Qualifications to Be a Drug Rep

Drug reps usually have bachelor's degrees and sales experience.

Drug reps usually have bachelor's degrees and sales experience.

If you are familiar with companies such as Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering Plough and GlaxoSmithKline, you probably know these pharmaceutical companies sell drugs to physicians, hospitals and clinics. You might also realize that drug reps earn relatively high salaries -- $120,606 annually in 2012, according to MedReps.com -- and work in a recession-proof industry. But you need to fulfill several key qualifications if you actually want to work in this field.


It's rare to find drug rep openings that don't require college degrees, according to Quintessential Careers. Most pharmaceutical sales companies require a bachelor's degree. Some prefer that you have a master's degree. Your actual degree isn't necessarily important, as a business, science and even liberal arts degree can qualify you. What is crucial is that you have the cognitive skills to learn the names, effects and benefits of many types of drugs, and be able to explain their uses to physicians and surgeons.

Sales or Medical Background

A quick scan of the drug rep "want ads" will tell you that most pharmaceutical companies prefer sales experience. One or two years of business-to-business sales experience can qualify you, even if it's not in the pharmaceutical industry. If you don't have sales experience, your health care or clinical background can qualify you. Many drug reps are certified pharmacists. These companies also prefer hiring reps who have backgrounds in biology, chemistry, biophysics, physiology or anatomy.

Training and Certification

Before you hit the road selling your pharmaceuticals, you need to be trained on the names and uses of the various drugs. Your company might specialize in allergy, diabetic or even veterinary medicines, which you learn about in classroom training sessions. Drug reps also learn various sales techniques in training, such as overcoming objections and closing sales. Certification is not required but can enhance your career options. Certification can be obtained through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, a trade association.


Drug reps need to be confident, aggressive and motivated. Competition can be steep for medications that vary little from what others are offering. You must have communication skills to speak with both individuals and groups of medical professionals. Your persuasive skills can help you get past secretaries to see busy doctors. Time management skills are necessary to plan appointments and call on new medical facilities that likely purchase your types of medications.

2016 Salary Information for Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives earned a median annual salary of $61,270 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives earned a 25th percentile salary of $42,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $89,010, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,813,500 people were employed in the U.S. as wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

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