Do you need another degree to get a nonclinical job in pharma?

A lot of people think that physician jobs in pharma must require additional degrees. Some think you need an MBA to get a job in pharma. Others think you might need an MPH, PharmD, or something more than your medical degree to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry. This is a very common misconception. Just as it is not necessary to have prior experience to get started with a physician career in pharma, you do not need an additional degree or other formal training to get a nonclinical job as a doctor in pharma.


Why don’t you need another degree to get a job in pharma?  There are a few important reasons.


First, the organization fully expects to train you. They will teach you what you need to know. This is true even as pharmaceutical physicians get promoted or move to other companies. As you advance, there is always more to learn, and therefore, always a bit of on-the-job training. This may be called ‘onboarding’ or ‘upskilling’ or ‘development’ – either way, the company, and your boss, and your colleagues expect you to need help and time to learn the job.


Second, while pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies are indeed businesses, you are being hired because you are a doctor. That means you know the experience of being a physician in our healthcare system. You know how to think like a doctor. You know how other doctors think. You are peers with other physicians, including the ones the pharma company considers to be “key opinion leaders”. So even though you will develop your business savvy as your pharmaceutical career progresses, you are not being hired to do a ‘business’ job. The company is already full of people with business degrees. They need physician expertise in certain roles within the company, and that’s where you come in.


It is fine if you have another degree, but that might not even help you stand out from other candidates when applying for a physician job in pharma. Even among some of the top medical leaders in major organizations, MBAs are not very common. If a pharma physician leader does have an MBA, there’s a good chance they got it after they had been working in the pharmaceutical industry for several years. The company may have even paid for it! So, don’t set out to get another degree if your goal is to land a nonclinical job as a doctor in pharma. You don’t need it, and it won’t necessarily even help.


What about other training? Sure, there are some small things you can do to educate yourself more on the drug development process. This will not only make your transition easier, but it also shows firm interest and dedication on your resume. This is in contrast to doctors who apply for pharma jobs on a whim, but haven’t really done any homework. So, you can get some certifications, but again, you don’t need them, and you certainly don’t need to have them before you begin your job search.


What kinds of small things are we talking about? This depends on the kind of role you are seeking. We talk about it in my course Industry Insider. If you’ve been thinking about going back to school first, so you can get a job in pharma – STOP. You’re doing the wrong things, or at least in the wrong order. Come join me in the course to find out what you really DO need to do to get the results you want!


Get first dibs when enrollment opens.