skyscrapers in the city
Breaking into Medical Sales Featured

5 Types of Medical Sales Jobs to Know About

So, you’ve decided to pursue a career in medical sales? Congratulations! Medical sales jobs are considered both satisfying and gratifying.

If you’re like many job seekers hoping to break into the industry, you’re excited to find and apply for medical sales jobs, but you get immediately stuck at the job boards. The results show enticing jobs for a qualified “surgical sales rep,” “pharmaceutical sales rep,” and other classifications you’ve never heard or admittedly know too little about. 

Scrolling through medical sales jobs can become overwhelming fast. You have your college degree, like the job qualifications require. You feel confident in your soft skills and transferable experience. But if you didn’t specialize in any kind of medical background, even the word “pharmaceutical” feels daunting. 

In reality, NOT all “medical sales jobs” are the same, and they absolutely do not all require you to have a vast understanding of life sciences. 

There are many different medical sales industry roles. While each kind of medical sales job title is somewhat self-explanatory, you need to have more information on each market segment. Only knowing the product you could sell isn’t enough for you to make the right choices in your medical sales job search. 

That’s why we put together a summary of each medical sales industry category to help you find your perfect job fit: 


Before we jump into the distinction, let’s address what skills all aspiring medical sales reps must have in common. 

Interpersonal skills

Recruiters for medical sales jobs consider interpersonal skills mandatory. As it is a sales position, you’ll need to connect with current and new customers, build a rapport, and consistently engage them. 

Lots of travel time

Multiple factors determine the extent of your travel time: the size of your territory, the locations of most loyal customers, your company’s approach to remote work, etc. But everyone in field sales is guaranteed to travel at some point. 

Company loyalty

In 2021, all categories of medical sales jobs we watch at MedReps (except for biotechnology sales) demonstrated a significant leap in commission earning after two to five years of experience. Thus, reps with more experience and a strong reputation at their company are likely to have the highest commissions. 

Staying up-to-date on industry research

In these positions, sales reps need to know their products inside and out. That means having a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the industry, the competitors, and health research. 

Surgical sales

Background on surgical sales reps: 

  • Most of their time is spent with customers in the OR.
  • They focus on products that would satisfy customers’ current needs, so there is less emphasis on what may benefit them in the future.
  • These reps handle more negotiations than others. They must discuss both price and service agreements. 

How to know if this position is for you: 

Reps in this field must be able to think fast on their feet. If customers insist on a product you’re trying to sell that wouldn’t help them at the moment, think of ways they can apply it that they haven’t thought of yet. 

These reps need to stand firm without pushing too hard. With all the necessary negotiations, individuals who are too abrasive may lose customers. However, giving too much ground would also backfire. Successful reps find a happy medium, and avoid being a people pleaser. 

A medical sales job in surgical sales requires reps to talk about surgery. The best fit for this position would be able to discuss surgical practices in detail. 

Pharmaceutical sales

Background on pharmaceutical sales reps:

  • They sell primarily to physicians and hospitals. 
  • Their customers will likely never use the products themselves; they prescribe it for their patients’ well-being. 

How to know if this position is for you: 

Since the doctors will not use these tools themselves, reps in this role must vividly explain how the product works, which ailments it treats best and why, and the drawbacks of the side effects. 

Healthcare practitioners cannot be experts on every new drug on the market, so they must have confidence in medical sales reps ‘ expertise. You must have a strong understanding of new developments related to various products—for example, further research on side effects and new findings on the ailments each product treats as well as differences between your drug and competitors’.  The average salary for an entry-level pharmaceutical sales rep is $87,653.

Here’s what a day in the life of a pharmaceutical sales rep is like.

Medical equipment sales

Background on medical equipment sales:

  • The keyword when it comes to medical equipment sales is variety. 
  • Individuals in these medical sales jobs have the opportunity to sell a wide variety of products (like IV stands, hospital beds, and blood pressure cuffs).
  • They sell to multiple types of customers: OR, hospital, physicians, and laboratory.

How to know if this position is for you: 

Since medical equipment deals with more general supplies, it requires a lower need for you to have an in-depth understanding of biology and other life sciences. The use of each product must still be made clear, but the details are generally quicker to learn than other markets, such as pharmaceutical sales. 

These reps must be the most adaptable. With selling so many types of products to a variety of clients, you have to vary your sales pitches. Additionally, you have to appeal to several audiences while still coming across as authentic. Repeating one script on the product to everyone you talk to isn’t going to close deals in medical equipment sales. Medical equipment sales reps can earn up to $95,057 with less than two-years’ experience.

Medical device sales

Background on medical device sales: 

  • How are medical devices different from medical equipment? They’re more specialized to treat patients. Artificial joints and pacemakers are the kinds of products reps sell in these medical sales jobs. 
  • Their customers are experts in a specialized medical field (cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, etc), and they have a thorough understanding of what they need from medical devices. 

How to know if this position is a good fit: 

Reps in this role would benefit from a medical or technical background. Customers will quickly lose confidence in the product if the representative cannot answer their questions or keep up with their understanding of how the device is used. 

Since customers know what they’re looking for in regards to specific patient needs, they are likely to challenge reps on how their device differs from the competition. In this role, you can expect to accept these challenges without coming across as defensive and spend a lot of time learning about competitors and best practices. Like medical equipment sales reps, those working in medical device sales  can earn up to $95,057 with less than two-years’ experience.

Similar to surgical sales reps, individuals in medical device sales cannot be squeamish about graphic subjects related to their products. 

Biotechnology sales

Background on biotechnology sales: 

  • Many consider these reps to be specialized pharmaceutical reps. 
  • They are in a similar sales situation, as they sell primarily to hospitals and physicians, and their customers will not use the product themselves. 

How to know if this position is a good fit: 

Reps in biotechnology absolutely must have a thorough understanding of life sciences. That training is necessary to fully understand what it is you’re selling, how it works, and in what ways it would benefit customers and their patients. 

These sales reps must also be the most patient. Since there is no guarantee their customers will have a deep understanding of how biotechnology works, they must be prepared to answer any questions in depth but in a way that translates clearly to anyone, and follow up quickly with answers to any questions they cannot produce immediately.

Biotech sales reps with less than two years of experience can earn up to $155,867 including commissions.

Determining which type of sales is best for you

With all of the different types of medical sales available, people get to pick which field they think best suits them. For example, if they are the squeamish sort, then pharmaceutical sales might be best, while those with more experience in the general medical field, such as in cardiology, might find that medical equipment is a better fit. No matter the specialty, there are plenty of options to choose from, all of which are fairly compensated with both a base salary and commissions.