Medical Sales Jobs: A Definitive Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Medical sales representatives sell products to medical facilities, a job that can be high earning and flexible. Here’s a definitive guide to becoming one.

[Featured Image]:  A medical supplies salesperson is sitting at his desk, working on his laptop computer, as he makes contact with a potential client.

With more and more technologies emerging in the medical field, such as new devices, artificial intelligence (AI), and pharmaceutical drugs, companies need a reliable way to get their products into the right hands. In medical sales jobs, sales representatives sell drugs and devices to hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.

As a medical sales representative, earning potential is high because you’ll typically have a base salary plus compensation. Therefore, developing good sales skills is a key component to succeeding in this role. This article will guide you through the medical sales profession and how to get started today..

What are medical sales jobs?

Medical sales jobs are representatives or sales managers who focus on selling and marketing medical products, such as pharmaceutical drugs, equipment, and devices to hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. 

Like other types of salespeople, medical sales representatives can be responsible for a specific region or territory. They may serve as either an inside or outside sales representative. Inside sales reps work with ongoing customers remotely to confirm the product was received well and to answer any customer service questions. Outside sales reps, on the other hand, often travel to meet new and existing customers to educate them on new products and ensure quality service.

Medical sales jobs also include independent sales representatives that serve several businesses selling a plethora of medical products.

Read more: Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: How Are They Different?

Tasks and responsibilities

While your specific tasks and responsibilities will vary depending on your sales specialization, medical sales jobs typically have the following duties:

  • Assess client needs and offer the right products and services

  • Market medical products to health care facilities, such as providing information and offering samples

  • Establish and maintain relationships with customers, including doctors, to persuade them to prescribe specific products 

  • Correspond with customers on the phone, by email, or in person to take orders 

  • Keep records of sales orders, customers, and products

  • Educate customers about new product launches, technologies, and developments in the field

  • Identify new opportunities to increase product sales

  • Resolve customer complaints

  • Attend sales meetings, training sessions, and conferences to keep up with the latest trends

  • Plan work schedules with the sales team and discuss future targets with area sales manager

Where they work

Medical sales jobs can vary depending on whether the representative is working in inside or outside sales. Inside sales representatives may be based at home or in an office setting. Their interactions with clients will be over the phone or email, though sometimes they may conduct meetings to negotiate and close a sale. Outside medical sales reps tend to have more flexible schedules, but they’ll travel often to meet customers within their territory.

Skills needed

To land a medical sales job, you’ll need to be able to explain the benefits and side effects of certain drugs and manage your time between customer meetings and organizing your records. The following skills are needed to become a medical sales representative:

Salary and job outlook

According to MedReps, medical sales representatives in 2021 earned an average annual base salary of $104,649 and a total salary of $172,527 [1]. That means there is a possibility of earning, on average, $67,878 in commission and bonuses.

Part of the appeal of becoming a medical sales representative is the pay structure, which includes a commission when the representative makes a sale. Outside sales reps who spend a lot of time in the field talking to potential customers, educating doctors on prescription drugs, and offering product samples, have the opportunity to maximize their potential earnings with higher commissions and bonuses. 

Types of medical sales jobs 

The different types of medical sales jobs are determined by the product or service being sold. As mentioned, you can either be an inside or outside sales rep, which corresponds to the type of company you work for.

As a sales representative, you’ll most likely specialize in selling specific products:

  • Pharmaceutical sales: As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you’ll recommend certain drugs to physicians at medical centers and hospitals.

  • Medical devices: Those with a medical or technical background may be more suited for these types of roles, which can require giving product demonstrations and tracking records of clinical sales. This could also include artificial intelligence (AI) or other specialized, high-tech machines.

  • Health care management services: This includes health tech and IT, such as software services that help with everyday marketing, medical billing, and office management. 

  • Medical supplies: This type of medical sales job requires less technical knowledge and a more general understanding of medical supplies (such as face masks and gloves) that are often sold in high volume.

Flexibility is a main benefit of medical sales jobs

A major benefit to a medical sales job is that it can be tailored to your own schedule. Whether you’re taking calls from home or traveling to meet new customers, you have the ability to create your own hours. Medical sales jobs can be especially appealing to individuals who have a side hustle or passion, such as teaching yoga.


How to become a medical sales representative

If you think medical sales jobs could be a good fit for your career and lifestyle, then here are the steps to becoming one.

1. Get a degree or diploma.

To become a medical sales representative, it is advisable to get a degree. Having a bachelor’s degree will elevate your chances of being hired. According to Zippia, 82 percent of medical sales reps have a bachelor’s degree, while 7 percent have master’s degrees and associate degrees (each) [2]. Only 1 percent only have a high school diploma alone. Consider majoring in a subject like business, sales, or health care management.

You can also decide to get certified. Options include Certified Sales Professional (CSP) and professional training programs from organizations like the National Association of Medical Sales Representatives (NAMSR). While these certifications are not necessary, they may help you land your first job.

2. Choose a specialization.

As a sales representative, you’ll most likely specialize in a specific product area like medical devices, pharmaceutical sales, health care management services or medical supplies. If you’re new to health care and sales, choose the area that interests you most. If you have a specific background in health, such as pharmaceuticals or IT, you’ll be more suited for pharmaceutical or health tech sales roles. If you have experience in sales, the easiest field to break into would be medical supplies, since these are often generic and don’t require special technical and medical knowledge.

3. Gain some field experience.

Now that you’ve narrowed down a specialization, it’s time to gain some field experience. Whether that means picking up an internship with a medical sales company or shadowing a more established medical sales representative, you’ll gain an understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities. You can then fill in the gaps in your skills or knowledge.

Employers will expect you to hit the ground running. Brushing up on medical sales skills with a training program can be a good idea for those of you who might be nervous about applying directly for a job. Research medical sales training opportunities online, which can help you get started in one of the specializations.

In addition to knowing the basics of medical terminology as well as keeping abreast of trends such as robotics and wearable tech in the health care space, even if you are not selling that specific product.

4. Expand your network. 

Being new in a medical sales job can be intimidating. But networking is an important part of expanding your client base as a medical sales representative. 

You’ll want to know the right people and build enduring professional relationships with them. It is likely that you’ll be going back to them with new products and technologies in the future, so deepening those connections is just as important as widening your network.

One effective way to network is using LinkedIn. You can cultivate a professional and influencing presence, while using the groups function to connect with more people in your chosen industry, specialization, and territory.

Read more: How to use LinkedIn

Attending conferences, seminars, and being part of trade associations will also help you continue to grow your network as a medical sales representative.

Boost your sales knowledge today

To be successful in any medical sales job, boosting your sales skills will help you land more clients. The Sales Operations/Management Specialization from West Virginia University is a flexible online course that you can finish in six months or less. Start your free trial with Coursera today.

Article sources


MedReps. “2021 Medical Sales Salary Report,” Accessed September 22, 2022.

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