4 Careers In Medical Affairs PhDs Should Consider (#3 Surprisingly Popular)

Whether you’re a recent PhD or have been pursuing a career in academia, you’ve spent several years, your hard-earned money, and valuable resources working for your advanced degree.

It’s paid off. You have a PhD!

…Now what?

Like the 187,000 Americans expected to earn a PhD in the 2020-2021 school year calendar alone, you’re not just broadening your horizons and expanding your knowledge. You’re also solidifying a wider range of future job opportunities with higher pay.

In most university programs, a PhD is the highest possible degree one can achieve.

That means you’re viewed as having reached the height of formal training in your field. 

But now that you have all that training, what can you do with it? Stay in academia or enter industry? 

Luckily for you, a postdoctoral degree covers a lot of ground. 

After all, there are numerous disciplines in which a PhD can apply. 

From the arts and humanities to earth and life sciences, a doctoral degree opens the doors to a variety of top industry careers. 

You’re not pigeonholed in the world of academia.

A doctoral program sharpens your expertise in a field specialty. 

This positions you to seek top-tier jobs in industry. 

Maybe you’re a current PhD student, an unemployed PhD, or working in a postdoctoral position (with a postdoc salary) and are ready for a career change.

Either way, it may be time to consider the many options available to you in medical affairs. 

What Exactly Is Medical Affairs?

I know, medical affairs sounds awfully generic.

But that’s because it encompasses a lot of areas of emphasis.

Medical affairs is a far-reaching term for the team within a medical company that helps connect the organization to the medical community. 

They streamline communication channels and decipher complex clinical trials and research results for healthcare professionals. 

Medical affairs also works alongside marketing, ensuring organization publications are current, accurate, and meet industry standards.

As a medical affairs worker, you serve as the face of the company.

It’s your mission to develop solid relationships with physicians and communities. 

Medical affairs people are well-versed in confidential company data and published literature. This coupled with their clinical and scientific expertise makes them a truly valuable resource. 

To qualify for a medical affairs for PhDs position, you not only need solid communication skills and the ability to interpret complex data for the general public. 

You must have a high-level degree and demonstrate expertise in a field of research. 

If you have a PhD resume, a career in medical affairs may be the path for you.

Top 4 Medical Affairs Career Paths for PhDs

Because Medical Affairs is such a broad category, there are lots of careers a PhD could pursue in this field. 

1. Medical Science Liaison 

A medical science liaison (MSL) is a great introduction into the field of medical affairs for PhDs. 

This role is field-based and requires lots of regional travel. An MSL will also meet with physicians and other key opinion leaders (KOL) to explain scientific findings surrounding drugs and treatments they’ve been researching.

MSLs require expert knowledge and strong presentation skills to deliver important information and develop relationships with important leaders in the medical community. 

2. Medical Communications Specialist 

Like an MSL, this role calls for field expertise and exceptional communication skills. 

It will be your job to develop relationships with important players in the medical community. 

The medical communications specialist handles research, customer service, and documenting patient reactions. 

You’ll deliver scientific and technical information and will work side by side with marketing, sales, and medical teams within the organization.

3. Medical Advisor 

MSLs and senior medical communications specialists often advance into the role of medical advisor. 

Unlike MSLs and communications specialists, the medical advisor is more of an administrative role. 

It’s an office-based position and revolves more around strategizing than presenting information to an audience.

In addition to an advanced degree and field expertise, medical advisors must be critical thinkers. 

Much of this role is helping marketing and sales teams develop medical strategies that will help advance the organization and generate revenue.

4. Medical Director 

The crowning achievement in medical affairs for PhDs is a medical director position. 

This role oversees a team of healthcare professionals and makes sure their knowledge of the company’s medical products and procedures is current and in line with the organization’s brand. 

They’re also in charge of managing all aspects of medical affairs company-wide. 

Medical director responsibilities include assisting MSLs with KOL visits, making sure their work meets company standards and best practices.

Medical directors also deliver presentations to healthcare professionals, attend ongoing career development training, and visit educational conferences to stay current in industry developments. 

As a medical director, you’ll answer questions about products and studies your team and your company have been exploring. 

A PhD’s knowledge in their focus area and ability to communicate data make them a great fit for this role.

Medical directors not only bring valuable resources with their own pool of contacts. They must be able to network with KOLs and other medical authority figures to develop a reputation of authority on behalf of themselves and their organization. 

How to Accelerate your Medical Affairs Career

To secure a career in medical affairs, grow your skill set and obtain additional experience by:

  • Doing your research: Prepare for your new position by brushing up on industry best practices and policies.
  • Obtaining a final signatory certificate: PhDs who have been pharmacists or are registered physicians can earn this certificate. It grants you the authority to sign off on communication materials distributed by your company.
  • Seeking additional training: Continue professional development training programs to broaden your abilities. This will help you perform your job more efficiently and ensure you’re qualified for a position in an ever-evolving industry.

Get Hired into Top PhD Careers in Medical Affairs

Earning a postdoctoral degree is an investment of time and resources. 

If you’re not sure what to do with your degree, you may be asking yourself, “Is a PhD worth it?” 

Considering a PhD earns more than any other degree and offers a variety of career paths, we think so. 

The Cheeky Scientist Association is the world’s biggest job search training platform, created for PhDs by PhDs. 

We offer numerous programs to help PhDs like you overcome industry challenges. 

From networking with limited time to learning how to negotiate a job offer, Cheeky Scientist can get you hired into a meaningful career with high pay in industry.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.

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