This question is expected from those breaking into the industry or already working in medical sales. Sales reps want to know, “Am I earning as much as my peers?” But the bigger question for many coming out of 2020 is how did the global pandemic impact medical sales salaries?
The 11th Annual MedReps Medical Sales Salary Report answers these questions.
In the spring of 2020, medical sales professionals worldwide were abruptly barred from the clinics, hospitals, and operating rooms where they conducted business every day. And while part of the industry struggled to keep up with the demand created by the COVID-19 crisis, many reps were stuck biding their time, waiting for elective surgeries and routine procedures to return to normal levels.
Naturally, concerns for the state of the industry and job security for many sales reps heightened.
What would happen to this typically ambitious and hardworking group of sales professionals who were told to “stay home”? Would their careers derail? Would their medical sales salaries plummet?
Fortunately, the 2021 Medical Sales Salary Report brings good news!
Overall medical sales salaries increased year over year by 2.64%. Most of the increase came from base salaries, so the pandemic may have hindered commissions and bonuses, but not significantly. The Medical Sales Salary Survey revealed other positive news, as well, regarding diversity in the industry, job satisfaction, and increased access to benefits. All in all, it’s still a great time to work in medical sales.
- – Despite a uniquely challenging year, average medical sales salaries increased in 2020, and both income satisfaction and job satisfaction numbers were at record highs.
- – The average income reported by women grew by 14% and took a small step toward equity. Women hold 23% of the manager or director-level jobs, increasing from 17% in the prior year.
- – The industry’s DEI efforts appear to be making an impact. The percentage of non-white respondents grew from 12% to 14%. More significantly, the percentage of management-level or higher positions held by women or People of Color increased from 29% to 42%.
- – Respondents reported more access to every benefit covered in the survey, from 401ks to unlimited PTO to paternity leave. Employers are offering more and better benefits in 2021.
About the Respondents
Nearly 2,000 employed medical sales professionals took the survey in March 2021. Consistent with years past, most work in field sales (60%) for manufacturers (77%), and a third sell medical devices. One in five work in pharma or specialty pharma sales.
Income by Company Size & Job Title
How does company size impact compensation?
Large companies of every type pay more than small and medium-sized companies. And manufacturers payout higher base salaries and commissions than distributors and service providers. This bodes well for the 50% of our respondents who work for large manufacturers.
Total compensation by employer size and type
Of course, nothing impacts medical sales salaries more than job title — medical sales income increases with responsibility. Sales managers earn an average base salary that is 40% more than the field reps they manage.
Medical sales director and VP jobs pay base salaries that are 24% more than sales managers. However, despite the extreme differences in base salaries, average commissions for all medical sales job titles listed were within a 10% range. Field reps reported the lowest average commissions at $80,704, and directors and VPs reported the highest at $89,255.
Income by Product and Market
What are the most lucrative medical products to sell?
Biotech respondents have reported the highest total compensation for the third year in a row.
However, pharma, medical supplies, and medical equipment saw the most significant year-over-year increases. This is likely due to a demand increase for specific COVID-related items, and the category as a whole may not have experienced it.
Respondents most frequently sell to the Physician, Surgery / OR, and Hospital markets. Of these, Surgery / OR is the most profitable market for sales reps. They report one of the lower base salaries but significantly higher commissions than those selling to other markets.
The Cath Lab was reported to be the most lucrative market with total compensation of $225,613, but only 3.5% of respondents cited the Cath Lab as their primary market.
Income by Age & Experience
At what age can reps expect to make the most money?
Income jumps most significantly for sales reps going into their 30s, and it is this age group earning the highest commissions. Respondents in their 40s report the highest total income, despite making a lower base salary than those in their 50s and 60s.
The totals for age align with the data on experience as well. Once you have ten years of experience under your belt (which happens for most in their 30s), additional experience doesn’t have as much impact on income as it does in earlier stages of a medical sales career.
Income by Gender & Race
How close are medical sales jobs to reaching parity?
While 2020 will largely be remembered for the pandemic, the year also saw a rise in social justice activism. Many corporations made public commitments to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI).
While a lack of diversity remains a problem in medical sales, the latest numbers show slight improvements. In the 2021 survey, 76% of respondents are white, while the 2020 data put that figure at 78%.
Women account for just 32% of the respondents (up from 31% in 2020). The total income reported by female respondents in the 2021 survey is 14% higher than it was in 2020. At $150,586, the average income reported by women is 82% of the income reported by men. This is consistent with the latest national data on female to male incomes, and it demonstrates a small step up from the 80% (of men’s earnings) reported in 2020.
Women hold 23% of management and director-level job titles in medical sales. While there is certainly room for improvement, this is up from just 16% in 2020. In this year’s survey, white men reportedly hold 58% of sales management or director-level or higher job titles — a notable decrease from 71% in 2020 data. These figures suggest the industry’s DEI efforts are making an impact.
Income by Location & Travel
How much travel is required for the highest salaries?
Respondents who travel overnight for work earn more than those who don’t. Consistent with last year’s findings, those who travel half of the time report the highest total income.
Looking at the country regionally, medical salaries do not vary significantly. Medical sales professionals in New England report the highest income, and those in the South West report the lowest.
Medical Sales Benefits
What markets offer the best benefits to medical sales reps?
Without exception, every benefit listed in the survey is offered to a higher percentage of respondents than in the previous year. This indicates that employers recognize the need to provide more if they hope to attract and retain top talent.
Income and Job Satisfaction
Do medical sales reps love their jobs?
Both job and income satisfaction increased from previous years. A tumultuous year like 2020 gave medical employers a chance to support their salespeople in ways they hadn’t needed to in the past.
From offering a consistent, competitive paycheck even when commissions weren’t readily obtainable to offering flexible schedules for caregivers to sending care packages to the team by mail, employers stepped up, and medical sales professionals noticed. As a result, despite the many challenges of the past year, medical sales professionals appear to be happier than ever.
Job Satisfaction – 82% somewhat or very satisfied with their job
37% very satisfied
45% somewhat satisfied
13% somewhat dissatisfied
5% very dissatisfied
Income Satisfaction – 78% very or somewhat satisfied with their income
28% very satisfied
50% somewhat satisfied
15% somewhat dissatisfied
7% very dissatisfied
Past & Future
In last year’s survey, most respondents (81%) predicted COVID-19 would negatively impact earnings.
Amid the national lockdown last spring, we asked respondents to predict how the unprecedented circumstances would impact the coming year’s medical sales salaries. With good reason, most medical sales representatives expected the worst.
In March of 2020, 81% said the pandemic would have a negative impact on their 2020 medical sales salaries, and half thought they would earn less than in the previous year. However, 2021 data shows just 22% of respondents earned less in 2020 than in 2019. This indicates the COVID-19 impact was not as negative as most feared.
Despite the overall increases in average salaries, 56% of respondents said COVID-19 had a negative impact on their 2020 earnings. A third of respondents said the pandemic had no impact on their earnings, and 12% said it had a positive impact.
The reported positive or negative impact largely depended on the specific products sold. Those selling Lab / Testing Services and Medical Supplies were most likely to say they saw a positive impact at a high level. Surgical device respondents were most likely to say they saw a negative impact. When digging beyond the broader product categories, it is not surprising to see that those selling respiratory devices, patient monitors, PPE, and COVID testing services reported a positive impact.
Respondents were slightly more optimistic about 2021. Less than half (42%) expect COVID-19 to have a negative impact on this year’s earnings. Respondents in this group say access to doctors and hospitals is still limited, and patients remain hesitant to move forward with elective procedures. Others point to the fact that hospitals have tighter budgets due to COVID-19, and some speculate the pandemic is to blame for the negative changes to their commission structures as employers seek ways to cut costs.
Those most likely to predict a negative impact on earnings sell Lab / Testing Services and Medical Supplies. The expectation that COVID-19 cases will decline as the year goes forward means the boost they saw in 2020 will not continue throughout 2021.
Despite valid concerns about the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the future for medical sales professionals is bright. This year’s data shows average salary increases in almost every product category. Employers are offering more and better benefits, and the overall sentiment indicates that while circumstances may be different, medical sales professionals are still finding ways to succeed.
View Previous Medical Sales Salary Reports:
- 2020 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2019 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2018 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2017 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2016 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2015 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2014 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2013 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2012 Medical Sales Salary Report
- 2011 Medical Sales Salary Report