This is a key question, because almost all job descriptions for pharmaceutical company roles will list a requirement of at least a few years of prior experience. But if you don’t have prior pharma experience, how can you get a job that would give you pharma experience?
The truth is that prior experience is generally not needed for the kinds of roles that would be considered ‘entry level’ physician roles in pharma. These often have titles like Associate Medical Director, Medical Advisor, or Medical Director.
I got my first job in the pharmaceutical industry without any prior pharmaceutical experience, and without any clinical research or PI experience. And I’m not a unicorn – I have many, many colleagues from all different clinical backgrounds working in all different roles at all the companies, big and small, who got their first jobs without any prior experience. It’s just normal.
Of course, it will depend a bit on the company, the size of the company, the degree of specialization within the company, and whether you’re looking at a role in R&D, safety, or medical affairs. It may depend on the urgency and speed with which they need to fill a particular role. As an obvious example, when the pharmaceutical industry began working on COVID, they likely chose seasoned professionals to do that work so they could do it well and quickly. There’s no time for onboarding and upskilling in a pandemic. But for most medicines and physician functions within pharma, there’s time to learn.
Prior experience certainly doesn’t hurt, but it is not a requirement. Companies fully expect to train employees, especially those who are new, and are applying for entry level positions.
In fact, to put a finer point on this, I’ve had multiple colleagues and bosses say things like “well, if the applicant had all of the qualifications, they’d actually be ready for a promotion” – not the entry level job!
If you know other doctors who have tried to get a job in pharma, but just keep getting rejected because they don’t have the right experience – or even if you ARE that doctor who has been trying without success – it’s not about prior pharmaceutical experience. It’s about your application, resume, and positioning. This is almost always true.
So, bottom line, you do not need prior experience to get a job as a doctor in the pharmaceutical industry. The question of how to get one has a more lengthy answer, and it is one of the reasons I’ve developed my course Industry Insider.
Understanding the most important skills you DO have, and knowing how to communicate them on your resume and in an interview – this takes some work. Developing a network that can help you also takes some work. I’ll show you how to do this in the course. Stop wasting time applying blindly, and come join me!