If you want to be a pharmaceutical rep, you better enjoy spending time with doctors, as you'll likely see 8 to 10 of them per day, according to Global Edge Recruiting. You'll also be covering a territory with a 60- to 200-mile radius, so plan on driving a lot. The responsibilities of pharmaceutical reps have evolved over the past couple decades. While they still promote the benefits of their company's prescriptions to doctors and provide them with samples, they also spend an increasing amount of time distributing pamphlets about new medicines and updating display units in physicians' offices. They typically earn above-average salaries compared to other occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
Salaries are only part of your overall income as a pharmaceutical rep. You might also earn a significant amount of your income through commissions and bonuses. These professionals earned average salaries of $71,000 per year in 2013, according to the job website Indeed.com. And their annual incomes, including salaries, commissions and bonuses were $120,606 in 2012, according to MedReps.com. Most pharmaceutical reps have bachelor's degrees in business, liberal arts or one of the life sciences, biology, chemistry and biophysics. Employers also prefer that you have a couple years of verifiable sales experience.
Salary by State or District
Salaries for pharmaceutical reps can vary widely depending on location. In 2013, they earned the highest annual salaries of $83,000 in New York, according to Indeed.com. Reps working in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut earned slightly less at $81,000 or $77,000 per year, respectively. Those in Texas brought home less than the national average for pharmaceutical reps -- $67,000 annually. And a pharmaceutical rep job in Pennsylvania or Nebraska would earn you $62,000 or $57,000 per year, respectively.
Experience is the biggest contributor in determining pharmaceutical sales reps' incomes; they earn more as they acquire more clients and build their territories. As a savvy rep, you will realize that some doctors retire or switch to competitors, so you need to spend part of your time making cold calls. You might also earn a higher starting salary with a large pharmaceutical manufacturer or wholesaler, as larger firms have the revenue base to support higher salaries.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report job opportunities for pharmaceutical reps, but they do for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, which are expected to increase by 16 percent. While this is a relatively average growth rate compared to other occupations, Zacks Investment Research reports that pharmaceutical reps' jobs are showing signs of recovering from the last recession. Your best opportunity for getting a job might be in high growth areas, where new doctors' offices and hospitals are likely to be built.