For nearly all medical device companies, a bachelor’s degree is an essential minimum job requirement. The customers you will sell to will be well-educated, and you need to be also. Becoming a successful medical sales representative involves studying a lot of complex technical and clinical information. Having a degree demonstrates that you are capable of learning the product information you’ll need to know in order to be successful in this field.
I’ve written before about the top 10 degrees I recommend if you want to break into medical device sales. This is still a pretty good list. You can pursue either a business-related degree or one that is science or health related, depending on your interests. Whichever route you take, you can still maximize your electives to gain knowledge that is complimentary to your degree.
Here is a short list of helpful courses you should consider taking, no matter what your major:
1. Anatomy & Physiology – 2 semesters if possible
2. Professional Selling
3. Medical Terminology
4. Courses in finance
5. Courses in communications or public speaking
If you don’t have a degree in an ideal major, you aren’t necessarily doomed. However, being able to demonstrate you have a clear cut career path in mind, starting in college, definitely works in your favor.
While getting your degree, do what ever you can to minimize the amount of student loan you take on. If you are lucky enough to find a sales associate position in medical device sales right out of school, it’s likely that it won’t pay a whole lot. There is a long learning curve in medical device sales, and sometimes it takes two or more years to start seeing substantial rewards. I have interviewed entry-level candidates in the past who have had to forgo their dream job in favor of one with more immediate payoff, because of looming student loan payments.
My son is in high school, so this subject is top of mind for me. A great book on the subject of minimizing or eliminating college debt is Debt Free U by Zac Bissonnette. He cites two studies that demonstrate how student loans influence many students to choose a higher paying jobs over ones that offer greater career satisfaction. While medical device sales offers great long-term financial prospects, you may have to first “pay your dues”. In order to do so, you need to preserve the flexibility to seize an good opportunity to break into the industry when it comes your way. Even if you might make less starting out, the long-term rewards may be much greater.
Because sales people must negotiate deals and are often responsible for significant inventory dollars, it’s never too soon to learn how to handle money responsibly. Many companies do credit checks as part of the background check on a new hire. You don’t want irresponsible spending in your college years (or at any point) to turn into a barrier either.
If you are further along in life and lacking your degree, you should do everything in your power to compete a bachelor’s degree. Some talented sales people start working in college and find the allure of the money they are making so strong that they stop taking classes. A generation or two ago it might have been possible to break into medical device sales without a degree. These days, very, very few companies will hire candidates who do not have a bachelor’s degree. Even if you can find one company that will make an exception, it will severely limit your ability to get a job with another company, if you ever want to or need to.
While we are on the subject, you may be wondering if getting a MBA is important in medical device sales? My opinion: not really. It might help if you’re making a career transition from a different career. One rep I know was formerly a teacher. He got a MBA to help him develop business acumen. In his case, it was a successful strategy.
If you want to advance into management, a MBA can certainly be helpful. It can also be difficult to obtain if you have a heavy travel schedule, and some amount of overnight travel is not uncommon in many medical sales positions. With on-line and weekend degrees however, there are more options than ever for someone who wants to pursue an advanced degree.
One other instance where an MBA seems useful is if you are dealing with high-dollar capital sales. This is not usually where people start their careers, but knowledge of finance and other advanced business topics can be helpful when dealing with the C-Suite.
When it is all said and done, the most important thing is to have your bachelor’s degree. Do yourself a favor and complete it within 4 years and with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Be active and involved while in college, whether in sports, volunteering a local hospital or other groups and activities such as Pi Sigma Epsilon, the national co-ed business fraternity for sales, marketing and management. While getting your degree is all-important, taking advantage of all the great opportunities available to you in college to learn, grow and contribute will make you stand out to prospective employers.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”~ Anthony D’Angelo