college and this is a major requirement for a job in a pharmaceutical company.

So, as you are studying to acquire the high school diploma or GED, devote more time to chemistry, anatomy, biology, and public speaking.

You may be wondering, why public speaking? Public speaking will help you hone your communication skills as the job requires meeting and talking with new and returning customers daily.

2. Earn a bachelor’s degree 

While becoming a pharma rep does not require any specific qualification, most employers seek candidates with bachelor’s degrees.

A bachelor’s degree will show employers that you have in-depth knowledge of how drugs work, their side effects, and any interactions with other medications.

By studying pharmacology in a college or university, you will have a solid understanding of science. You must focus more on pharmacology, chemistry, biology, medicine, mathematics, and statistics. A business management course will help you hone your sales and negotiation skills.

Acquiring a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology will show pharmaceutical companies that you can understand new products and communicate with physicians in the company’s language.

3. Considering acquiring a graduate degree

While a graduate degree is not compulsory for the role of a pharma rep, most employers give more preference to graduate degree holders.

To apply for a graduate degree, you must acquire a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university and pass the Graduate Records Examination (for science programs) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (for business programs).

A good choice for the graduate degree in this role would be a Master’s in Business Administration or MBA.

4. Gain on-the-job training and continuing education credits

Whenever some pharmaceutical companies employ new pharma reps, they offer them on-the-job training. In addition, pharmaceutical companies offer new sales reps tuition reimbursement for ongoing pharmacology and life sciences coursework.

5. Acquire certification

After acquiring a graduate degree, candidates must complete an accredited training program and pass an exam. The program is offered online at over 300 colleges. Upon passing the exam, candidates can access the NAPRx Career Center.

The NAPRx Career Center is a government website that pharmaceutical companies use to seek new employees.

You can be certified as a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPR).

The NAPR offers voluntary certification to pharmaceutical sales representatives. With the CNPR license, PSRs gain more skills and knowledge necessary to become successful in the role.

The certification will educate pharmaceutical reps on the rules and regulations guiding the distribution and selling of drugs. It will also give them a comprehensive knowledge of Managed Care. This Managed Care enables pharmaceutical sales representatives to explain to doctors the payment process for prescriptions and sales methods.

6. Build Connections

Once you become a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative, the next big step is seeking jobs in pharmaceutical companies. To begin your job hunt, you will start by networking or building connections with professionals in the field.

These professionals help secure jobs because most pharmaceutical companies usually seek candidates with references to fill vacancies. This is because these pharmaceutical companies do not always advertise job positions.

So, make sure that you attend conferences and meetings. Several cities have a Pharmaceutical Representative Association chapter that holds meetings most time. You will have the opportunity to find out more about the pharmaceutical industry when you attend these meetings.

From one of the meetings, you will talk to other healthcare professionals and let them know that you are a certified PSR. You can give them your business card or resume in case there is any vacancy where they work.

On the other hand, most pharmaceutical companies offer their employees a finder’s fee whenever they refer any candidate that the company hires. When you attend conferences and meetings, you will meet a fellow pharma sales rep who will recommend their company for you.

If you cannot attend meetings or conferences, you may talk to local doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies to find out if they need a pharmaceutical sales rep.

7. Acquire more skills

While the graduate degree will take you far in the job, acquiring some vital skills will make you be more successful in the field.

The role of a pharmaceutical rep requires one to always come in contact with patients. Hence, you will need to hone your communication skills so that you develop a better approach for your customers.

Additionally, you will learn how to manage your time properly. Keep in mind that you will be dealing with many customers who may not have the whole patience to wait as you attend to a customer. You should also learn to be punctual at all times.

Learning how to present your products to clients so that it impresses them will make your career more rewarding. When you present your products in a manner that convinces clients, they will recommend the products to other customers.

You may also consider speaking to other professionals at meetings or conferences about your products.

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8. Create a resume and cover letter

The pharmaceutical industry continues to grow every year because of the discovery of new drugs thereby making pharma reps to be in demand everywhere. So, the industry is quite competitive.

With the competition in the industry, this means that you will need to prepare a very compelling resume and cover letter. A compelling resume and cover letter will outline your skills and abilities to employers.

Ensure that your resume is accomplishment-driven. In addition, make sure that it corresponds to the needs of the role and objectives of the company that you are applying to.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Become a Pharmaceutical Rep

Is a pharmaceutical career worth going for?

Yes, A report recorded by Quint Careers has shown that pharmaceuticals sales is considered one of the fastest-growing career opportunities. The report said the market increased with a 300% growth rate in the last decade.

Do you need a degree to become a Pharmaceutical sales rep?

Different employers will require different levels of education to allow you to work for them. But generally, to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, you’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree. According to a report by MedReps in 2018, 98% of the reps surveyed have a four-year college degree or higher. So the least amongst them had a four-year bachelor’s degree certificate. From this report, we can easily deduce that to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, you must have acquired a BSc. in any related course. In a nutshell, you cant become a pharmaceutical rep without a degree.

How much does a pharmaceutical rep make?

According to the Pharma Sales Salary Report, the median salary of entry-level pharmaceutical sales reps in the U.S. is $122,107 annually. Specialized pharmaceutical sales representatives make higher salaries of $138,150 annually. Pharmaceutical sales representatives with over 20 years of experience make an average of $154,283 annually. PSRs that advance into executive positions make an average of $200,455 annually.

Where do Pharmaceutical sales reps work?

Basically, pharmaceutical sales reps are employed by either manufacturers or distributors to inform physicians about their products. With key information and insights, they influence providers to prescribe medication to patients who would benefit from them.

What skills do pharmaceutical sales reps need?

Below are some skills you must possess to have a great career as a Pharm rep.
Active listening skill
Proven work experience as a Pharmaceutical Rep or in Medical Sales.
Familiarity with databases, statistics, product lines, and the latest medical issues.
Knowledge of MS Office.
Excellent communication, negotiation, and sales skills.
Highly motivated and target driven, with a proven track record in sales
Paying attention to details
You must also be a master in product knowledge and possess problem-solving skills. It is also essential you learn proper time management.


Pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) do more than sell drugs to patients. They teach providers about the drugs and treatments necessary to give forefront care to their patients. In addition, pharma reps know the effects of medication on the body and the medications that treat each disease or condition.

While becoming a pharmaceutical rep does not require any qualification, a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree will help you to advance your career. The reason is that employers prefer bachelor’s and graduate degree holders more.

Employers seek PSRs holding graduate degrees in pharmacology because they have answers to how drugs work, their side effects, and any interactions with other medications.




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