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Alternatives to a Pharmaceutical Sales Career

Updated on July 1, 2011

Looking for Alternatives?


So what's a pharma rep to do?

On this post I'd like to focus, with a little bit more granularity, on alternative careers for pharmaceutical sales reps. While I know there are many managers who are also reading this, please keep in mind that the real life story that I will describe can be applicable to you as well, with a little ingenuity. The bottom line though is that the Pharmaceutical Sales Career is pretty much over. It's only a matter of time before there is a change for you individually, hence, it is super critical that you look for an alternative NOW before that happens. For further information from a pharmaceutical sales insider check out our BLOG below in RSS Feed or simply type in Pharmaceutical Sales Advisor.

Below I will give you a real example of someone who was able to successfully transition careers from pharmaceuticals to another one with a much better growth prospect. As you read it, please note that there are many industries that are willing to take a look at a strong sales rep or sales manager. And they also respect the fact that pharmaceutical sales reps and managers are in a transition period, and that pharmaceutical sales careers are pretty much over but NOT their individual skills.

First I'd like you to take a look at the following Executive Search Company.While they do focus on C level executives, they are also actively looking for high powered sales reps and mid-level managers in key metro areas. The salaries range from $80,000 to $200,000 plus. I suggest you create a profile with them and look for careers in industries outside of pharmaceuticals. Think outside the box and don't limit the industries you want to get into. You will have less competition if you switch industries and will bring a fresh, valuable perspective to your new employer.

EXAMPLE: A close friend of mine works as the VP of Marketing for a structural connector company. What they do is manufacture and sell the connectors that are used to place lumber beams, columns and walls inside a house. Their business model is very similar to the model used by pharmaceutical companies. They have a nationwide team of sales reps who detail engineers and architects. They convince them to "spec" the connectors on their blueprints instead of their competitor. That's the extent of the sale. The contractors who buy the materials MUST use what is specified on the plans unless they want to substitute it, which occurs, but 80% of the time they buy what is on the plan and pass it on to the client.

Unlike pharmaceutical companies, the VP of Sales makes the hiring decisions on all his reps, of which there are 48 nationwide. That is how I knew that he recently hired a pharmaceutical representative to be one of his territory sales reps. The pharma rep was making a base salary of $72,000 per year and had a bonus at target of $20,000 per year. A $92,000 per year compensation.

After he was hired, this former pharma rep was offered a base salary of $80,000/year which is over a 10% increase. He received the same benefits such as company car, health insurance, 401K and was even given stock options, which he didn't have before. The best part was that his bonus is uncapped and the average bonus for a first year rep is about $30,000/year. So, in effect, this rep went from kaing $92,000 per year and being worried about layoffs to now making $110,00/year and being with a lot less stress! A terrific move if you ask me!

Please note that in order to move up in salary and bonus, you have to move outside your comfort zone. The pharma rep had no idea what a structural connector was, but he was confident in his skill sets to make that move. I urge you to expand your horizons and do the same before it's too late.


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    • profile image 

      4 years ago

      As a former pharmaceutical sales rep, who left the industry on my own, I can confirm that there is life after pharma. Based on my experience making the transition from pharma sales rep to physician liaison to physician recruiter, I started a blog that is committed to encourage, engage, equip and empower displaced or dissatisfied pharma sales reps. Pharma sales reps are uniquely qualified for a slew of professional opportunities. You just have to decide what you want to do, look for open positions, connect with the appropriate decision maker and, most importantly, sell yourself. You can Get Off the Pharm!

    • profile image 

      5 years ago

      I was told by a former rep. that she has a friend still in pharma sales who has been at 5 companies in 3 years. I think some of these folks are not realizing that opportunities exist to make a better living being self employed and using their skill set then working for a big company.

    • JRDurruthy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks Giovanni.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good points. Btw I like your photo, who is it? A pharma rep? She is beautiful!


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