Breaking into Medical Sales Job Search

Ask Linda: Can I Break Into Medical Device Sales upon College Graduation?

Written by Linda Hertz, medical sales recruiter, career blogger, and founder of the Linda Hertz Group.

Hi Linda,  I’d like to explain to you my situation, so the question comes off more clear and precise. I’m a 21-year-old college student that is double majoring in sales/marketing. My freshmen year of college, I was striving to become an ER nurse, but changed directions the following year. I went into business, but knowing how competitive and social I am, I decided on sales. I reached out to any and all medical device sales reps that I could possibly reach (15+) of all different companies. Finally, I caught a massive break and was brought on board as an employee of a global medical device company.

I’m working alongside and getting mentored by a very accomplished manager in his distributorship. So for a year and a half now, I’ve been getting firsthand knowledge and hands-on experience within this extraordinary field. I’ve marketed out to tons of neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and podiatrists to try and schedule a lunch for my manager and me to attend on the hope of opening more new accounts. I attend every and all lunches I schedule and have had the opportunity to speak with surgeons pertaining to our product– which is a bone growth stimulator. I have gone to over 30 patients homes to individually fit them with the bone growth stimulator along with educating them on the device. I too have experienced a conference for advanced technology among new scientific studies for my company. With all this being said, I’ve done just about everything a medical device sales rep does on a daily basis, except being in an OR room as our product is not used during surgery.

My question is, with all of this experience that will equal 2 years by the time I graduate this upcoming year, would I be able to apply to a big company such as Stryker, or Medtronic and have a real chance of really being considered for the position? Given that my age will be 22, I will have a bachelor’s degree with a 3.65 accumulated GPA, and 2 years of hands-on experience in this field, would I be a serious candidate compared to someone older than me and only having B2B sales experience? Thank you so much for taking the time to read all of this. I hope to hear back from you!!


Thank you, Derek, for your question. As I understand it, you have worked in more of a sales support function for a medical device company. You mentioned that you are perhaps working for a person who owns a distributorship. If that is the case, they would be distributing products for a medical device manufacturer, and they have the rights to resell the product or services the product provides. In addition, the type of product you mentioned, bone stimulation, is a product that is sold to or marketed to patients via Physician offices directly (as you mentioned neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and podiatrists).

It appears you are conducting sales support activities vs. responsible for selling the products to the doctors by yourself and making a commission. That is all great experience, but it is tough to compete for openings at the Medtronics and Strykers (top-tier companies) with just that background. Further, the positions they have would be assigned your own territory, and are looking for candidates with a solid B2B sales background — usually with 3 to 5 years outside sales experience. Further, most of these jobs, if they do accept B2B background, minimally require it WITH top President Sales Awards. That said, there still are other ways to utilize your excellent work experience to build into those type of positions upon graduation!


  •  Apply for Associate Medical Device Sales Positions: These positions do require 1 to 3 years of outside sales experience, and yes, they prefer medical sales background people, but they may just give you a break since you have been in a sales support position with bone stimulators. I went to Stryker’s Career Portal just now and found an Associate Sales Opening in the Spine Division posted and this is their background requirement (note the minimum is 1 year in an outside sales role, and they may be willing to accept your background as equivalent or even bring you in-house first in an inside sales capacity first):
    • From Stryker Associate Sales (Spine Division) actual job post:“Education & Qualifications • University Degree – B.B.A. or B.A in business with an emphasis in marketing or health-related discipline, Science, Kinesiology. • 1-3 years in an outside sales position (medical related fields is preferable) • Internal applicants with an equivalent combination of education, experience, and performance over time at Stryker will be considered”
  • Apply to Second Tier Medical Device Companies for an entry level sales job BUT you must make sure they have at least 4 things or walk away:

1) a solid formal sales training program (one that is at least 2 to 3 weeks long that includes customer needs based training and preferably administered by a third party like Integrity Selling Program or equivalent);

2) assigned your own territory with 100 percent responsibility for all sales into that territory;

3) sales rankings provided and top sales awards (like a President Awards) and lastly;

4) the company is a medical device sales manufacturer, not a medical distributor.

  • Break Into Medical Device Sales via the B2B sales route with a top tier company we suggest (please follow the links I have inserted throughout this reply so that you can see more specifics from my older articles), BUT I feel that this route should be your last resort given your current medical sales experience.

You have worked hard for your degree while working in the industry you desire, and I applaud you for what you have accomplished Derek! I suggest using that same desire, self-direction and fortitude to use approach number one above and search through every medical device manufacturer that offers an Associate Sales Position or even possibly an Inside Sales Position that has a direct career path to be promoted to an Associate Sales or even Outside Sales Role.

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