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.
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
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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