Despite the prevailing stereotype, you do not have to be an attractive woman to gain a position as a pharmaceutical sales rep. While data on the exact number of female pharmaceutical reps does not exist, most pharmaceutical reps are women. Those in the industry know that it takes more than a pretty face and nice personality to sell drugs, however. Pharmaceutical reps undergo specialized training and can also earn certification to prepare themselves to sway doctors to use a particular drug.
Typically, each pharmaceutical company trains its own reps on the job, but several national organizations offer certification to supplement that training. The main provider of certification is the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives, which sponsors the CNPR Certification. Other providers include the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives, with its Certified Pharmaceutical Sales Professional designation, and the American Pharmaceutical Sales Association’s APSA 360 Certification.
Certification allows a sales rep to gain the skills and know-how needed to land an entry-level pharmaceutical sales role. A number of pharmaceutical companies look for certifications when hiring new employees, as certification helps companies easily weed out non-qualified job applicants. Certification also provides standards that sales reps must achieve to be successful in the sales field. Because certification providers are also industry associations, sales reps can take advantage of networking opportunities and other resources available from those groups.
Earning certification means hitting the books and completing a certification course. With NAPRx, reps can opt for the 120-hour online correspondence course or take the course through one of 300 colleges and universities that partner with the NAPRx. Courses cover the rules and regulations of the pharmaceutical industry and medical terminology, as well as providing training on effective sales techniques. After completing the course, reps take a certification exam. The NAPRx exam consists of 160 questions and test-takers have 120 minutes to complete the test. Students need at least a 90 percent to pass the AAPSR test, with nearly 97 percent of test-takers passing on the first try.
To help sales reps prepare for the certification test, the NAPRx provides study guides, practice quizzes and training manual. Those taking the college route to fulfill the course requirements benefit from the help of an instructor and fellow classmates to prep for the exam. AAPSR includes a nearly 300-page training manual as part of the cost of taking the certification exam. With the APSA 360 Certification, once a student completes the online course, she meets with an APSA Certified Trainer to finish the training process. The APSA Certified Trainer also helps the sales rep with networking, setting up interviews and preparing for her first job.
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