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How to Become a Medical Science Liaison

Within any field, there are special points of contact that are responsible for providing information, staying abreast of technological and operational advancements, and maintaining a network of expertise. These resources are vital in keeping the entire community up to date and accurate on changes in their fields of work.

Medical science liaisons maintain large networks of key opinion leaders to verify products are correctly used, experts are effectively utilized, and provide input on potential advancements in the medical field. They analyze trends, host conferences and advisory boards, consult developers and professionals, and much more.

In order to become a medical science liaison, you’ll be expected to have advanced training and experience in a specialized field of training. Further, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills that can lend you the ability to explain highly advanced or complicated material in ways that a variety of audiences can understand.

Sample job description

4 Corner is seeking a Medical Science Liaison to provide medical and scientific support for our products in the area of oncology. The MSL will be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with healthcare professionals (HCPs) in order to create a better understanding of products and increase product awareness, providing clinical and scientific support for HCPs, and providing medical information for our products to patients, caregivers, and the general public via telephone, internet, or written materials. A bachelor’s degree or higher in a medical or life science discipline is typically required for this position. The previous work experience must be in the pharmaceutical or medical device industry

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Establish and maintain relationships with key healthcare professionals (HCPs) to create a better understanding of the company’s products and increase product awareness
  • Provide clinical and scientific support for HCPs, including answering questions about products, drug interactions, side effects, and other related issues
  • Prepare and deliver presentations on company products and participate in panel discussions
  • Provide medical information to internal and external customers, including medical information officers, medical writers, and regulatory affairs
  • Keep up to date on scientific and clinical developments in the therapeutic areas in which the company operates

Education and experience

  •  Bachelor’s degree in a scientific field, such as biology or chemistry
  • Previous experience in the life sciences industry, such as as a medical representative or in medical communications
  • Strong knowledge of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries

Required skills and qualifications

  • Knowledge of drug development process, clinical research, and drug regulation
  • Outstanding interpersonal, presentation, and writing skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Detail-oriented and able to multitask in a fast-paced environment

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to learn new concepts quickly
  • Knowledge of medical and scientific terminology
  • Familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite, including PowerPoint and Excel
  • Thorough understanding of drug development process, including clinical trial design, phase terminology, and regulatory landscape
  • Proven track record of effective scientific communication with a wide range of audiences, both internal and external

Typical work environment

Most MSLs work in healthcare settings, such as hospitals or doctor’s offices. They may also travel to educational events that doctors attend in order to improve their understanding of a company’s products. The time that an MSL spends at these events will vary depending on the company and the product.

Medical Science Liaisons typically spend their days interacting with various internal departments, including sales representatives, marketing teams, and reimbursement specialists. They may also deal with external third parties, such as healthcare professionals, researchers, patients, and patient advocacy groups. In this role, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the drug development process and be able to communicate complex scientific information in a way that is easy to understand.

Typical hours

In this profession, the number of hours worked varies from employer to employer. However, those who find employment at research institutions typically work a standard 40-hour week. MSLs who work for pharmaceutical companies may be required to travel, which can add on additional hours.

Available certifications

There are no official certifications available for the Medical Science Liaison position, however, having a degree or Ph.D. that directly relates to medicine and/or pharmaceuticals is often preferred.

Medical Science Liaisons need to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of medicine and science, which requires a great deal of self-education. Many MSLs are required to attend training and meetings throughout the year in order to stay up-to-date on the company’s products.

Career path

Medical Science Liaisons often start their career in related fields, such as medical writing or drug development. Those who have gained experience in the medical device or pharmaceutical industries typically have an easier time transitioning into this role. MSLs often have the opportunity to move up in their career and take on varying responsibilities, such as becoming a key opinion leader or management.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 19-1042

2020 Employment133,900
Projected Employment in 2030156,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% Increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift22,700 Increase

The employment of Medical Science Liaison is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030; much faster than average for all occupations. Advances in technology will continue to improve health care services, allowing medical and health service managers to focus less on operational details and more on strategic decisions.

MSLs are also in a unique position to understand how patients and doctors use medications, which can help companies develop products that better meet the needs of patients. They can also provide valuable feedback to companies about how products are being used in the real world.

The job outlook for Medical Science Liaisons is positive. The increasing number of people with health insurance and the aging population will lead to more jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.

Companies are attracted to MSLs because they have extensive pharmaceutical knowledge and are influential with healthcare professionals. They can explain complex information about new or existing drugs in a way that makes sense to doctors and pharmacists, who often don’t have the time or the inclination to become as familiar with products as they should be.