How Do I Become a Pharmacy Sales Rep?

Discover how to get into pharmaceutical sales. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Sales Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pharmacy Sales Rep?

Pharmacy sales reps represent pharmaceutical companies or pharmacies that are trying to sell certain pharmaceutical products. For instance, those representing pharmaceutical companies may encourage pharmacies to carry a particular product. Those representing pharmacies may also encourage doctors to prescribe the drugs they carry. Representatives form these business relationships by contacting or visiting potential clients to show off their products and answer questions. They may also exhibit innovative pharmaceutical drugs at conferences. If a client pharmacy agrees to carry a certain product, the pharmacy sales rep negotiates and writes up a sales contract and submits it for processing.

The table below list some key career facts about pharmacy sales reps.

Requirements for a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep

Degree Required Bachelor's (preferred)
Education Field of Study Scientific, medical or technical
Certification Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR)
Key Responsibilities Build relationships with pharmacists and physicians, research the needs of consumers and represent pharmaceutical companies
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 5% (sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing, of technical and scientific products)
Median Salary (2018)* $79,680 (sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing, of technical and scientific products)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Will I Need to Become a Pharmacy Sales Representative?

When preparing to become a sales rep, you may want to pursue a bachelor's degree program. Though not mandatory, the pharmaceutical industry tends to hire candidates with a college education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( A strong background in science can help you as you become accustomed to the medical industry. Additionally, coursework in other fields, such as economics, marketing and communications, may be helpful as well.

In some circumstances, you might be able to acquire an entry-level position by only having sales experience and a high school diploma or its equivalent. Regardless of your academic background, companies may put you through a product-specific or sales training once you begin employment. This training can include seminars or supervised on-the-job training.

What Can I Do to Prepare for the Job?

You can earn optional certification through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPR), which offers the Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) designation ( To prepare for the certification exam, you can complete the CNPR training available through the organization's correspondence option or at more than 300 colleges and universities. The certification program and test focus on medical knowledge, pharmacology laws and sales skills. Obtaining the certification can show prospective employers that you have attained the fundamental knowledge needed for success as a pharmaceutical sales rep.

What Will I Learn in the Training Program?

The CNPR training program provides you with entry pharmaceutical sales training, covering areas in both sales and science. Potential areas of study include:

  • Medical and pharmaceutical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Clinical trials
  • Drug sampling
  • Selling techniques
  • Federal regulations

What Can I Expect from the Exam?

Within two hours, you must complete the test. You'll need to answer 160 multiple-choice questions within this time period. Though you can use your training manual when taking the test, NAPR encourages you to become thoroughly familiar with it and adequately prepare before taking the test since you'll have an average of 40 seconds to answer each question.

CNPR Certification Cost

The pharmaceutical sales certification cost can vary depending on the products and materials you purchase for training. On the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives' website in 2019, training packages can range from $125 to $375. These can include quizzes, the CNPR examination, a training manual, and an NAPSR membership.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a pharmacy sales rep, you could become a sales representative for a company that makes non-technical goods, like food. For instance, as a representative for a food company, you might try to convince grocery stores or restaurants to sell or use a particular food item. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. Alternatively, if you are interested in pharmaceutical chemistry, you could get a job as a chemical technician in an industrial or academic lab that develops drugs to treat diseases. For this job, you need to have at least an associate's degree.

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