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Medical science liaison is a career that is not so well-known. According to the Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS), it is a specific role in the healthcare industry that focuses on therapeutic areas and disease states.
The work may be targeted in oncology, cardiology, hematology, women’s healthcare, and specialized in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.
Advanced scientific training and academic credentials are generally required in this field and may consist of a doctorate degree (PhD, PharmD or MD) in the life sciences.
The top seven therapeutic areas supported by medical science liaisons in the U.S. are the following (MSLS 2021):
|Therapeutic Area||Percentage of MSLs Supporting Area|
|Rare and orphan diseases||11 percent|
|Cardiology and thrombosis||8 percent|
|Diabetes, metabolic disorders, and endocrinology||6 percent|
Medical science liaisons work across the medical science industry, sometimes consulting at companies such as The Medical Affairs Company, conducting clinical trials, exploring new approaches to disease management, introducing new products and expansions, and presenting clinical evidence and comparative data presentations.
Job duties may include the following:
- Identifying and fostering relationships with their customers
- Communicating and sharing information with internal and external stakeholders
- Uncovering and sharing competitive intelligence in a timely and appropriate manner
In its 2020 survey, the MSLS ranked the industries in which its professionals work, revealing the following:
|Industry||Percentage of MSLs in Industry|
|Large pharmaceutical and biotech||41 percent|
|Small pharmaceutical and biotech||27 percent|
|Medium pharmaceutical and biotech||22 percent|
|Medical devices||4 percent|
|Clinical research organization||1 percent|
In the past, medical science liaisons have included individuals with various scientific backgrounds. These have included sales reps, nurses, and professionals with various doctoral degrees or other clinical backgrounds.
More recently, the doctoral degree has become a requirement within the industry, according to the Medical Science Liaison Society. The role is becoming increasingly important to the success of companies that employ them which has led to exponential growth.
According to a 2018 global survey, 68 percent of managers had plans to expand their medical science teams over the following two years.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a medical science liaison is $153,969, with $117,000 on the low end and $203,000 on the high end. Finally, here were the top-paying U.S. cities for medical science liaisons (Glassdoor 2021):
|City||Annual average salary of MSLs|
|San Diego, CA||$162,974|
|San Francisco, CA||$155,151|
|New York City, NY||$152,750|
|Los Angeles, CA||$149,049|
Catherine Chapman Mosley is a writer living in central Virginia. She’s written extensively on healthcare topics for various outlets and also works full-time in communications, marketing and community engagement. She is the proud parent of a son who is focused on a healthcare career and often seeks his editing help.