By James J. Mangraviti, Jr. 

Introduction: Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Physicians considering a non-clinical career transition may want to explore industry.  There are numerous pharma jobs for physicians.  This post is designed as a very brief overview of the wide variety of pharma jobs for physicians.   

For some specialties with many unmet needs, such as oncology, neurology, psychiatry, endocrinology, and cardiology, there is a particularly large number of pharma jobs for physicians. Physicians with experience in academic medicine and with clinical trials are in the most demand.  Opportunities for growth and for eventual lucrative earnings abound in the pharmaceutical industry. Departments that hire physicians include medical affairs, clinical affairs, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance/safety, and research and development. 

Medical Affairs Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Medical Affairs: Job titles for pharma jobs for physicians in medical affairs departments include medical director and medical science liaison. 

Medical director: Medical director positions could consist of a mixture of: 

  • Advising product development teams
  • Managing clinical development teams
  • Helping design clinical trials
  • Interfacing with scientific leaders
  • Interfacing with representatives of professional societies
  • Assisting in professional education programs for doctors and nurses
  • Verifying compliance with applicable regulations and company policies
  • Supplying clinical expertise and training to business people in research and development, sales, and marketing
  • Making presentations to health insurance groups
  • Interfacing with Medicare and Medicaid
  • Reviewing documentation such as marketing materials, package inserts, instructions for use, and training materials
  • Helping draft safety reports
  • Performing literature reviews with customers
  • Working on continuing education and marketing
  • Undertaking new business development

Medical science liaison: Medical science liaisons (MSLs) are more of a sales support role.  These can be entry-level positions and can often be home-based with a large travel component.  As a rule of thumb, the larger the company, the smaller the MSL’s travel territory will be.  A great advantage of MSL positions is that they exist throughout the country.  There are many pharma jobs for physicians as an MSL.  MSLs could do the following: 

  • Develop relationships and lines of communication with key opinion leaders such as department heads
  • Develop relationships with the people who develop treatment guidelines
  • Find innovative ways to get the industry’s information distributed to the medical community
  • Review advisory board recommendations
  • Act as a clinical resource in an area
  • Work to identify potential investigators
  • Monitor research studies
  • Interface with those seeking industry grants
  • Review marketing material for clinical content
  • Work closely with the sales and marketing team on business plans
  • Help select sites for clinical research
  • Follow-up on adverse event reports
  • Help with CME content development

Clinical Affairs Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Clinical Affairs: Clinical affairs pharma jobs for physicians deal with clinical trials.  Job titles in clinical affairs include medical director, biostatistician, medical writer, and medical director.  Physicians working in clinical affairs could do the following: 

  • Design and direct clinical trials
  • Keep costs down and within budget
  • Help choose investigators and sites
  • Negotiate contracts with hospitals, consultants, investigators, and others
  • Interact with other parts of the organizations (such as R & D and regulatory affairs)
  • Help prepare documentation and reports (technical writing) for the FDA and for internal and external use
  • Participate in strategic planning
  • Develop and implement standard operating procedures for trials
  • Keep up-to-date on competitive products and trials

Regulatory Affairs Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Regulatory Affairs: This department oversees regulatory compliance.  Job functions here could include: 

  • Developing compliance and reporting procedures
  • Technical writing—drafting required regulatory reports and other documentation
  • Safety reporting

Pharmacovigilance Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Pharmacovigilance/Safety: This is one of the top entry level pharma jobs for physicians.  Job functions in this department may include: 

  • Monitoring drug safety during clinical trials or post-market
  • Developing safety surveillance systems
  • Complying with regulatory requirements and documenting this compliance
  • Responding to inquiries from regulators
  • Protecting the public health
  • Protecting the developer from inappropriate liability
  • Overseeing a staff of safety analysts and case managers
  • Evaluating post-market safety reports
  • Collecting accurate and complete information on adverse events
  • Making risk/benefit decisions concerning a product
  • Being the medical conscience of the company

Research and Development Pharma Jobs for Physicians  

Research and Development: Job titles associated with these pharma jobs for physicians include scientist, medical director, and phase I specialist.  Job functions might include: 

  • Direct phase II–IV clinical trials
  • Work with MSLs
  • Provide therapeutic expertise in a scientific area
  • Oversee clinical trials
  • Conduct phase I trials

Pay/Compensation for Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

Earnings Potential: There is tremendous potential for a large financial upside in working for industry. Entry-level medical directors may start in the $250,000-$300,000 salary range, depending on qualifications.  If you perform well, you can reasonably expect advancement in 18 months to two years with 7 to 10 years typically required to reach a very senior position.   

What is the potential financial upside of a career in industry?  Upper-level positions may pay in excess of $750,000 salary, large, almost guaranteed bonuses, stock awards, stock options, and sign-on bonuses.   

Conclusion: Pharma Jobs for Physicians 

There are a large and diverse number of jobs available for physicians with pharmaceutical companies.  These jobs typically come with tremendous potential for compensation growth. 

If you think a pharma job may be a good fit for your transition to a non-clinical career, start talking to as many physicians in the field as you can.  Networking will help make sure transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry will be a good fit for you.  You will also want to learn as much as possible about the pharmaceutical industry and the pharma job you may be interested in as this will greatly help when you interview.  Networking is also a top way to help land pharma jobs for physicians.   

James J. Mangraviti, Jr. is the co-founder of SEAK, Inc.’s annual Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference, held each year in Chicago.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference features a faculty of dozens of physicians who have experience in non-clinical and alternative careers.  Many of our faculty are SEAK alumni.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians conference also includes free 1-1 peer mentoring, the opportunity to interview with employers and recruiters, and a robust networking experience.  Jim can be reached at 508-457-1111 or