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How Much Money Do Pharmaceutical Sales Reps Make?

Updated on July 11, 2012
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Pharmaceutical Sales Salary


A pharmaceutical sales representative educates and distributes their company's products to physicians, doctors, dentists, nurses, and medical technicians. They also develop and establish relationships with new customers on the health field to sell their legal drugs. Many require a 4 year degree in addition to at least 2 years of experience in the related sales field.

You may have heard that a career as a sales rep for pharmaceutical companies is lucrative and can be financially rewarding. Well you are right!

The average pharmaceutical sales rep’s salary can vary greatly due to company, state, experience, education and benefits.

The US national median base salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep is $60,248 according to Salary.com. The mean base salary plus bonus is $78,913. The average salary report does not include additional perks such as company car, gas card, car insurance, and cell phone, which can add up to $30,000 a year.


Breakdown of the national salary

Base pay: $60,248

Bonuses: $18,663

Perks: $30,000

Total compensation: $108,911

A typical company car (Volvo) from Merk Pharmaceutical.
A typical company car (Volvo) from Merk Pharmaceutical. | Source


Highest Paying Companies:

  • Eisai-Japan with a range of $60K to $125K, average $102,667

  • AstraZeneca $45K to $112K, average $91,500

  • Proctor & Gamble $62 to $99K, average $80,250

Mid-Paying Companies:

  • Pfizer rep makes a range of $50K to $115K, with the average rep making $74,147

  • Eli Lily rep makes $50K to $116K, average $69,391

Lowest Paying Companies:

  • inVentive $40K to $73K, average $50,700

Salary report taken from Glassdoor.com. For a comprehensive listing of all the pharmaceutical companies, refer to Glassdoor.com .


Do you have what it takes to break into the pharmaceutical sales industry? Learn tips from someone who's "Been there, done that."

Generous Perks of a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Position!


  • Full health and dental benefits
  • Company car, free car insurance, gas card
  • 401K / 403B
  • Life and disability insurance
  • Retirement plan
  • Profit sharing
  • Free cell phone
  • Paid Time Off (Vacation)
  • Office supplies for your home office (you can also deduct home office related expenses during tax season)
  • Company expense meals and travel with clients.
  • Other rewards include expense paid trips, contests, recognition, and referral bonuses.

Bonus and Commission Structure


Each pharmaceutical company has a different bonus structure for their sales force. Some companies have a cap on their bonus payout per year, while other companies, such as Henry Schein, do not have a cap.

With an unlimited bonus structure, sales reps have the opportunity to earn a bonus that can be worth more than their base salary! This is something you should consider when applying for a position, especially if you are in your mid-career.

Some companies give their employees extra incentives for their hard work by paying a higher bonus. For example, if a rep exceeds their target goals of over 100%, they can get paid an extra couple of thousands on top of their bonus. Of course if there is a cap on their bonus payout, this does not apply.

When compared to medical equipment sales, the commission structure of a pharmaceutical company is different. The base salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep is generally higher than a medical sales rep, however the overall potential commission is higher for a medical device sales rep.

A pharmaceutical sales rep’s commission is based on the number of prescriptions that physicians write out to their patients. The doctors are not actually purchasing products directly from reps. As for medical device sales, they get the incentives directly based on the equipment that they sell.


Pharmaceutical Sales Salary Varies by Location


The average salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep also varies according to the location that he or she works in. Obviously with higher living expenses in certain cities, the salary is expected to be higher than the national average.

For a complete listing of salary average by a specific state and city, check out Pharmaceuticalsalesrepsalary.com and enter in your zip code.

  • San Francisco, CA The average salary for Pharmaceutical Sales in San Francisco, California is $95,427. Range $86,335 to $123,336. Note that the salary is higher than the national average. The cost of living in San Francisco is 46% higher than the national average.
  • Houston, TX The average salary for Pharmaceutical Sales in Houston, Texas is $48,278. Range: $39,759 to $56,798.
  • New York, NY The average salary for Pharmaceutical Sales in New York, New York is $96,741. Range: $79,669 to $113,813.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I always suspected this to be true but your hub confirms that suspicion. Pretty darn good money if you ask me. Great hub, nicely researched and written.

    • Media Magnate Mom profile image

      Media Magnate Mom 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      This just confirms I chose the wrong field. Then again, I'm horrible at math and science. ;) Another awesome and informative hub. Interesting and voted up!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      I know a person who's a pharmaceutical rep. They have two big huge homes. I know they didn't inherit money. I would say he makes good money.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Billy and moonlake- It is a pretty good salary indeed...but they do have to work hard too. I'd say those two homes are well-deserved. Thanks for stopping by guys.

      Media Magnate Mom- a good background in science is preferred, but you don't have to be a genius at math. ;-) Thanks for voting!

    • Cody Blum profile image

      Cody Blum 5 years ago from Hilo, Hawaii

      Did you know that back in the 1930s one company that you're talking about, Eli Lily, produced standardized extracts of Cannabis Indica (Marijuana).... the good ol' days when marijuana wasn't this taboo thing. If you want to learn more please read my hub on the Marijuana Prohibition!!!

    • profile image

      Rakesh khan 5 years ago

      Hello, Is any one there who will be able to help me finding out job in US AS medical rep. I have 10 months experience in india

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Rakesh, it's good that you've obtained some experience from your country. As with any other candidate, you still have to go through the rigorous application process. Refer to my other article on "How to Become a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep."

      My best advice to you is to contact a RECRUITER who specializes in this industry, since you probably don't have any network connections here in the US. Best of luck to you!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Hey Cody, thanks for sharing! I read your article...it's quite interesting!

    • monicamelendez profile image

      monicamelendez 4 years ago from Salt Lake City

      My buddy Trevor makes over $150,000 as a pharmaceutical sales rep. He's a total stud though.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      This can be a lucrative field. I have a friend who was in the biz for years and did well..However, the nature of the industry has changed.. especially marketing. You have to be acomputer whiz...

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