How to become a medical sales representative (With duties)

Updated 10 March 2023

A medical sales representative is typically responsible for selling products or services related to medicine, such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices. This is a highly specialised role that requires extensive training and experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Understanding exactly what these requirements are can help you to plan your career and education if you are interested in working in this field. In this article, we look at what a medical sales representative is, how to become one and what one can expect within the role.

What is a medical sales representative?

A medical sales representative is a person who sells medical equipment or pharmaceuticals to hospitals and other health care providers. This means medical sales representatives typically work for pharmaceutical companies looking to gain market share in a certain area or they may work for small companies trying to break into the market. Medical sales representatives often spend their time visiting different doctors' offices and hospitals to present products and discuss how they can help their patients. This means it's important for a medical sales representative to have strong communication and sales skills.

Related: 13 of the highest-paying sales jobs (with salary details)

How to become a medical sales representative

Here's a list of the steps involved in how to become a medical sales representative:

1. Gain an undergraduate degree in a related field

It's important to get an undergraduate degree as this can help you become a more effective medical sales representative. A Bachelor's Degree in Business is the ideal choice, but there are other disciplines that can prepare you for this role. For example, if you have an interest in the health care field and have strong communication skills, a degree in communication might help you. Alternatively, if you want to work as a medical sales representative at a pharmaceutical company or medical device manufacturer, your bachelor's degree could focus on science or engineering disciplines like biology, chemistry or physics.

Related: What is an undergraduate degree? A beginner's guide

2. Join a medical sales company via their graduate training scheme

Joining a medical sales company via their graduate training scheme gives representatives the chance to build up their practical skills. For example, such programmes give you the opportunity to develop your skills and build your network. Medical sales companies often expect new employees to train before they begin selling products to doctors and hospitals: this requires you to show in-depth knowledge so that clients feel able to trust your advice when making purchasing decisions.

Related: What are the benefits of a graduate scheme?

3. Start an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship offers medical sales representatives the chance to gain valuable experience. It also helps you build your CV and makes you more competitive when applying for jobs. Apprenticeships typically last two years and are paid. During this time, you work alongside experienced professionals to learn about the industry and hone your skills.

It's likely that you spend a lot of time conducting research and learning about products, but you may also have the opportunity to meet with customers. Apprenticeships are generally offered by various companies, including pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, medical product distributors, hospitals and clinics. Here are a couple of apprenticeships to consider:

Related: How to get into medical sales: a step-by-step guide

Sales executive higher apprenticeship

Sales executive higher apprenticeships allow medical sales representatives to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for success in this field. The course is specifically designed to provide apprentices with a thorough understanding of the key concepts involved in being a sales representative. This involves teaching apprentices how to identify products and services and how they match these to the needs of their customers. This means providing apprentices with the knowledge of how they can market their products and services and how to negotiate with clients to make a profitable sale.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

Business-to-business sales professional degree apprenticeship

This course helps potential sales reps gain valuable skills and experience in both sales and marketing. This type of apprenticeship involves an understanding of how the market works, which helps medical sales representatives develop their own techniques for pitching drugs to doctors in a convincing way, leading to a sale.

4. Pass the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Medical Representatives Exam

When becoming a medical sales representative you are required to pass The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Medical Representatives Exam. This is a vital step in becoming a medical sales representative because it ensures you have an understanding of drug safety and how to communicate with patients. It also ensures you have a good grasp of the basic principles of pharmaceuticals and that you can use them to help your clients make informed decisions about which drugs are right for them.

The exam consists of two parts: one focused on drug safety and one focused on communication skills. The first part covers topics like patient education and counselling, while the second tests your ability to speak clearly and effectively with patients. Students are also expected to practice these skills during their training period before taking the exam. It's necessary to sit this exam within one year of beginning employment as it can take around two years to pass.

Related: A guide to diploma vs degree (with potential career paths)

5. Join a professional medical sales representative organisation

Joining a professional organisation is important because it helps you gain experience and develop your skills, whilst also providing you with opportunities to network with other professionals in the field. It's a further opportunity for you to learn about what other people are doing, which can help you find ways to improve your own work and make changes that can help you become more successful. You also find out about upcoming events and conferences that are relevant for medical sales representatives, which can give you access to information about new products/services released into the marketplace.

Related: How to create a business network (and why it's important)

Medical sales representative duties

Within their role, a medical sales representative can expect to do the following:

Go on calls with doctors who have questions about certain products

A medical sales representative can expect to go on calls and provide information to doctors who have questions about certain products. They're the ones selling the drug and so want to ensure the doctors they're pitching it to have all of the information required to make an informed decision about purchasing that new drug. Doctors are constantly learning and striving to keep up on the latest developments in their industry, which means they look for answers from a medical sales representative who can provide them with information about the technology involved in the creation of a new drug.

Research new products

A medical sales representative regularly researches new products so they can stay informed on the latest breakthroughs, trends and developments in the field. This allows them to be more knowledgeable about the products they're selling and make better recommendations to their clients. The best way for a medical sales representative to stay up to date on medical advances is by reading trade magazines, attending conferences and speaking with colleagues. The more they know about what's happening in the field, the more confident they can feel when making recommendations to doctors about how a drug can help their patients.

Related: What is primary research? (A definitive guide with tips)

Travel for work

As a medical sales representative, expect to travel for work. The job involves visiting different hospitals and clinics to get them to purchase your company's products. In this role, you visit different locations throughout the day, such as hospitals or private doctors' offices, which means travelling from one place to another. You may spend more time at one hospital than another. You may also be expected to travel for training purposes if your company sends you out for training on new products or how best to utilise them in a hospital.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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