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Pharmaceutical Sales Salary - How to Make Money as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

a day in the life

A pharmaceutical sales representative job is considered to be very lucrative. Many people try to obtain this type of job because it is viewed as prestigious. A pharmaceutical sales rep calls on doctors and hospitals to market a pharmaceutical company’s products. Pharmaceutical sales reps jobs are growing as more companies are taking new pharmaceuticals to the market to meet medical demands. The Hay Group, a consulting firm for human resources, states that there has been a 300 percent growth in the pharmaceutical sales industry during the last decade.


The median base salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep is $58,513 according to Salary Wizard, with a low salary range of $38,555 and the high range of $65,464 (as of November 2009). A pharmaceutical sales representative’s responsibilities include developing a customer base and selling a company’s products and services.

Along with the base salary, most pharmaceutical sales reps also earn commission. Companies structure their bonus system differently, but basically a company will pay a determined bonus for a sales rep meeting 100 percent of her goal. The goal can be tied to the total number of scripts written for particular products; some companies target number of new scripts written.

A Day in the Life

Pharmaceutical sales representatives generally have a geographical territory. The rep will be assigned 3 or 4 products to market. The rep will then call on doctors to “sell” the product, describing the benefits and features of the product in hopes that the doctor will write prescriptions for that product when their patients have a need. Many hours are spent in a waiting room hoping to see the doctor for a few minutes in between their patient schedule.

The sales rep gets paid bonus dollars on the number of scripts written for the products being marketed. If the rep has to sell $30,000 worth of products to meet 100 percent of her quota, the dollar amount is tracked by the number and amount of scripts written by the doctors she contacted. Each of the 3 or 4 products will have an allotted percentage toward meeting the 100 percent quota. For example, product 1 may be responsible for 30 percent of the total; product 2 may be responsible for 40 percent, etc.

Each product is equally important, so the product representing the higher percentage towards the quota cannot be pushed while ignoring the other products. The sales goals are tracked by each product meeting its goal, and if one product produces above quota, additional bonus dollars may be available.

It’s worth repeating that each company may structure their bonus system differently. It is an important question to explore and understand when interviewing for a pharmaceutical sales rep position.

While a pharmaceutical sales rep job is viewed as glamorous, life constantly on the road can be hard. The sales rep spends hours in their cars or in waiting rooms trying to get a few minutes of a doctor’s time. They have to be especially nice to receptionists, as that person often holds the key to whether or not the sales rep will even get a foot in the door. Many sales reps work from their homes, as pharmaceutical company may be located in another state or part of the country, so it can get lonely with no co-workers for conversation or interaction.

Qualities of a Good Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

Like any sales job, a pharmaceutical sales rep has to like people and be very persuasive. Hours are spent trying to convince someone that the product being marketed is the best available. The job is very competitive, with each pharmaceutical company attempting to capture the market. Millions of dollars are at stake for products that have been researched and in development for years.

A qualified candidate will have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. Previous sales experience is usually preferred, and some type of clinical background is a bonus. A pharmaceutical sales rep must be aggressive, intrinsically motivated, and a self-starter. Since the sales rep may be working from home, a strong work ethic is required, as well as a high level of persistence.

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