In the pharmaceutical industry, there are many divisions that do their part to get drugs into the hands of patients. We’ve talked about the research and development process and the sales and marketing process. A Medical Science Liaison works in a pharma company as a medical expert.
But let’s get this straight, they are not the pharm sales reps that go to your office and try to sell you drugs through pamphlets and speeches. That’s different. Medical Science Liaisons develops relationships with key opinion leaders and physicians to provide scientific exchange and gather insight into therapeutic ideas. Meaning, you’re an expert and you work with experts.
Though, to simply say they are the ties between pharma and physicians is inaccurate. They are much more. They also serve as support to sales and marketing departments, present educational information at conferences, develop scientific strategies to optimize their companies goals.
With that said, this is a travelling job. Be prepared to travel 60 – 70 % of the year.
A Medical Science Liaison has different levels depending upon your experience in the industry. The ladder of MSL’s goes like this :
- Medical Science Liaison I
- Medical Science Liaison II
- Medical Science Liaison III
- Director, Field Medical Affairs
- Senior Director, Field Medical Affairs
- Executive Director, Field Medical Affairs
- Vice President of Medical Affairs
The salary structure for an MSL consists of a base salary plus a bonus. If you do not have any pharmaceutical experience, you typically start out between $100,000 and $150,000. A bonus can range from 0% – 17% with the majority between 11-17% for these new employees. In total, that could give you a salary range of $100,000 to $175,500. That’s about the same as a primary care physician which makes jumping from clinical to non-clinical a financially easier task. After several years in the industry, the salary increases to a potential of $125,000 to $197,000.
Another factor that can increase or decrease your salary is the therapeutic area in which you go into. I talked with Dr. Dyer, CEO of MSL World, a free resource for learning about getting into the MSL business. In his experience of helping others enter the field, he has seen a starting salary of $86,046 for primary care fields. If you target MSL jobs with a specialist focus, you usually start out higher around $102,055.
Medical Science Liaison’s typically have a doctorate degree : either a PhD, an MD, or a PharmD. You do not have to have residency training or clinical experience, but it is preferred. If you have had experience elsewhere in the healthcare system or pharmaceutical system, that would be helpful as well.
Currently, there are no educational certifications for you to enhance your resume. But there are several resources to get you in the right direction. The Medical Science Liaison: An A to Z Guide is a book written by a pharmacist experienced in the pharmaceutical industry.Dr. Arthur Lazarus is an MD, MBA and has a section on MSL’s in his article : Key roles for physician executives in the pharmaceutical industry.(PEJ Career Center): An article from: Physician Executive. I’ve read this one many times and definitely recommend this one to get an overview of the many other positions physicians can get.
Medical Science Liaisons are an important part in the pharmaceutical industry. It is the field that communicates with experts and key opinion leaders on their same level which is vital to the delivery and further development of therapeutic drugs. Physicians have an upper hand in this field because of our blood, sweat, and tears through medical school that allows us to connect to other physicians. It can be a rewarding job with excellent salary potentials. Another thing to remember is that you have the ability to climb the ladder towards even more important positions with higher salaries. If you like to travel, develop relationships, and possibly work from home, you might enjoy this job.
NTM.org, Back in the air