Want to earn more, pharma reps? Go large, get on the road or jump to biotech

Dollars
Specialty pharma reps are grabbing higher pay packages than their bigger pharma peers, but biotech outranks both, MedReps' annual survey finds.

The place to be in drug sales is biotech. Yet another year’s worth of salary and bonus data show that biotech reps are outearning every category in the medical sales field save health IT.

And once again, pharma sales reps are collecting average pay packages that are the lowest of any in the medical rep field. Specialty drugmakers? They’re shelling out compensation that comes in smack in the middle.

That’s the word from MedReps’ annual medical sales salary report, which came with some good news across the board:  Reps are earning more this year than last. Base salaries jumped by more than $7,000 on average, to $95,791 from $88,038 in the 2016 survey, and total compensation packages ticked up to $147,424 from $145,147.

Pharma reps are bringing in less than average, of course, as befits their position at the bottom of the MedReps ranking. In pharma, base salaries are higher—just over $99,000—but bonuses are lower, with a total of $128,488.

And biotech reps? They’re obviously bringing in more than the overall average: Total average compensation came to $162,544 among the biotech respondents to MedReps’ survey, and that breaks down into a $115,545 base plus $47,250 bonus, on average.

One stat offers an opportunity for a potential boost in pay: Travel more. Among pharma reps, those who travel 50% or more pull in total compensation of more than $160,000, almost $40,000 more than their counterparts who don’t travel.

Another opportunity? Move to a bigger company. Reps at the biggest drugmakers earned an average of almost $142,000, compared with about $110,000 among reps at small pharmas, defined as companies with fewer than 50 fulltime employees. 

Then there’s the usual route: Get a promotion. Pharmas shelled out $229,000 to sales directors and VPs, a cool $100,000 or so more than those in field sales with about $130,000.

And finally, pharma reps could jump into specialty pharma to collect a bigger tab. Overall, specialty pharma folks are making about $147,000 total, compared with pharma’s $128,500.

Or biotech, of course. Biotech drugmakers have consistently been near the top of the MedReps compensation ranking.

The best news in the survey, MedReps figures, isn’t about numbers. It’s about satisfaction. And there, pharma’s doing OK—at least when you judge by this survey rather than the company boards at CafePharma, where posters frequently grouse about the shortfalls of their jobs.

“Even though pharma reps earn the lowest average incomes compared to other product categories—with specialty reps in the bottom four ... many pharma reps report having very successful, satisfying careers, MedReps says.