Pharmaceuticals refer to any medications used to diagnose, prevent or treat medical illnesses. There are many different companies producing pharmaceuticals. Selling pharmaceuticals is different than selling other products. Medications are directly marketed to healthcare professionals through a pharmaceutical representative. Selling pharmaceuticals is a lucrative career, but you must get certified before you can start selling medication.
Becoming certified as a pharmaceutical representative requires multiple skills. In addition to marketing experience, you must also understand how the medication works. Many representatives specialize in a specific area, while others sell a broad range of medication. In addition to working with pharmacies, many representatives also work with healthcare professionals to research new medication. It is also an effective way to network. Some representatives are even asked to participate in research, monitoring medical trials to test the effectiveness of new medications and how they interact with existing products.
Becoming Certified in Pharmaceutical Sales
If you want to sell medicine, you must complete your Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) exam. The exam is complex, with 160 difficult questions. Some of the topics covered on the exam include clinical trial regulations, drug discoveries and patents, vaccines, gene therapy, drug wholesaling and how to transport medication. There is also a two-hour limit to complete the exam, adding to the overall difficulty. While it is not technically required, it is incredibly challenging to pass the certification exam without completing a CNPR training program.
CNPR training provides you with all the skills necessary to sell pharmaceuticals. Many of the lessons focus on medical training, such as physiology and medical terminology. The program also teaches you all the different rules and regulations for selling medication.
You can take a training program directly through the CNPR, but there are also independent instructors providing their own training courses. How the classes work change depending on where you attend the program. There are hundreds of colleges throughout the United States running CNPR programs. You can also sign up for a CNPR Pharmaceutical Sales Course online.
The length of time it takes to complete the program varies, but on average, it is between 40 and 50 hours. In addition to taking the program, you can also take practice exams. Some programs include several practice tests as part of the material. Because of the time limit on the test, you are strongly encouraged to take a few practice exams before attempting the final test.
CNPR training typically costs between $125 to $375, depending on the program. Normally, the more expensive programs offer additional options, such as additional quizzes or training manuals. You must pay a small fee each time you take the exam, so you are strongly encouraged to wait and study until you feel confident enough to pass the test.
Working as a Pharmaceutical Representative
Working as a pharmaceutical representative is a rewarding career. The majority of representatives work on commission, though some select companies will provide a flat salary. As of writing, the average starting salary for a pharmaceutical representative is around $80,000 to $90,000, depending on where you live. Some representatives make as much as $100,000 after working in the industry for a few years and developing healthcare contacts.
- Many pharmaceutical representatives work from home, but some are based out of a company office. As a representative, you typically spend little time at a desk. Your job involves meeting with healthcare professionals, traveling to physician offices, hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes. Because so much time is spent working outside of an office, you have a great deal of freedom in making your schedule.
- Selling pharmaceuticals requires more than a good sales pitch. You must be knowledgeable about the product you are selling. This includes knowing all the ingredients, how your product was tested, who benefits from the medication and how it interacts with other drugs already on the market. If there are additional treatment plans normally associated with your medication, you must understand them as well. Depending on the medication, you may have to demonstrate how it is administered.
- In addition to knowing everything about the medication you are selling, you must know about similar medications on the market. Your job is not only to convince healthcare professionals your medicine works, but you must explain why it is better than competing medications.
Pharmaceutical sales is not only about sales meetings. Many representatives spend their evenings or weekends either going to conferences to learn about new medications, or networking with other healthcare professionals. As you become more established, you may even start to speak at conferences or work with research teams to test new medicine.
Benefits of Working for a Company
New pharmaceutical representatives are strongly advised to work with a pharmaceutical company. Working with a company is a great way to develop a network, as the company already has ties within the medical community. Companies also provide excellent benefits, such as a company car, expense accounts or covering the cost of business trips. You also get other employee benefits, such as health insurance and stock options. If you want additional training or certification, you may also be able to apply for tuition reimbursement through your company.