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How to progress your Pharmaceutical Sales career

What is Pharmaceutical Sales?
Pharmaceutical (pharma) sales refers to the promotion and selling of a product, or portfolio of products, to healthcare professionals. The role of a pharmaceutical sales representative is to educate and inform healthcare professionals on the advantages of their product(s) so the prescribe them above their competitors for the right patients.

Typical Pharmaceutical Sales roles

Typical roles within pharma sales are:

  • General Practice (GP) Representative
  • Hospital Representative
  • Key Account Manager

How can you progress your career in Pharmaceutical Sales?

To have a long and prosperous career within this sector, candidates need to have excellent communication skills, work well as part of a team and be professional in their approach.

However, in order to advance their career, candidates will need to take additional measures to climb up the hierarchical ladder:  

  1. Get involved with things beyond the job specification
    Committing yourself to opportunities outside of your job specification will enable you to increase your skill set and gain a better grasp of the industry. Actively showing your commitment to your personal development can shine a positive light on you. This, in turn, can accelerate your career progression as you will broaden your skillset, perhaps in market access, marketing or leadership.
  2. Shadowing
    Job shadowing refers to spending time and observing an experienced colleague to gain a better understanding of what the job role entails. This is used to help candidates learn how they can perform better within their job role whilst increasing their skillset.
  3. Secondment
    A secondment is where an employee is assigned to a new position temporarily. This enables you to develop your skills in a different setting and improve your career development opportunities.
  4. Attend Events/networking
    Attending social events regularly will help you build your network of contacts and get your name known within the industry. Increasing your network could lead to new job opportunities later in your career.


What are the barriers to a career in Pharmaceutical Sales?

There are several barriers candidates may need to overcome to enter the sector:

  1. Ideally, you will need to have a degree in life science to gain access into entry-level roles.
  2. Industry experience shadowing a pharmaceutical representative is hugely beneficial to be considered for interview.
  3. A  role within this sector is primarily field-based. As a result, a clean driving licence, or maximum of 6 points, is needed. If you don’t drive you’ll find it extremely difficult to advance a career as a sales rep.  
  4. Some previous sales / working to targets experience is needed.

Can you transition into the Pharmaceutical Sales sector without previous experience in the sector?

Transitioning into the pharmaceutical sector is doable without prior experience. However, candidates will find the transition hard. Companies within this sector ideally want candidates who already have an established network in place. Without this, you’ll have to start in an entry-level position, which may also mean taking quite a substantial pay cut.  

Typical Pharmaceutical Sales career progression options
A pharma sales career can be very rewarding for candidates committed to their personal development. A typical career path within the pharma sales industry could look like:  

  • General Practice (GP) Representative
  • Hospital Representative
  • Key Accounts Manager
  • Regional Business Manager
  • National Sales Manager
  • Business Unit Director


As previously mentioned, to have a successful career as a pharmaceutical sales representative, candidates are required to have fantastic communication skills. In addition, you need to show confidence in your abilities and have good organisational skills.

If you are looking to progress your career in Pharma Sales or would like an informal chat to discuss your career progression opportunities, our specialist consultants can help - get in touch with them here. Alternatively, you can view all our current vacancies within this sector on our Pharma Sales Page