Pharmaceutical sales representatives are in demand. CNN Money named pharmaceutical sales representative one of the best jobs in America, with demand expected to grow 12 percent between 2006 and 2016. A bachelor's degree in the sciences is the standard background for pharmaceutical sales representatives, who need to be able to read scientific studies and talk intelligently about their company's product lines. Undergraduate majors in biology, chemistry or related fields in the sciences are common. However, the degree that you earn isn't as important as the classes that are included in the degree program. Pharmaceutical sales reps need to take classes in the sciences and in business.
As a pharmaceutical sales rep, you'll be talking to doctors about what the drug does and how it helps patients. Simple explanations won't do. Doctors listen to plenty of other pharmaceutical sales reps hawking their companies' products, and you need to be able to explain why yours is the best. Taking courses in biology can help you to explain how drugs work on the organs and biological processes in the body. Biology, molecular biology and cellular biology are all recommended courses, and are also included in training for pharmacists.
In addition to expertise in explaining how pharmaceutical drugs affect the body, pharmaceutical sales reps must to be able to explain how they work. Training in chemistry can help students understand the chemical structure of drugs and the chemical processes that occur when patients take them. Both general chemistry and organic chemistry are recommended courses, and biochemistry may also be helpful.
While knowledge of biology and chemistry can help pharmaceutical sales representatives give doctors information that can help them make the right decisions for their patients, negotiation skills are what help to close the deal. Pharmaceutical sales reps need strong negotiation skills to not only make the sale but to even land a meeting with a doctor to make an introduction. Competition in the industry is fierce, and pharmaceutical sales reps who know how to be persuasive have the best chance of success. Classes in marketing and logic can help strengthen your negotiation skills.
Not all sales pitches are made one-on-one. Pharmaceutical sales reps may also need to give presentations about their company's products at medical conferences, hospital board meetings and industry events. Classes in public speaking can help pharmaceutical sales representatives give an articulate and persuasive presentation, whether they're talking to a group or making a one-on-one pitch. Training in public speaking also teaches pharmaceutical sales reps how to be more confident when they speak, which can help them to increase their sales.
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