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I have seen several posts on professional message boards about medical doctors that are unhappy with their jobs; medical practice has not turned out to be what they envisioned. Some feel trapped because they have accumulated debt from college loans and do not think there are other jobs that will pay them as well if they leave medical practice. Some doctors are dissatisfied with the healthcare system and feel that they work too hard for far too little compensation. If you are exploring alternative careers for medical doctors then consider the pharmaceutical industry. It makes sense that pharmaceutical companies hire medical professionals because these professionals understand medicine, caring for patients, the healthcare system, and they can influence their peers. All the years of residency and fellowship, years of clinical practice, board certifications, your relationship with your peers, and your research and publications are very valuable skills that can land you a very satisfying and lucrative position in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry presents several options for doctors who are comfortable in a business environment and can apply their knowledge of healthcare and healthcare systems to support the objectives of a pharmaceutical company.
What Qualifications do Doctors Need to Work in Pharmaceutical Companies
There are entry level positions for doctors who did not complete residency and the pay for these positions is much higher than what you would receive as a resident or fellow. (You are better off completing your residency and fellowship). As you gain more experience and transition into other roles your compensation will increase considerably. The highest paying jobs require doctors with several years of experience, are specialized in a therapeutic area, and have achieved national recognition. Specialization in a therapeutic area that the pharmaceutical or medical device company manufactures products for is very desirable. For example, a company that manufactures cardiovascular drugs or devices would want a cardiologist on their medical team. In addition to their professional knowledge pharmaceutical companies want doctors as part of their team because of their relationships with key thought leaders in their area of expertise. After all, one major objective for pharmaceutical companies is building relationships with top influencers. Doctors that have the desired connections can find very comfortable and enjoyable roles in the pharmaceutical industry.
Research and Medical Affairs departments of pharmaceutical companies are where you will find most positions for medical doctors. Medical doctors also work in regulatory, medical marketing, and sales. Here are some examples of pharmaceutical industry jobs for doctors. These are not the only opportunities. Use our job board and plug in your search terms and explore the jobs that are available in the pharmaceutical industry.
Here are examples of pharmaceutical industry jobs for doctors. Select links for current openings and requirements for each type of position.
MSLs positions have proliferated in the last several years. This role involves building relationships with key decision makers and educating healthcare providers about the latest research and treatment guidelines that impact use of the company's products. MSLs work closely with the sales and marketing teams to support the company's educational and product promotion efforts. This role involves giving one-one and group presentations. MSLs work from home and travel to meet with customers.
Clinical research associates either work in the main research facility or work remotely in the field. Their main responsibility is to facilitate enrollment, data collection and provide site support for clinical trials. They give presentations, answer questions about the clinical trial, and help investigators solve problems that may impede enrollment or data collection. This role may involve travel. Doctors that have experience in research and have little practice experience should consider the CRA role as an entry into the pharmaceutical industry. Depending on the level of experience most doctors are hired as associate directors or medical directors.
Medical directors typically are involved in the design of clinical trials, develop scientific educational materials, develop scientific or medical messaging, and are involved in training the commercial and medical teams. Some may present data to regulatory authorities. The exact responsibilities vary between companies. Medical directors may eventually become Vice Presidents or Chief Medical Officers.
This is a great entry point into the pharmaceutical industry. Most companies tend to prefer PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) professionals for this department but doctors are also a great fit. These professionals develop responses and answer questions from healthcare providers and patients about the company's products. This job requires good writing and verbal communication skills, and a passion for finding answers to questions.
This a popular department for doctors and other medical professionals. Drug safety collects, evaluates, and looks for signals in adverse event reports about the company's products. They are involved in clinical trials safety reporting, post marketing safety reporting, and they work closely with regulatory personnel. This is also a great entry point into the pharmaceutical industry.
This department ensures that all the company's promotional materials are within FDA guidelines. They work closely with the sales, marketing, and clinical teams to ensure compliance with FDA rules and regulations that govern many aspects of the pharmaceutical industry. Additional courses and on-the-job training will be required for this role.
Some doctors start their career in the pharmaceutical industry via sales because they already have the customer relationships, understand the therapeutic area, and if they can learn the business aspects they will succeed in this role. There is a lot of travel involved in sales and you have to be comfortable with making cold calls.
What are Salaries for Doctors in the Pharmaceutical Industry
The pharmaceutical industry typically pays more than clinical practice. Pay will vary depending your role, experience and responsibilities. After adding bonuses, stock options or grants, a car (MSL or sales positions), and other perks, doctors receive comparable or better compensation in the pharmaceutical industry and there are more growth opportunities. You can research salaries for some of the positions mentioned above at salary.com and compare with your own compensation.
Although healthcare professionals are trained for clinical practice they can leverage their training and experience in a variety of industries. Current practitioners can transition to the pharmaceutical industry by leveraging their years of experience. Many doctors are enjoying wonderful and diverse careers within the pharmaceutical industry. The sky is the limit.
The following articles may be useful if you are interested in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
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