How to Break Into Pharmaceutical Sales

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How to Break into a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Career?

Certifications are the norm for almost all healthcare positions and choosing a career in Pharmaceutical Sales is no different.  The fastest way to enter the pharmaceutical industry as a Sales Representative is to enroll in an industry certification program.  The purpose of Certification for Pharmaceutical Sales Reps is to ensure that all industry sales representatives demonstrate the necessary level of competence for entry into the pharmaceutical profession. Critical to the validity of the certification process is the premise that the exam content truly reflects the nature and scope of professional practice.   Since Pharmaceutical Sales Rep professionals have such an impact on a physician patients’ health and wellness, rigorous training and standards are a necessity.

What Are Career Objectives for Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives?

The primary career objective for a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative is to persuade a medical professional to buy the drug they are promoting and prescribe it to patients. Other career objectives for Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives include educating physicians about the medications, securing new clients, developing sales strategies, fostering strong professional relationships, and using data effectively to make sales decisions.

Steps to Break Into a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Career:

  1. Demonstrate Sales Abilities or Experience
  2. Obtain industry training with Certification.
  3. Demonstrate your skills sets.
  4. Prepare a Pharmaceutical industry specific resume and cover letter.
  5. Interview Successfully
  6. Gain employment and be ready to detail physicians on products to help their patients.

Enroll in a Training Program

You'll also need to decide what kind of learning is best suited to your schedule and lifestyle. Online programs offer the best flexibility, The most effective way to enter a career in Pharmaceutical Sales is to enroll in an industry certification program.  Once you're in a pharmaceutical sales role, as with any sales position, you'll want to stay on top of industry information and continue to expand your sales knowledge. Employers often provide continuing education, and likely have recommendations for continuing your education.


Get Licensed or Certified

The National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Reps offers training courses and a certification to become a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR).  In the Healthcare industry, certifications are massively important. They ensure that job candidates and employees meet required education and relevant skills.   The CNPR Certification allows entry level Pharmaceutical Sales candidates and employers to validate their knowledge and abilities and the mastery of industry-specific skills.  CNPR Certification can successfully demonstrate to pharmaceutical employers that the entry level candidate can use industry-respected best practices.

Before a pharmaceutical sales rep can begin, employers often want them to have an understanding of pharmacology, selling, and medical terminology -- and the CNPR Certification program teaches this information. And when you're ready, you'll take the CNPR Examination. It's a two-hour exam that requires a minimum score of 80% to pass.

Completion of the program helps current pharma sales reps stay up to date on the industry and selling techniques. And it gives individuals who'd like to break into pharmaceutical sales an introduction to sales, pharmacology, and industry guidelines and standards.

How To Make Your Application Stand Out?

Just like any job, the pharmaceutical sales job is not for everyone. Being a great pharmaceutical sales representative requires you to have strong scientific knowledge, business acumen, and people skills.

Most importantly, you must be able to take initiative and work individually and on a team. As a pharmaceutical sales rep, you will also be spending a lot of time driving and travelling. Depending on your territory, some overnight travel may be required.

Think about why you want to work in the pharmaceutical industry. What is your ultimate goal? If it does not come back to bettering the lives of patients and society, then you may want to rethink your reasons.

What Does a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Essentially Do?

A Pharmaceutical Sales Representative sells medications to healthcare professionals and facilities on behalf of prescription drug companies. A central part of this job is to build relationships; over time, physicians become familiar with the representatives because they develop a rapport that facilitates the sale. Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives also give out information about the company they represent and the drugs they are promoting.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative?

One of the most attractive aspects of being a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative are the benefits. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you have flexibility and often can enjoy making your schedule and working the hours that best fit your preferences. Substantial income (which often includes bonuses), opportunities to influence patient lives, and travel opportunities are also among other benefits for this job.

Additionally  -  For information on the pharmaceutical industry CNPR Certificaton please visit the trade association website at 

CNPR Certification provides individuals with:

  • Certification helps demonstrate to physicians that as a Pharmaceutical Rep your knowledge is reliable and meets industry standards.
  • Achieving certification improves overall performance, removes uncertainty and widens pharmaceutical market opportunities.
  • Maintaining certification shows to the healthcare community that your messaging is trustworthy while continually improving.
  • Public recognition of industry specific professional achievement
  • Credential that demonstrates expertise in pharmaceutical and healthcare industry
  • Enhanced credibility to clients and employers
  • Competitive advantage over non-certified individuals
  • Improved likelihood of employment and advancement within the field


Employers use certification to make informed decisions. Certification provides employers with a means to:

  • Identify potential new hires that already possess your company’s required expertise.
  • Promote your company’s capabilities by employing certified healthcare professionals.
  • Enhance services provided from both a quality and financial perspective.
  • Maintain a more productive human asset.
  • Ensure ongoing professional development and proficiency of employees.
  • Motivate Sales Reps to expand their knowledge and skills.