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This Is By Far the #1 Highest Paying Non-Executive Biotech Job in the U.S.

4/17/2017 1:10:06 PM

This Is By Far the #1 Highest Paying Non-Executive Biotech Job in the U.S. April 27, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

It’s possible it’s a job you’ve never even heard of before, but it’s the highest-paying non-executive biopharma job in the U.S. Although it generally requires higher degrees, it is not a research position. And the demand is high. What is it? Medical Science Liaison (MSL).
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MSL Defined

The Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS) defines the job as “a specific role within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, CRO and other healthcare industries. MSLs have advanced scientific training and academic credentials consisting of a doctorate degree (PhD, PharmD, MD) in the life sciences. They concentrate on a specific Therapeutic Area (i.e. Oncology, Cardiology, CNS, Pulmonary, Hematology, Surgery, Women’s Health Care, etc) and disease state.”

Which doesn’t exactly say what it is a MSL does. The first such positions were created in 1967 by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals. The company realized that it needed “scientifically trained field staff that would be able to build rapport with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in various therapeutic areas of research.”

Other similar titles have included Medical Liaisons, Medical Managers, Regional Scientific Managers, Clinical Liaisons, and Scientific Affairs Managers.

They are NOT sales representatives or technical representatives, although there may be some overlap.

The MSL is someone who generally provides a higher level of technical understanding to various stakeholders in the biopharma industry—physicians, executives, but also as technical liaisons with sales reps and nurses.

Education, Key Skills and Pay

The typical MSL has, as mentioned above, a PhD, PharmD or MD. Historically, the roles were more mixed, with MSLs being former sales reps, nurses, or an array of other clinical backgrounds. The job has evolved over the years to be largely doctorate-level degree holders.

The MSLS points out, “In the late 1980s, a number of companies began to require those applying to MSL roles to hold a doctorate degree such as an MD, PharmD, or PhD. Although, historically, the educational standard in the industry did not require MSLs to have a doctorate degree, today the doctorate degree has become the educational standard in the industry for the MSL role. In fact, according to one benchmark study, more than 90 percent of current MSLs hold a doctorate degree.”

Yuri Klyachkin, who has a PhD and is an MSL, wrote of his experiences in becoming an MSL on Cheeky Scientist. In addition to tips on finding MSL jobs, he notes five transferrable skills that are more likely to indicate you’re a good match for an MSL.

Five Transferrable Skills
An outgoing and optimistic personality.
Ability to communicate scientific information quickly, clearly, and precisely.
High levels of emotional intelligence, or EQ.
Internal motivation.
Patience and good listening skills.

1. An outgoing and optimistic personality.

” Basically, the job requires you to have scientific discussions with physicians at clinics, academic institutions, while also interacting with your own company’s sales reps. In addition, you will interact regularly with office managers, nurses, physicians’ assistants, and a number of internal colleagues. If you’re not a “people” person, this might not be the job for you.

2. Ability to communicate scientific information quickly, clearly, and precisely.

Klyachkin writes, “Sometimes you only have three to five minutes to deliver critical data to clients at all levels of an organization. This means you don’t have the luxury of going off on tangents when you talk. Instead, you must know the science intimately and only deliver the critical points.” In other words, you need good verbal communication skills similar to a sales rep.

3. High levels of emotional intelligence, or EQ.

” You need to be able to evaluate and understand what’s going on with your client while you’re talking to him or her. If they’re bored, wrap it up. Know when to continue. Again, it’s “people skills,” but at a slightly different level.

4. Internal motivation.

Assuming a paycheck isn’t the sole motivator for you—it isn’t for everybody, necessarily—you must understand that although you’re not a sales rep, some of your clients may not welcome you warmly. You may spend some time making cold calls and walking into doctors’ offices and introducing yourself. And sometimes they just won’t want to deal with you. Klyachkin notes, “While MSLs are NOT sales representatives, they are proactive educators. This means as an MSL, you will consistently be reaching out to people to educate them on your company and your company’s products. To be successful at this, you must maintain diplomacy, self-discipline and integrity at all times.”

5. Patience and good listening skills.

You have to adjust your talks to the needs of the person you’re dealing with. That means you must ask questions and listen. You should determine things like their clinical interests, their opinion of the data, and what their experiences have been prescribing the drugs.

Klyachkin says, “PhDs can align their strengths to successfully obtain a medical science liaison position. MSL roles allow you to engage in scientific and cutting-edge discussions on drug therapy and disease states with leading health care providers in both academic and community-based settings. Transitioning into an MSL position requires strategic thinking and the ability to ensure individual needs are met while staying aligned with the overall objectives of the company.”

Glassdoor ranked Medical Science Liaison as #4 in the 25 highest paying jobs in America, after Physician, Pharmacy Manager, and Patent Attorney. The median base salary is $132,842.

A Few Positions

A quick search for Director, Medical Science Liaison on BioSpace comes up with 27 jobs. One example is, Director, Medical Science Liaison for Adamas Pharmaceuticals (ADMS) in Emeryville, Calif. The position requires an MD, PharmD or PhD with six to eight years of experience in the biopharma industry. The job is described as being “responsible for overseeing the direction, planning and execution of Medical Affairs field strategies and tactics, including the management of a high performing team of medical science liaisons (MSLs).”

Another position is Hematology Medical Science Liaison/Sr. MSL – Northeast for AstraZeneca (AZN) in Delware. This position specifies “advanced degree in Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Medicine, Nursing or equivalent” and two or more years of experience as a pharmaceutical medical liaison. The job is described as “a field-based professional with scientific, clinical and therapeutic area expertise responsible for providing medical and scientific support for AstraZeneca’s oncology marketed products, new indications for current products, and compounds in development.”

Another position is Portfolio Medical Science Liaison for Novartis Oncology (NVS) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The position calls for an MD, PhD or PharmD or an oncology nurse with an advanced degree and a minimum of three years Oncology MSL experience. The posting says, “Portfolio MSLs work with Physicians and Health Care Professionals in community practices, which offer opportunities to contribute patients to Novartis clinical trials. … The MSL will build relationships and interact with HCPs including community physicians, medical experts, nurses, and medical groups.”

And the MSL Society website lists 540 available MSL jobs.

A survey by the MSLS in 2015 found that there would be 20 percent growth in MSL opportunities by 2017. The drivers of that growth include: demand by key opinion leaders, growing sophistication of pharmaceutical products, doctors feeling they are getting significant medical value from the conversations, as well as if there is competitive intelligence value because MSLs are involved in earlier stages of clinical development and trial discussions, a broader customer base, and more involvement by MSLs in the pre-launch phase.

And as the salary survey by MSLS indicates, the pay is reflecting that. An MSL is likely to make $129,104, with a Senior MSL making $156,928, and a Manager making $187,206.

If you think your skills, training and personality mesh, the role of Medical Science Liaison might be right for you.

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