Medical Science Liaison Career Path

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Medical Science Liaison Career Path

Medical science liaisons work behind the scenes to help pharmaceuticals conduct clinical trials. They are also known as medical representatives, drug reps, or pharmaceutical sales representatives. These people use their knowledge of medicine and drugs to inform doctors about new treatments, monitor patient progress in clinical trials, and keep track of side effects. They can be found anywhere with a doctor; hospitals, offices, schools, nursing homes. And they are always looking for ways to get the word out about their employer’s products while building trust with health care providers that may one day prescribe them.

Their job requires a diverse skill set, including working with doctors, building relationships, market new products, and being an expert in pharmaceuticals or medical devices.  A bachelor’s degree is also required for this position and solid writing skills. This article will explore how to break into this profession and what else you need to do to succeed!

1. Who Are Medical Science Liaisons?

Medical science liaisons are medical professionals who work with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to help them develop products. A liaison’s job is to understand the company’s needs and its customers, such as physicians or patients; maintain relationships with those groups; and provide information about their organization that will be useful for developing new drugs, devices, etc. Liaisons also promote their company’s products by providing scientific presentations on behalf of the company at conferences, meetings, or other events. The primary responsibility is to collect feedback from physicians and patients to identify unmet needs, which can then be addressed by research programs within the company or through collaboration with academic institutions and other partners. A successful liaison has excellent communication skills, can develop business relationships with customers and key opinion leaders, possesses strong project management skills, can manage tight deadlines appropriately, is highly organized, and can prioritize tasks.

2. What Are the Main Phases of a Medical Science Liaison Career?

The stages in a medical science liaison career include:

  1. -Scientist with a degree in medicine, osteopathy, or veterinary medicine
  2. -Pharmaceutical sales representative
  3. -Medical science liaison trainee
  4. -Entry-level medical science liaison
  5. -Senior medical science liaison
  6. -Director of clinical affairs/medical research company (senior management position)

3. How to Become a Medical Science Liaison?

Becoming an MSL requires scientific training, including an advanced degree (PharmD/MD) or equivalent experience, pharmaceutical industry experience, and clear communication skills. Many companies also value business abilities, such as cost-effectiveness analysis, negotiation, and budgeting skills.

Completion of at least an undergraduate degree is required for most positions as a medical science liaison. Depending on the company, some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor’s degree, though most positions will require extensive experience in related fields such as healthcare or drug development. Some positions may require a graduate degree such as an MSL program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Medical science liaisons typically have a background in science or healthcare, though some non-traditional roles are available for those with other relevant skills, such as marketing. The position is an integral part of any pharma marketing team since they must determine how to get a new drug or device approved.

4. Courses One Can Pursue to Get Started with Their Career as MSL

There are a number of courses one can pursue to get started with their career as a Medical Science Liaison.

The American Association for Medical Science Liaisons pointed out that MSLs have traditionally been drawn from scientific backgrounds such as pharmacy or medicine, but that is not always the case. In addition to science-related degree programs, many MSLs have come from other fields and used transferable skills like marketing and business analysis to make their mark in this crucial field. A few notable examples include:

1) Toni Landesman, who came from the fashion industry and became Vice President of Global Marketing at Pfizer; 2) Bruce Perens was an entrepreneur before he became Chief Executive Officer of Pharmaceutical Product Development at the National Institutes of Health; and 3) Michael Shuster, who began his career as a management consultant before becoming Director of Medical Affairs at GlaxoSmithKline.

With the growing importance of the role, there are more opportunities for professionals from all backgrounds to become MSLs. For example, an MSL degree program will provide you with the necessary skills and training to become an MSL.

There are also graduate programs such as those offered by Johns Hopkins University or Loyola University Chicago’s College of Pharmacy, designed to provide strong science background and prepare graduates for clinical development and regulatory affairs positions.

Alternatively, some companies offer on-the-job training for new hires in the field. PhRMA also recently introduced an e-learning program to provide pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with training on the role of an MSL.

Regardless of your background or experience, you can find a position as an MSL. Two great ways to get started are building your scientific knowledge through continuing education and gaining relevant experience working in another field.

5. Best Colleges for Medical Science Liaison Education

This profession has grown rapidly over the last decade or so due to increasing demand for qualified individuals with expertise in both medicine and business development including salesmanship skills. This is why there are now many colleges offering graduate degrees specifically focused on training students how to become Medical Science Liaisons.

Here are some of the best colleges for medical science liaison education:

University of Texas

– Stanford

– Ohio State University

– Duke University

– Columbia University

– Johns Hopkins University

6. What Skills Does a Medical Science Liaison Need?

Medical science liaisons typically have skills that include good writing ability, the ability to synthesize technical information into layman’s terms, compassion for patients with particular diseases or conditions, and strong computer skills.

To be effective in this field, liaisons must also have excellent interpersonal communication abilities so they can effectively work with people from many different backgrounds with diverse levels of understanding. Many liaisons also have experience in medical or healthcare-related work, which can be beneficial to helping them understand their audience.

Some other skills MSL must have:

  • Able to communicate effectively in verbal and written English.
  • Ability to work collaboratively in multi-discipline teams within geographically dispersed locations.
  • Strong leadership skills with demonstrated ability to motivate teams to achieve goals.
  • High level of computer literacy, including advanced Excel and PowerPoint skills, web research abilities.

7. Duties and Responsibilities of Medical Science Liaison

  • Provide customers with the latest clinical trial information
  • Maintain relationships with clients by tracking projects and communicating on updates
  • Responsible for leading complex interactions between company, trials sites, vendors, investigators, participants.
  • Collaborate with project managers and team members on site audits, updating clinical trial master file and ensure compliance across all sites.
  • Responsible for managing outside vendor relationships to meet customer’s needs.
  • Maintain relationship with key investigator sites to assure proper conduct of trials and timely completion of data.
  • Able to travel 1-2 days per week (domestic and international)

8. Salary of Medical Science Liaison Professionals

Earnings for most Medical Science Liaison professionals range from $68,000 to $137,000 with a median pay of $$103, 400. Specifically, it all depends on where they are located and if they have any higher degrees which would provide more opportunities for high-salary positions.

For example in the United States, the earning range is between $70,000 to $120,000 with an average of $95,900. You can see that there are higher-paying positions in California where you could earn up to 120k while still in the US earning 90-100 k is common.

However when it comes to Europe the most common range would be £39,000 to £54,000 with a median of £44,200. Even though in the UK you could earn up to 54k this is a rare case and most often salaries are around 40-45 k.

In Asia, Medical Science Liaison professionals’ salary ranges from ¥2 million to ¥3.5 million with a median salary of ¥2.5 million, which translates to around $25,000 – 40,000.

9. How Do I Get the Right Experience for a Medical Science Liaison Job?

The medical science liaison is a job that requires experience and expertise. The first step to getting the right kind of experience for this position is determining what you want to do, whether it be in pharmaceuticals or healthcare. You should also try to find an internship or volunteer opportunity where you can work with people who have these interests as well. This will help give you insight into how your responsibilities would fit into their day-to-day life and how they might benefit from your knowledge and skillset.

Your resume should detail all of the relevant skills and qualifications that make you a good candidate for this position like scientific research, laboratory procedures, quality assurance protocols, regulatory compliance standards etcetera. Your resume should also include any previous work experience; even if it wasn’t in a lab environment, previous jobs can show a potential employer that you have experience working with people. Even customer service or fast food industry jobs give you good interpersonal skills and put you ahead of other applicants who lack these experiences.

10. Do I Need a Ph.D. to Become a Medical Science Liaison?

Is a Ph.D. required to become a medical science liaison? The answer is not always, but usually. It depends on the job you are applying for. For example, if you want to work in hospital research and development then it might be necessary that you have an advanced degree in biomedical sciences or engineering. If your goal is to work with pharmaceutical companies then typically at least an undergraduate degree in life sciences will help get the attention of potential employers. Finally, if you’re looking into public relations/communications roles within healthcare organizations – this would also require some sort of undergraduate education background in biology or chemistry because these types of positions are more focused on communications rather than scientific exploration.

11. What Kinds of Job Can a Medical Science Liaison Apply for?

A medical science liaison can apply for the following jobs:

  1. – Clinical research associate
  2. – Medical writer
  3. – Medical communications manager
  4. – Science information specialist
  5. – Publication planner
  6. – Scientific relations manager
  7. – Regulatory specialist
  8. – Medical science liaison (MSL)

12. What Is the Difference Between a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative and a Medical Science Liaison?

The main difference between pharmaceutical sales representatives and MSLs is who they represent. Pharmaceutical companies employ sales reps to promote the company’s products directly to prescribing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, etc. An MSL represents the company to its customers but does not directly interact with patients or physicians.

13. What Is the Difference Between a Medical Science Liaison and a Clinical Research Associate?

The main difference between MSLs and CRA’s is that Pharmaceutical companies employ mSLsPharmaceutical companies employ mass to promote the company’s products directly to prescribing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, etc. Academic institutions employ clinical research associated academic institutions employ clinical research associates for clinical trials or other forms of clinical research.


MSLs are vital members of the drug development team. With their extensive knowledge, the liaison ensures all the stakeholders understand their roles in developing a safe and effective product, thus ensuring that trials are completed on time with positive results.

The MSL Career Path as a Medical Science Liaison is as unique as the individual. If you are interested in this career path, do further research to determine if it fits your interests and goals. It’s also important to consider the other aspects of a medical science liaison’s job, such as working with people from industry and academia.

While the opportunities to work in health care are great, you should consider your qualifications and interests before jumping into a new career. Conducting thorough research will show you the most effective way to get started with your career as Medical Science Liaison. Good luck!!

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