I have been in the medical field for almost 22 years. Little hospital setting and almost 21 years in one field which is home health. I have done 3 years of daily nursing and the other 18 years as a marketer/sales. I am looking into going into another field like pharmaceuticals. I have put some resumes out and a recruiter has contacted me. He informed me that I would need to get CNPR certified before I can be considered. So, I am looking into taking the class and getting certified.

I market many areas in the rural and city. My accounts consist of so many different specialty doctors from orthopedics, urologists, neurologists, and etc... I have do much experience and I could also have several doctors write me a letter of recommendation. I don't have a BS degree and I feel that I have everything that it takes to land a pharma job. Do you have any suggestions for me to help me with this process and get myself in the door for a new career in pharmaceuticals?

Thank you, Christy



Hello Christy,

First of all I commend you on trying to redesign your career after 22 years (or almost 22) in one area of the medical industry; namely on the patient care side, in Home Health, and in the community education side of the business.  Your question did not exactly identify your position within the  medical industry, but your title that I omitted did and I want to include that within this answer for our readers to understand your role.  

Your hurdles to break into pharmaceutical sales are huge, especially with any large pharmaceutical to even mid-sized company due to your lack of a college degree or even an Associate RN degree.  If you want to break into pharmaceutical sales, you would have to first decide if this is worth your time, money and energy to earn a college degree mid-career to just break into pharmaceutical sales. In addition, and I hate to admit this, but by the time you earn the degree it is difficult to for someone that may be in their 40's to break into pharmaceutical sales and especially without an additional 3 to 4 years outside B2B sales or some type of commissioned outside sales position.  You can count the years on top of the degree and ask yourself if it makes sense given your personal situation.  That said, if you want to earn the degree for just going back and accomplishing something you always wanted, then go for it!  My mother attained her degree at age 48 years of age and it was one of the happiest days of her life (I would like to think having me or my brother was THE happiest day of her life, but seeing the glow on her face wearing her graduation gown on the day of her graduation may have belied my thinking!).  So, go for it, but be aware of what it will do and won't do as far as getting your pharmaceutical sales job breakthrough. I do have one or two extremely strategic continuing educational plans that MAY give you a better chance of landing that pharmaceutical sales job and I will detail that out after addressing your other question about pharmaceutical certification programs (CNPR specifically) and their value next.

I must be up front on this, I am most concerned about the misinformation by the recruiter you spoke to concerning CNPR Certification.  Frankly, that certification is nothing I value as a recruiter and I personally feel is a means to part you from your money with no return on investment, especially for someone without a college degree.  I suggest you go to Linkedin and under advanced search (for finding people), put CNPR Certification or the company that promotes it NAPRx® in the key word section.  Look at where people are in their career that took that program and specifically those who do not have a four year college degree or those with a college degree but had no prior outside sales experience.  You may then determine on your own if you should spend the money.  Better yet, connect with them on Linkedin and get their opinion directly.  So, let me leave that for you to do your own research and decide if it is worth your hard earned money.

Lastly, as I mentioned, if you still really want to break into pharmaceutical sales and give it the old college try, then this is what I would suggest for you since you are already a LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse); go back to school and find an excellent 2 Year RN (Registered Nurse) program where credits could also be transferred to a 4 year college and apply towards a either a BS or BA degree. Yes you could get your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), but it may be easier to attain the BS or BA degree. While attaining your 2 Year RN Associates Degree, if you have to work, get an outside B2B sales job selling copiers, or ground floor position at ADP or Paychex even if it is in an administration position.  ADP and Paychex will have promotional opportunities into outside sales once you complete your four year college degree or may put you in outside sales as you close in on it and prove to be a valued employee.  The 2 Year RN background with a BS or BA earned while doing outside sales can be a powerful draw.  You could also work part-time as a RN as you attain the BS or BA degree and then transition to a B2B sales position.  I favor the first approach if you want to enter the business world as a pharmaceutical sales person since you have already been working as an LVN.  I feel this approach would give you the best shot to eventually breaking into the industry, but still no guarantees.  Either way, this plan should put you into a career path of higher earnings and almost guaranteed employment with the 2 year RN piece of the education and certainly open up multiple expanded career options. 

I appreciate your question and hopefully it will serve you well and my readers who may find themselves in the same situation.  My motto has always been, if there is a will, there is a way.  It will take work and time, but anything in life worth attaining always does.  All the best to you Christy as you decide your next step to attaining your goal!


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