Want a raise, pharma reps? Get into biotech sales instead

We regularly dig into compensation for top executives, but figures on the biopharma rank and file are harder to come by. So, if you've been waiting for those numbers, here's a taste: MedReps.com has run the numbers on sales people in the medical field. The big winners? Sales folks repping biotech products, with their average $164,783 in annual compensation.

Biotech drugs are the up-and-comers in the industry, after all, with little to no generic competition. Not so for small-molecule drugs, and not so for their sales reps. The world's biggest products belonged to that category, but many are off patent, or are on the verge of the patent cliff. Scads of sales people tasked with marketing those drugs--Lipitor, Zyprexa, et al--have been laid off or reassigned.

Those who remain collect an average of $110,965 in total compensation per year. That's only about $1,000 more than the average animal-health rep collects.Specialty pharma reps do somewhat better, with $119,414 in average compensation. And reps who promote multiple product types collect a bit more than that, with $122,412 in average pay.

So, biotech reps have a hefty lead, compensation-wise. In fact, biotech reps' base salary of $113,252 outclasses pharma reps' total compensation--and approaches the total for specialty pharma. Biotech bonuses are bigger, too, at an average of $51,531. By contrast, pharma sales people are collecting $83,206 in base pay, on average, and only $27,759 in bonuses. Specialty reps' base pay is $88,306, with bonus pay of $31,108.

Want more nitty-gritty? With experience levels being equal, younger reps earn more than older, with 30-somethings topping 40-somethings, 40-somethings beating 50-somethings, and so on. Most of the difference appears to be in bonus pay. Sales execs and managers beat field reps, of course, and field reps out-earn inside sales people by a wide margin.

We'll leave you with some stats to keep in mind next time female sales people sue their employers for discrimination. In the medical sales business, men make an average of $142,084 total, where women earn $113,949 on average, a difference of about 20%. Bonus pay accounts for about $23,000 of that difference; men's base pay was about 5% higher. That's a significantly larger gap than last year's survey found. In 2012, men's base pay outclassed women's by 1%, and the difference in total compensation was 15%.

As MedReps.com points out, men hold down the higher-paying jobs. "The gender gap appears to be widening in medical sales, in part because men still hold the majority of medical sales management positions," Robyn Melhuish of MedReps.com said. "Men are also more likely to work in high-commission fields such as biotech and medical devices, which is another reason men are earning more."

- check out the press release
- see the report from MedReps.com