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From lab to sales: how scientists can transition to a medical device sales career

5 Minutes

For many, the allure of the laboratory, the research process, and the pursuit of scientific ...

For many, the allure of the laboratory, the research process, and the pursuit of scientific discovery is irresistible. However, there is a world beyond the lab bench that also calls for scientific expertise and insight – a world where your scientific knowledge is not just appreciated, but also highly sought after. Welcome to the dynamic field of medical device sales.

The medical device sales sector is a domain that brings together scientific acumen, business strategy, and interpersonal skills. And with a global market size projected to reach USD 718.92 billion by 2029, the potential and opportunities in this field are immense.

So how can you best equip yourself when looking to make the transition into a medical device sales career?

Step 1: Understanding the role

The first step in making this transition is understanding the role you're moving into. And as unexpected as this may sound, your role goes beyond just selling. It's about building relationships, understanding clients' needs, offering solutions, and maintaining customer satisfaction. 

While sales require a unique set of skills, such as excellent communication, negotiation abilities, and a results-oriented mindset, having a scientific or lab background can be a substantial advantage. 

Your first-hand experience using various scientific tools and devices equips you with deep product knowledge and an understanding of customer needs, fostering trust with clients and allowing you to address their concerns more effectively. This blend of scientific expertise and sales acumen can set you apart in the field, facilitating stronger client relationships and more persuasive sales pitches. Your lab experience is not just a background; it's a powerful asset in your new role in medical device sales.

Step 2: Acquiring necessary skills and optional certifications

The role of a sales professional requires a unique skill set that includes communication, negotiation, and customer service skills—this blend of skills can often be obtained without the need for formal qualifications or training programmes, and it is possible to begin an entry-level medical sales role from a laboratory background by showcasing these soft skills in interview.

To further your chances of entering a sales career, you can pursue optional qualifications and certifications. Many enter the industry without them, but they could be what secures you a role in the event you come against a similarly qualified candidate. 

A Master’s in Business Administration after graduating from an academic subject would showcase a good blend of scientific and commercial acumen, and in terms of industry certifications, some medical sales professionals may choose to undergo training by the likes of Accredited in Medical Sales (AMS), either to bolster their chances of entering the industry or as a rookie looking to up-skill.

By adding these skills to your scientific expertise, you can position yourself as a valuable asset to any medical device sales team – someone who not only understands the products but also the business implications of each sale.

Step 3: Networking

Building a strong professional network is arguably one of the most valuable activities in making a career transition, especially into sales. The relationships you build and maintain are directly tied to your success. It goes beyond just making acquaintances; it's about fostering meaningful relationships with individuals who can provide valuable advice, insights, and potentially, job opportunities in your chosen field. Start by…

  • Connecting with existing life science and medical device sales professionals on LinkedIn
  • Attending industry events
  • Join relevant LinkedIn groups
  • Leverage your existing contacts

Remember that networking is not just about taking – it's about giving too. Sharing your scientific expertise can be a valuable asset to others in the field and can help establish your credibility. Effective networking is an investment of your time and energy, but the potential rewards – new opportunities, gained knowledge, and valuable relationships – make it a cornerstone of a successful career transition.

Step 4: Understanding the benefits

Transitioning to a sales career offers a number of significant benefits.


Unlike most laboratory roles, scientific sales positions often include commission schemes, offering a direct correlation between your success and your earnings. This is in addition to a competitive base salary and potential company bonuses. This can be a significant motivator, offering rewards for hard work and dedication that go beyond a basic salary.

Career growth

Sales experience opens up a plethora of opportunities for more senior roles within the scientific industry. Your laboratory experience and industry contacts can also serve as an invaluable asset in establishing the networks critical to commercial success.

Stimulating work environment

Sales roles can provide a vibrant, varied, and stimulating work environment, often more suited to outgoing, confident individuals. No two days in sales are alike, and the role involves engaging with fascinating people working on innovative projects.

In addition, it's worth noting that many scientists find lab work less rewarding after several years, particularly if there's limited room for promotion. Transitioning to a technical sales role can reinvigorate a stalled career and offer a new sense of professional fulfilment.

Step 5: Collaborating with a life science specific recruitment agency

Undoubtedly, making a career transition can be a daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be. Partnering with a life science-specific recruitment agency can not only simplify your journey but also significantly enhance your chances of landing a dream role in medical device sales.

A dedicated life science recruitment agency, like ours, brings a wealth of expertise and a deep understanding of the industry's unique dynamics. We are not just recruiters; we are life science enthusiasts passionate about placing the right people in the right roles. Engaging with an agency opens you up to:

  • Specialised expertise - Our dedicated commercial team understands the qualifications and skills required in the medical device sales sector, ensuring a perfect match for job vacancies.
  • Extensive network - With access to a wide network of potential employers and exclusive job vacancies, we can open doors that you may not even know existed.
  • Personalised service - We tailor our services to align with your career goals, strengths, and preferences, facilitating a perfect fit between you and your potential employer.
  • Transition support - We provide comprehensive support, including CV advice, interview preparation, and follow-up services, ensuring you're not just placed but also thrive in your new role.

By partnering with us, you're equipping yourself with a powerful ally in your career transition. You're giving yourself the best possible chance of not just landing a job in medical device sales, but truly thriving in your new role.

A transition from lab work to a career in medical device sales can open up an array of opportunities that are both financially rewarding and professionally fulfilling. While the path may seem daunting, remember that change always brings about growth. By understanding the requirements of your new role, acquiring the necessary skills, leveraging your network, and most importantly, partnering with a specialised life science recruitment agency, you're equipping yourself with the resources needed to succeed. Here's to your exciting new journey in the dynamic field of medical device sales!

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