According to data from Grand View Research, the total value of the global pharmaceutical manufacturing market in 2021 was $405B. The industry is also expected to see an 11% increase in revenue growth by 2028. Due to the market size, pharmaceutical sales is a highly viable career path that can generate lucrative salaries and commission rates. This guide will provide valuable insights on the education, certifications, and experience you need to pursue a pharmaceutical sales career.

What Education is Required for Pharmaceutical Sales?

A bachelor’s degree is typically required to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales. Although many professionals in sales obtain a bachelor’s in business or marketing, there are strong reasons to consider a degree in a scientific discipline. To generate sales within the pharmaceutical industry, you need to understand the science and data behind your product thoroughly. A science background will be attractive to prospective employers because you’ll already have much of the knowledge you need to construct an effective sales pitch using scientific evidence.

What Experience is Needed to Start a Career in Pharmaceutical Sales?

Most pharmaceutical sales positions require two years of experience, but there are usually some entry-level job openings you can pursue. In most cases, the early phases of your career will involve interfacing with local physicians and hospitals to sell your company’s pharmaceutical product. This can undoubtedly be challenging, especially if the position is largely commission-based, but you have to start at the bottom in order to grow into a seasoned sales executive.

Should I Pursue a Certification?

Although there aren’t many specialized certifications for pharmaceutical sales professionals, you should consider completing a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) training program. This will show hiring managers that you’ve taken the time to develop the knowledge you need to understand the products you’re selling. You can also pursue other types of certifications, such as a Sales Development Representative (CSDR), to further highlight your sales expertise.

Pharmaceutical Sales Career Progression

Like any career in sales, you’ll typically start in an entry-level sales representative position. As you refine your sales strategies and further develop your knowledge of the industry, you’ll be able to pursue account executive, account manager, and sales management roles. The best way to achieve promotions in pharmaceutical sales is to continue to take on more challenging responsibilities. If it looks like you’re standing still, you may see lucrative opportunities pass you by in favor of more ambitious candidates.

List of Skills for Pharmaceutical Sales Positions

Hiring managers target candidates with skill sets that match the needs of their organization. Because of this, you’ll want to align your resume with the job description by incorporating key terms that match the posting. Identifying the right skill sets during the resume-building process can be challenging, especially in a nuanced space such as pharmaceutical sales. Below, you’ll find a list of key terms and skills you should consider adding to your resume during the job search process:

  • Account Management
  • Biology
  • Client Relations
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Communication
  • Contract Negotiation
  • Consultative Selling
  • Chemistry
  • Healthcare
  • Lead Generation
  • Life Sciences
  • Medical Sales
  • Microbiology
  • Product Marketing
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Salesforce
  • Sales Strategy
  • Strategic Selling
  • Territory Management

Build a Compelling Pharmaceutical Sales Resume

To generate job opportunities on the open market, you’ll need to craft a compelling resume that highlights the strongest aspects of your pharmaceutical sales experience. You’ll want to incorporate hard numbers and data to quantify your achievements and provide appropriate levels of context for the reader. Remember that the resume is a snapshot of your career, and you’ll need to give specifics to tell your story effectively. Below, you’ll find a resume example to help you craft your document for the pharmaceutical industry:

  • Example

Yaling Zhang
(123) 456-7890
[email protected]
123 Carpenter Street, Philadelphia, PA 12345


A Sales Representative with three years of experience in pharmaceutical sales, specializing in consultative selling, account management, and client relations. Adept at leveraging knowledge of life sciences and clinical trials to deliver compelling sales presentations to prospects.

Professional Experience

Sales Representative, Erwin Pharmaceuticals, Philadelphia, PA
May 2019 – Present

  • Generate $160K in sales for a pharmaceutical company, achieve 130% of annual quota in 2021, conduct lead generation and sales forecasting, and develop sales strategies
  • Build relationships with physicians and hospitals within the local community to secure revenue opportunities and generate referrals for pharmaceutical product sales
  • Conduct sales consultations, deliver presentations to prospects on clinical trials and data for a line of antidepressants, and field questions regarding risks and side effects


Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Life Sciences
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA September 2015 – May 2019

Key Skills

  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Life Sciences
  • Consultative Selling
  • Account Management
  • Sales Presentations


  • Certified Sales Development Representative (CSDR), 2020
  • Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR), 2020


Notice how in this example, the candidate mentions their ability to leverage life sciences knowledge to drive sales during the opening summary. Hiring managers are much more likely to take notice of candidates with a science background, which gives this job seeker a competitive advantage during the application process. They also make a point to showcase key accomplishments from the early stages of their pharmaceutical sales career, demonstrating that they have a proven track record of using their science background to achieve results.

Grow as a Pharmaceutical Sales Leader

In order to progress your career, you’ll want to continue your growth as a leader in pharmaceutical sales. Refining your ability to mentor and develop team members is an important qualification for pursuing sales management occupations. You’ll also need to continue expanding your knowledge of pharmaceutical products and relationship management best practices to build partnerships with large healthcare organizations effectively. By developing your leadership capabilities during the early phases of your career, you’ll put yourself in a better position to pursue management-level roles as you continue to progress as a pharmaceutical sales professional.

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