A Survey of Medical Science Liaisons

Who are those accomplished people hobnobbing with medicine's best and brightest? And what is it they like about their jobs? Besides the fact that they rarely come into the office...
Oct 01, 2006

Job Satisfaction among MSLs 2003-2006
IN GENERAL, MEDICAL SCIENCE LIAISONS are a happy lot, according to a newly released survey. Four out of five MSLs are not seeking other employment, a number that has held steady over the past four years. And why should they look? MSLs have an intellectually stimulating job that allows them to work from home—when they are not attending medical meetings or visiting very bright people. The money isn't bad either. Pharma has given MSLs substantial raises over the past few years. The average salary before bonus in 2006 reached $104,000, up 23 percent from about $85,000 in 2003, when the first of four annual surveys was completed. However, men are being paid significantly more than women in this field. In 2006, male MSLs earned an average of $110,000 before bonus, up from $101,000 in 2005. Women's salaries grew only about $1,000 in the past year, to almost $99,000. Fifty-four percent of 2006 survey respondents were women.

Eight of 10 MSLs said they were satisfied with their jobs. Of all respondents, 43 percent stated they were "very satisfied" with their current position, while 37 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied." Five percent were "somewhat dissatisfied," seven percent were neither "satisfied" nor "dissatisfied," and three percent were "very dissatisfied."

MSLs tend to be very accomplished individuals. Half of them have multiple degrees. The majority responding had a PharmD (55 percent), followed by a BS in pharmacy (23 percent). 2006 saw a modest increase in the number of MDs and nurse practitioners over previous years. Three of five respondents said their company required MSLs to have a doctorate.

The survey asked respondents to rank factors that contribute to their job satisfaction. The five components with the highest ratings were opinion-leader relationship development, attending medical meetings, training others within the company, advisory-board coordination/participation, and investigator-initiated trial development. For those that said they were "very" or "somewhat satisfied" with the position, the two leading reasons were intellectual challenge and the option to work from home (see chart on). When respondents complained, they singled out the regulatory climate (18 percent), administrative tasks and paperwork (17 percent), their company's unclear direction about future career options (11 percent), and a lack of field-based opportunities for advancement (10 percent).

Professional Background of MSLs by Degree 2006
MSLs work hard. They spend, on average, 46 to 50 hours per week on the job. Half said their in-office work hours vary from week to week. But almost one in five said they worked in the office only one day a week. Almost a third (32 percent) of those polled this year report working two nights per week away from home, down slightly from 36 percent the first year. Asked how many MSLs cover the entire United States in their functional group, two of five said more than 30 MSLs. The number of MSLs with such large groups rose eight percent since the survey in 2003. But one-in-five respondents said their group covered the United States with six to 10 MSLs. In 2006, a new question asked how many MSLs were employed by the company. Twenty-seven percent reported between 50 and 100 MSLs, while another 27 percent reported 101 to 200 MSLs. Thirteen percent of respondents reported that their company employed more than 200 MSLs.

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