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Do You Need Certifications for a Pharma Sales Career?

Are you considering a position in pharmaceutical sales? If so, you likely are wondering if there are any additional certifications that can help make you a stand-out applicant. Discover the best certifications for pharma sales reps, learn how they can help you break into the industry and find out if you really need them in our comprehensive guide.

Setting Yourself Above the Pack

If you want to break into pharmaceutical sales, recognize that it is a fast-paced and rapidly growing industry. While breaking into the multibillion-dollar sales industry can be great financially, it also allows many individuals to help match their skills by providing valuable tools to increase the health and wellness of the communities around them. 

While it is possible to get into pharmaceutical sales without any degrees or certifications, it also means that you’ll most likely only be considered for entry-level positions. Instead, if you’re looking to work in some of the most rewarding positions, you’ll have to put in the legwork to get yourself there. 

Many companies require their entry-level sales representatives to have at least one year of sales experience, particularly in the B2B (Business to Business) market. This allows sales reps to understand how they can position sales pitches and presentations in front of clients to effectively answer their pain points. However, while many sales positions may not advertise additional requirements, having them can help get you to the front of the line. 

Here are a few of the most valuable certifications you can seek to set yourself up for success in the pharmaceutical sales industry. 

CNPR Certification

The National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives is one of the largest organizations in the United States to help develop the skills and knowledge of current and hopeful pharma sales reps. Of the training they offer, the most popular is the CNPR certification. This course takes students between 60 to 80 hours to complete and covers various topics that are critical for sales reps in any pharmaceutical industry to understand. Some of the topics include: 

  • Pharmacology
  • Medical terminology
  • Drug efficacy
  • Selling guidelines
  • Detailing physicians
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Physiology
  • Regulations for selling

Additionally, the training is offered at a variety of colleges and universities so that you can gain valuable in-person training to help answer your questions directly. This training is designed for entry-level sales representatives to give them a foundational understanding of the issues they’ll face every day in their careers. 

PRC Training – Pharmaceutical Representative Certification

This training is designed for prospective and current pharmaceutical sales representatives who want to build on their knowledge. This certification requires the completion of ten modules before being allowed to sit for the final test. The modules are:

  • Medical Terminology & Abbreviations
  • FDA Laws & Regulations Related to Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing
  • Principles of Pharmacoeconomics
  • Introduction to Opioid Use for Pharmaceutical Industry Professionals
  • Basic Principles in Pharmacology
  • Anatomical & Physiological Effects of Drugs
  • Prevention of Prescription Drug Fraud and Abuse
  • Analyzing Peer-Reviewed Literature on Pharmacological Treatments
  • Comparison of Therapeutic Drug Classes
  • High-Value Selling

Once you have completed this online course, you can utilize the PRC credential professionally, adding it to your list of certifications and including it in your title. 

College Degrees

While there are organizations and online companies that specialize in certifications for pharmaceutical sales, there are also colleges and universities that offer certificates and degrees tailored to meet the needs of pharmaceutical sales representatives. Some of these include the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the University of Florida, and medical sales colleges. 

In addition to online and in-person college courses, there are also offerings from the Accreditation Council for Medical Sales (ACMS) and the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP). 

All of these options, except for NASP, require a prerequisite of a Bachelor’s Degree or pertinent sales experience. The NASP does not have prerequisites for its program. 

Finding the Right Fit for You

Identifying which approach is the best certification avenue to meet your needs can take additional research. Several factors should come into play as you find the best option. Earning your certification often requires a high cost, both financially and in terms of time investment, including in-class hours and study time. Each certification has specific benefits that may make it the best fit for you, but identifying the characteristics of each that will fit your needs is critical.

When looking at pharmaceutical sales, start with your existing knowledge and background. If you have significant experience, looking specifically at higher-level programs or graduate-level courses could offer you the most reward. However, if you don’t have direct experience, these courses could be wasted, as you won’t have the base-level knowledge you need.

Cost is another significant factor for many certifications. Costs for certifications range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. If you are just trying to launch your sales career, it may be more feasible to begin with, a course that has a lower bar of entry. However, it is important to consider getting what you pay for. More expensive courses offer additional support through in-person instruction, thoughtful lesson plans, and higher-level care for their students. 

If you’re considering a certification course, you should also try to identify some of the resources you’ll gain once you have achieved certification. Some locations will help to match graduates with pharmaceutical sales recruiters or companies that desperately need your skills to help get their products where they are needed. Ask about job placement percentages of graduates from a course. Additionally, look closely to ensure that people are being placed in positions related to the skills they have gained through certification. 

Finally, if you’re looking to gain a real leg up on the competition, consider enlisting the help of professionals once you’ve finished your certification to get matched with the best companies at the most competitive rates. You can do this by looking for jobs on an industry-specific job board like MedReps. MedReps helps match employees’ skills with companies that need them. 50% of employees who use MedReps’ services report getting a face-to-face interview, and 1 in 5 get a job offer in their field.