How to Become a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

If you want to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, this is a typical sales job in many ways, but it also comes with a lot of extras unlike any other sales work.


Formal education isn't necessarily a requirement of this job, but a background in retail pharmaceuticals, prior experience in a pharmacy, or appropriate levels of pharmaceutical training, are definitely an advantage. Some pharmaceutical students do this type of job to pay for their studies.

Sales reps in the US can get additional certification after formal training and an exam. Particularly relevant to pharmaceutical sales reps are the Manufacturers’ Representatives Education Research Foundation certifications:

Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR)

Certified Sales Professional (CSP),


Sales reps get in house and on the job training in the sales job basics. Your employer will provide: 

  • Thorough training regarding their products, product functions
  • Ordering and sales procedures
  • Consumer and business law as it applies to the work
  • Guidelines for issues regarding particular products
  • Guidelines for company sales policies
  • Health industry guidelines
  • Government guidelines where applicable regarding certain products

The work environment, types of pharmaceutical sales rep jobs and issues

This is all general knowledge required for the job. However- As a company rep, you are doing direct sales to professional pharmacists, either as a rep for a wholesaler or manufacturer.

This is where the pharmaceutical sales rep jobs part company with normal sales jobs. Whichever type of employer you're working for, each has literally thousands of items on their inventory.

These products, as part of a pharmacy's raw materials for filling prescriptions, may include:

  • Materials classified as poisons.

  • Materials classified as hazardous goods.

  • Materials classified under Homeland Security laws as chemicals subject to relevant laws.

  • Materials requiring special ordering, storage, and transportation due to statutory regulations.

Each of these types of materials has a standardized procedure for ordering, registration of orders, and in some cases statutory compliant storage facilities. This is a particularly picky bureaucratic process, and it can complicate sales orders severely.

The basic commercial stock includes a huge range of possible items. As a sales rep, you need to be able to work with pharmacists regarding their ordering requirements, which may involve watching orders and checking availability of products. To be a good pharmaceutical sales rep, you need to speak the pharmacy retail language and understand client needs.

The pharmaceutical sales rep job is also very much involved in building good customer relationships. If your employer is an importer, availability can be a nuisance, and you as a sales rep will need to monitor your clients and work on making sure you can fill their regular orders reliably, or you can lose custom. This involves keeping track of your regular stocks and your database.

Advanced pharmaceutical sales rep work and business

Some salespeople, particularly experienced reps, set up independent businesses in their area and distribute directly for manufacturers. This cuts out the wholesale process, but to be able to do this, you need good credentials in the industry and a very good client base. Pharmaceutical sales are very competitive, and to get a decent cash flow as an independent business, you also need to know your market.