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Things to Consider Before Starting Your Pharmaceutical Sales Career

Deciding on a career is no easy feat. There are many factors that go into deciding on a career path such as day to day tasks, work environment and earning opportunity. If you’ve stumbled upon the exciting and rewarding prospect of a Pharmaceutical Sales career, read ahead to find out if it’s the right step for you!

The J – O – B

What is a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative and what do they do?

Pharma Sales Reps are hired by pharmaceutical companies to sell products through persuasively presenting information about their products to medical practitioners. Through informative presentations, approved marketing materials and discussions, Pharma Representatives help promote medicine that can be prescribed by the doctors. They do not actually sell their stock directly to physicians though; their success is measured by the increase in prescriptions.

On a day to day basis, the role revolves around meeting with doctors and pharmacies as well as scheduling future appointments. A Representative is assigned to a certain territory to ensure all targeted doctors are seen and sales quotas are met.

A Pharma Sales Representative is assessed on many criteria such as meeting the expected days in the field, delivering key selling messages during calls and managing educational meetings with targeted GP’s. They also need to hit a call rate of at least 7 – 9 GP’s and 2 Pharmacies per day while increasing the market share of their products.

Pharma Sales Rep 3

Clinical knowledge also plays a key part in daily interactions, especially a thorough understanding of the disease state their product treats. This includes knowing relevant literature, clinical trials and papers to demonstrate benefits and discuss key data with the doctor.

Pharmaceutical Representatives are required to have in-depth knowledge not only about their products, but also competing products in the market. They need to be able to clearly and effortlessly answer the question “why should I use your product?” Doctors are highly educated and many are quick to question any statements that are not clinically supported.

Doctors are also busy, so Representatives need to ensure that the information they present is relevant and it is worth a doctor’s time to see them. When they are seeing a Representative they are not seeing a paying patient.

Work Environment

What is the work environment like?

Most of the day is spent on the road, in doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies. A typical work day is 9am to 5pm but there are also evening meetings as well as trade shows, weekend conferences and travel. Pharma Sales can provide flexibility and independence day to day as it’s not strict “office hours” as the day is often influenced by doctors availability

Keep in mind that pharmaceutical sales is a very competitive environment and can be disheartening at times. Territories may have Representatives from different companies selling similar products all vying for the same appointment slots. As a consequence, Representatives may face a lot of rejection from GP’s who either don’t want to meet them, run out of time or have patient emergencies. For some this can be the toughest part of the job while others greet it as a challenge that makes the job all the more exciting.

Being surrounded by likeminded, driven individuals eager to succeed is contagious. Not only that, but the pharmaceutical industry provides excellent training both in ‘classroom’ settings and also on-the-job. Further to that, there is exceptional support that can help you reach your highest potential and provide a rewarding career.

Education and Skills

Pharmaceutical Sales attracts hardworking, bright and ambitious people.

Most pharmaceutical sales roles require at least a bachelor’s degree ideally within science, healthcare or, for some companies, also business.

Some sample degrees include Bachelor of Health Science, Biomedical Science, Exercise Science, Veterinary Science, Nutrition, Pharmacology, and Nursing among others; OR a Bachelor in Business, Marketing, MBA etc.

Additionally, most companies do not hire straight out of University. Employers often want to see a demonstration of candidates ability to successfully hold down a full-time job and build a track record of achievements. They highly regard candidates who have had at least two or more years of sales experience before starting in Pharmaceutical Sales.

Some skills needed to be successful in this role are maturity, effective communication, organization, tenacity, critical analysis skills, empathy, personal insight, attention to detail and relationship building.

Other Requirements

Skills and education are not the only pre-requisite to the job, a candidate will also have to:

  • Have an Open Australian driver’s license (no P Plates), typically with at least 8 points (although not all companies require this)
  • Pass psychometric testing
  • Hold Permanent Residency for Australia 
  • Pass a background check
    • Reference check
    • Academic qualification verification
    • Employment history check
    • Police check
    • License check

Chart of Pharma Sales Rep recs


Pharmaceutical Sales can be very rewarding financially.

As a rookie with no pharmaceutical sales experience, a typical salary range is between $60,000 – 70,000. On top of the base salary there are usually bonuses for hitting sales targets plus use of a company car and superannuation.

As a pharmaceutical sales career progresses, a highly skilled and experienced Representative can expect an attractive six figure package.

Additionally, pharmaceutical sales provides a great foundation in territory management and sales skills that can lead to a career move into a Hospital Specialist or Medical Device role (which we will cover in a different blog!).

Further Research

To see a real-life example, we recommend you research job advertisements to see what a typical ad requires of an incoming Pharmaceutical Representative.

In addition, if you are serious about pursuing a career in Pharmaceutical Sales, we recommend you reach out to an industry specialist.

For information on code of conduct and continuing education, you can also browse through the Medicines Australia website.

Summing it all up

If you’re interested in Pharmaceutical Sales, this article is aimed to provide you some insight and to get you started in your research.

Many Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives find their jobs to be rewarding because they are providing the most up to date medical information about their companies’ products and, in turn, improving the lives of patients.

The role can be extremely rewarding both personally and financially if you do choose to pursue this career path. It can also lead to a long term career that will keep you motivated and challenged through a range of different roles within the industry.

Is Pharma Sales right for you

About the Author:EvansPetersen Healthcare Team

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