Pharma sales rep salary survey finds annual incomes rising, but COVID-19 concerns mounting

An annual survey of pharma sales rep salaries showed another year-over-year increase, but it also revealed concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salaries averaged more than $150,000 in 2019, for an increase of 6%. However, three-fourths of the pharma sales reps interviewed said they expect the COVID-19 crisis to negatively impact their incomes this year.

That's according to the MedReps study, which surveyed 520 pharma sales reps about their 2019 annual salaries. The survey was fielded during the first two weeks of March 2020, so the job-hunting firm also asked reps about what impact they expect this year.

In 2019, the average rep salary was $151,217, which includes an average base salary of $109,250 and an average bonus of $41,967. That’s a 6% increase, or almost $8,000, over the average salary for pharma sales reps from MedReps’ 2018 survey. 

RELATED: Grounded by the pandemic, pharma reps turn to digital tools to reach docs

The medical sales job board notched its 10th year of annual salary surveys of pharma sales reps and related medical sales careers this year, and it has some ideas about what to include going forward.

“What would be interesting for us to track next year is how far has this pandemic really pushed digital relationships, and do we see that trend continuing to move forward or do we see a back to in-person relationships as it was before?” Karyn Mullins, president of MedReps, said. 

Another area to watch for 2020 will be rep travel, which is also impeded by the COVID-19 outbreak. Pharma sales reps who spent 25% of their time on the road earned an average $159,938. But the sweet spot for travel and income was for those who spent between 50% and 75% of their time on the road; those reps earned an average $197,245.

Other earning indicators in the survey were where the reps sell and the size of the pharma company that employs them. Pharma sales reps who sell into hospitals made about 10% more than reps who sell into physician offices, and reps who work for medium-size pharma companies made more than those at small or large drugmakers.

RELATED: More do-it-yourself docs are finding pharma answers on their own as sales rep contact declines

“It’s a great time to be in pharma" as "income keeps increasing and there are still pharma jobs available,” said Robyn Melhuish, MedReps’ director of marketing. “The crisis has people discouraged, but we’re certainly still seeing jobs posted.”