Pharmaceutical sales rep requirements

There is a lot of confusion  about the requirements to become a pharmaceutical sales rep,

so in this occasion, I’m going clarify this topic.



The bottom line is, there are only two requirements:

1) Have a Bachelor’s Degree, no matter the area of specialization; and

2) Have sales experience.


The first requirement is a must, and companies will simply not consider you if you don’t

check the box with the Bachelor’s Degree.


One good friend of mine moved from another country and tried to get a position as a drug

rep here in the US. Even though he had 10 years of experience with Schering-Plough, he

ranked top 1 in the nation as a drug rep with them, but he was not considered by any

pharmaceutical company until he finished his bachelor’s degree.


Absurd, but that is just how it works.


The second requirement happens to be not as excluding as in the first one. For example, I

have friends with military background who have been able to break into pharmaceutical

with companies as Pfizer.


So, not having experience in sales may become a challenge but it is not impossible to break

into the field as long as you have a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent and can have other

attributes such as robust interview skills among others.


Another helpful attribute is to have a strong network in the industry.

pharmaceutical sales requirements

I have colleagues who were able to use their close relationships with hiring managers and

sales reps in the pharmaceutical area to break in. Their lack of experience was

compensated or balanced with the fact they had a strong network.


If you don’t have a strong network, I suggest you to work in your background and get

some experience in sales. That will help you to build your profile to make you competitive

in your hunt for a position as sales rep in the pharmaceutical  or medical sales area.


The other part of the equation are  what I call the disqualifying factors.


Even if you have your Bachelor’s Degree and have great sales experience, having issues in

these areas will prevent you from getting a job in pharmaceutical or medical sales.


The disqualifying factor are:


1) Having a criminal record. Since companies are very strict with the background check

process, they will know if you have a criminal record and they will not give you the

position, even if you have already passed through the first stages of the hiring process.


If this is your case, unfortunately being a sales rep in the medical arena is probably out of reach for you.


2) Having a DUI history; Since companies are going to give a company car, and they will

pay for the insurance for their employees, having this in your history is something they

don’t want to deal with.


3) Having a really bad credit history

If you had a recent bankruptcy, or your credit history is a total disaster, the

pharmaceutical companies won’t consider you as a good candidate to be a sales rep.

As part of the job, they have to give you a corporate credit card that has to be approved by

the creditors. So, imagine if they give you the position and then, you can’t make travel or

entertainment expenses.


On the other hand, some managers consider a bad credit history as a behavioral red flag.


If this is your case and you really want to become a pharmaceutical  rep, try to fix your

credit history before applying.


Aside from these specific scenarios, you can go for it.


If  being a drug or medical sales rep is the type of job you want, my invitation is to get my

training videos where I will show you the short cuts, the most effective tactics and

techniques to prepare you to get the job!

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13 thoughts on “Pharmaceutical sales rep requirements

  • Hi my name is Avni Bharucha. I’m majoring in communication. I want to become a pharmaceutical sales rep. Is it true that medical major is preferred for this type of job? Should I consider changing my major? Please let me know also I’m working on to get a B2B job as a sales experience.

    • Hi Avni Bharucha

      A medical major could give you a little plus but it is not that relevant. In my career I have seen people breaking into pharma with all types of majors. A B2B sales experience will definitively give you an important advantage over other candidates. If I was in your position I will spend my time and energy in getting that experience instead of changing your major. What you must get is a bachelor’s degree, Without it, you will not be considered in Pharma.

      Good luck!

  • Hi Elvis,

    Thank you very much for your informative know-how in Pharma/Med Sales. The videos and posts are upfront and no-nonsense material, which is great as I’m working hard to break into Pharma Sales!

    Seriously, I’m going to recommend your website to a host of other Sales Professionals I know.

    Hope we can connect sometime soon too. Keep up the great work Elvis!

    With warmth,
    Paul Thomas Dunne

    • Thanks Paul.
      I appreciate your comments. Trying to do my best to help you guys

  • Hey Elvis, my name is Cameron and I was wondering if you had any advise on what kind of sales job I take therefore I can have the experience needed for the job.

    • B2B are the most valued. Medical sales devices companies love sales reps who have worked selling copy machines for instance.

  • Hi Elvis,
    I did my bachelors in pharmacy n then MBA from India. Also have pharmacutical sales executive experience with two of best pharm companies world wide, moved in states few years ago, I came to know that companies would prefer candidates who r from here not from outside, is it true? However I have citizen ship as well.

    • Not true. I was born and raised in Venezuela. I have many coleagues from other countries. What you need is to master the interview process. That’s all

    • I forgot to mention. There are a lot of Indian doctors here in the US. Who do you think can do a better job selling to them? Try to apply for a territory with a high density of Indian doctors. I am sure you can indentify what those areas are.

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