Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

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.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly



Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Similar Articles

3 Entry-Level PhD Jobs Pay Six Figures A Year

3 Entry-Level PhD Jobs Pay Six Figures A Year

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I was determined to stay in academia… until I wasn’t.  It took almost six years for me to reach the conclusion that academia just wasn’t for me.  My PhD defense was just a few months away, and I can’t lie: I was literally willing myself to stick it out. But what about after that? Professorship had been the goal for me before I ever even enrolled in college. It had been my dream. I had absolutely no idea what to do if it wasn’t going to teach. I knew what I didn’t want: I didn’t want to be tethered to…

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

It was by chance that I even considered a career in biopharma.  As far as I was concerned, academia was all there was. The world of industry was a big question mark to me, and that was fine. I found myself working on a postdoc, waiting for a tenure-track position to open up.  At first, it was exciting: a real, paying job as a PhD-level scientist. I showed up early, stayed late, and was happy to do it.  But a change happened, gradually. There was so much repetition in my day, and so much emphasis on performing tasks that required…

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

From the time I started graduate school, there was only one point in the future that I could focus on: the finish line. I was swept up in my own expectations and also caught up in what I thought was expected of me. But something I hadn’t given much thought to was what I actually wanted to do. I was about six months away from defending my thesis. That’s when I started to give some serious thought to what would happen after I added the “Dr.” to my name. It’s when I began to admit to myself that academia was…

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Something that comes up a lot when I talk to new PhDs is that they think they don’t have enough on-the-job experience to apply for the high earning jobs they’re perfect for. I see this imposter syndrome prevent PhDs from even trying to apply for jobs – and puts a stop to their journey to getting hired in industry. So they settle.  For academia, where they don’t have job security.  For jobs that pay less and don’t value their abilities.  For a job they’re not interested in and don’t want, but they think it gets them “started” in industry when…

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

An indomitable spirit is a rare quality, but not among PhDs. Perseverance is a prerequisite that comes standard with every doctorate.  It seems like there’s no shortage of things that can stand in the way when you’re pursuing a terminal degree. Yet I’ve only met a handful of PhDs who weren’t cut out for the hardships of academia. They made it past the gauntlet of frustrating academic advisors, endless hours in the lab, and year upon year of compounding stress. But there are some things that arise that you simply can’t prepare yourself to push through. Sometimes life happens. PhDs…

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

As a PhD student, I felt more and more lost the closer I came to graduation. That’s because I had started to doubt that I knew what I wanted anymore. You could say I was torn, but that would be an understatement. I was absolutely wracked with indecision. My original plan had been to continue on in academia.  I was going to apply for a postdoc.  Then on to Assistant Professor.  And so on. However, I was starting to see a real pattern emerge among the PhD graduates I knew. I liked to check in periodically with those colleagues and…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies January 7, 2023

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies January 7, 2023

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Is Cheeky Scientist A Scam? Who Shouldn't Join The Association

Is Cheeky Scientist A Scam? Who Shouldn't Join The Association

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Is Cheeky Scientist a scam?   Has anyone here had any experience with the Cheeky Scientist Association? Is Cheeky Scientist worth it?  What’s the deal with Cheeky Scientist? Is Cheeky Scientist legit? PhDs are trained to be critical.  In academia and in life, every decision they’re faced with is made with extreme prejudice. Examining facts, collecting resources, and determining what is a trustworthy source of information is one of their biggest strengths.  PhDs have superior critical thinking skills, so it makes sense for them to carefully consider any investment – even if it’s an investment in themselves. And in almost every…

4 Red-Hot Intellectual Property Positions For PhDs

4 Red-Hot Intellectual Property Positions For PhDs

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I just got off the phone with an old friend of mine.  We were researchers at the same lab back in our university days. We had lost touch, but when he found me on LinkedIn I couldn’t wait to hear what he’s done since graduation.  He told me he had not wound up in chemistry, which had been his major. Biomolecular chemistry, he reminded me. Instead, he decided to pursue a career in patent law.  Here’s his transition story: I was in the process of earning my PhD in biomolecular chemistry. That’s where I learned that patents were unrecognized by…

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.