How to Become a Medical Science Liaison

April 25, 2024


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/24

Are you thinking about becoming a medical science liaison? This guide covers how to become a medical science liaison, medical science liaison salary, and everything else you need to know about this career. 

The medical science liaison is a specialized role within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. The role was first created in 1967 by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals to have scientifically-trained employees create relationships with decision-makers in the medical community. 

Medical science liaisons are also known by other names such as medical liaisons, medical managers, and clinical liaisons. In fact, the title medical science liaison was first used in 1967, and these other names are more recent titles for this profession. 

However, in a recent survey conducted by the Medical Science Liaison Society, the top three most used titles for this career in the U.S. are medical science liaison, field medical director, and regional medical liaison.

Despite the many titles this profession goes by, it's important to note that medical science liaisons play a critical role in the medical community. If you want to know what a medical science liaison is, how to become one, their salary potential, and why they're essential for the medical community, keep reading!

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What Is a Medical Science Liaison?

Medical science liaisons are science professionals who provide the medical community, investors, and government agencies with information about their employer’s products. Their employer's products often include medical devices, drugs, and treatments. 

Typically, medical science liaisons are employed by medical device companies, biotechnology firms, and pharmaceutical companies. However, they can also be employed by consumer product manufacturers like cosmetic companies. 

In the past, medical science liaisons were selected from experienced sales reps with solid scientific backgrounds; however, in today's world, medical science liaisons have specific training and education requirements.

What Does a Medical Science Liaison Do?

A medical science liaison establishes and maintains relationships between pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies and decision-makers. Because the job involves a lot of technical work, here is a general overview of what the career entails:

  • Attending medical conferences
  • Delivering scientific presentations
  • Designing and conducting scientific studies 
  • Gathering and analyzing data from scientific studies
  • Creating and testing medical devices
  • Writing grant proposals
  • Applying to private companies and government agencies for funding
  • Collaborating with physicians and members of health departments to create programs to improve the health of the population

The variety of tasks that medical science liaisons complete depends on the day. For instance, one day, a medical science liaison may travel for a conference, and the next day they might need to conduct a study to investigate medical conditions and different methods to prevent them. 

In terms of their work environment, medical science liaisons may partake in extensive travel if they’re assigned to work in a geographic area. Because of this reason, medical science liaisons may or may not be based in their employer’s physical office. 

They spend a lot of their time in an office setting, conducting meetings to deliver complex information to people in the medical community.

Steps to Becoming a Medical Science Liaison

Below are the steps to take to become a medical science liaison. 

1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

Obtaining a bachelor's degree necessary to become a medical science liaison. The reason for this is that the majority of medical science liaisons have a graduate degree as well. 

We highly recommend that you major in science when obtaining your bachelor's degree. It would prepare you for what's to come in the medical science liaison field. 

2. Decide on Your Area of Expertise 

Before pursuing an advanced degree, you must choose your area of expertise. Choosing whether you want to venture out and get a Ph.D. in pharmacological studies or earn a medical degree is ultimately yours. 

Ensure that the area you specialize in is something you're interested in because it will be the degree you use to apply for medical science liaison jobs. 

3. Acquire an Advanced Degree

Although it's possible to have a career as a medical liaison with only a Master's degree, it is improbable. Over time, the medical science liaison career has been highly competitive, with a majority of people in the field holding either a doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.), medical doctorate (M.D), or doctor of pharmacy (PharmD)

Also, some medical science liaisons are registered nurses or have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This is also an advanced degree path you can pursue. However, remember that most medical science liaison roles ask for a Ph.D., M.D., or PharmD. 

4. Complete a Training Program and Gain Experience

This step is optional; however, highly recommended. A great way to gain experience in the field is to enroll in an internship/training program. These training programs would typically be in collaboration with a biotechnology firm or pharmaceutical company. 

Participating in these training programs will help you gain the experience you need in the field, choose your expertise, and develop the skills you need for this field. 

You can develop your skills in a training program by participating in different career-related tasks. For example, you might be tasked to give a presentation at a conference, which would help develop your communication skills. 

Another example would be following the clinical trials of a new medication and being able to relay that information to government officials or anyone else in the medical community; this would help you develop your analytical skills. 

Many organizations offer training programs to future medical science liaisons, which can be very beneficial. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies also offer extensive training programs to their newly-hired medical science liaisons.

Medical Science Liaison Salary & Career Outlook

The average medical science liaison salary is $157,822 yearly. Below is a chart of the monthly, weekly, and hourly wages of various earners in this field.

Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
Top Earners $225,000 $18,750 $4,326 $108
75th Percentile $205,500 $17,125 $3,951 $99
Average $157,822 $13,151 $3,035 $76
25th Percentile $125,000 $10,416 $2,403 $60

Regarding the job outlook, the medical science liaison career is expected to grow as the demand for new therapeutic solutions increases. As long as pharmaceutical and medical device companies continue to produce products necessary to medical practice, there will always be a demand for medical science liaisons.

How to Become a Medical Science Liaison: FAQs

If you still have questions about how to become a medical science liaison after reading this guide, check out these frequently asked questions. 

1. Are Medical Science Liaisons Well Paid?

Yes, medical science liaisons are well-paid. The average salary for a medical science liaison is $157,822 per year. Also, those in the 25th percentile earn $125,000 annually, which is an excellent wage. 

2. Can You Be an MSL with a Master’s Degree?

Yes, it is possible to become a medical science liaison with a Master’s degree; however, it's challenging. Over the years, the medical science liaison profession has become highly competitive, and many jobs ask for a Ph.D. or an M.D. 

3. What Skills Do You Need to Be an MSL?

Here are the following skills you need to be a medical science liaison:

  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Detail-oriented

These skills are needed to become a medical science liaison because the job requires a person to represent their employer while at the same time working with the medical community.

Final Thoughts

If you're looking for a career in the medical field, consider becoming a medical science liaison. This career has an excellent job outlook and potential salary earnings. 

However, If you're already considering a career as a medical science liaison, this guide will provide you the resources you need to take your first steps into the field. You can become a medical liaison with knowledge, hard work, and dedication.

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