What is a Medical Science Liaison (MSL)?
Medical Science Liaison (MSL) roles are highly diverse, working within a large variety of elements across the product lifecycle. The work of an MSL spans the entire drug lifecycle and their core objective is to ensure that products are utilised effectively. The main responsibility for somebody working in an MSL role is to establish and maintain relationships with key opinion leaders (leading physicians, researchers, and clinicians) at academic institutions, hospitals, and Pharma companies. Through these relationships, MSLs serve as scientific resources; advising on upcoming advances in treatments and providing input about relevant scientific and clinical data.
If you’re a Medical Affairs professional seeking a career as a Medical Science Liaison, our specialist consultants have the advice and insights to help you in this career path.
What are the main responsibilities of a Medical Science Liaison role?
MSLs act as a bridge between Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and their employer, taking charge of communicating important clinical data and scientific information.
MSL roles are focused on education rather than sales. The main aims are to:
- Educate key clinicians about specific drugs or medical devices
- Answer their scientific questions about these products
- Feed key information back to colleagues in commercial functions, such as marketing and sales, to inform their strategies.
At the very core, an MSL’s role involves the following:
- Developing relationships with KOLs and HCPs within the relevant therapy area.
- Responding to requests for information
- Providing training to sales and marketing teams
- Analysing clinical trends and practices
- Hosting advisory boards
- Consulting with internal teams such as sales, marketing, medical.
- Monitoring scientific literature for new developments
What does a day in the life of a Medical Science Liaison look like?
A workday for an MSL can be quite diverse.
MSLs generally spend between 2-4 days a week working out at external sites such as hospitals and clinics within their area of responsibility. They meet with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) to discuss clinical data and to go over any customer questions regarding a product, providing clinicians with accurate and balanced information from drug trials. They also support sales representatives with more in-depth scientific discussions with customers to break down information into more understandable terminology. These visits may include overseas travel depending on the employment company.
MSLs make sure that development is of standard and ensure compliance with ABPI code. They also keep an eye on any adverse events in the drug lifecycle, reporting these to the relevant internal teams.
Another large part of this role is to host conference calls with other MSLs from different territories, to conduct discussions and communicate research data from clinical trials. Through correspondence, they can stay on top of current affairs they’re encountering in the field; these could be questions from healthcare providers, researchers, etc.
Finally, a portion of the day would be dedicated to reporting information back to their company about competitors as well as any misconceptions about their products; this is an important task that helps them develop materials to address these. Remaining working hours are typically spent undertaking research and study.
What are the requirements of becoming a Medical Science Liaison?
Historically, MSL teams have been a combination of individuals with varying scientific backgrounds such as sales reps, nursing, doctoral degrees or other clinical backgrounds. However, the required scientific and educational background - as well as the purpose of the MSL role - has progressively changed over the years.
A Medical Science Liaison is a scientifically trained specialist in their field. Therefore, today the doctorate degree has become the educational standard in the industry for the MSL role.
MSL requirements are generally for a degree within one of the following subjects:
- Biomedical sciences
- Medical sciences
Alongside the following skills:
- Scientific expertise in the relevant therapeutic area
- Excellent communication and presentation skills
- Teamwork skills and an ability to work effectively with a variety of colleagues
- Networking skills and the confidence to interact with senior experts on a peer-to-peer level
- Critical data analysis skills
- A willingness to keep up to date with scientific literature
- The ability to adapt your writing to meet the needs of different audiences, for example, business-focused versus technical audiences
- A high level of emotional intelligence to work effectively with stakeholders
- Commercial acumen
What’s the career progression like for a Medical Science Liaison?
MSLs may have different job titles depending on the company, including Medical Liaisons, Medical Managers, Regional Scientific Managers, Clinical Liaisons, and Scientific Affairs Managers among others.
Typically, the career path for an MSL can replicate the following:
Senior MSL (some with increased territories), with an average salary around £49K
MSL Manager (managing a team of MSLs), with an average salary ranging from £60K to 80K
Medical Director, with a salary prospect of £80K to over £100K
The more senior roles tend to be based in the head office and involve more strategic work.
There are also opportunities to progress into other office-based roles within Medical Affairs such as Medical Advisors or positions within Medical Information.
How do I prepare for a career as a Medical Science Liaison?
Make sure to properly display your knowledge of the therapy areas and highlight any relevant experience you’ve gained as a Pharmacist/ Clinical Pharmacist. A Life Sciences degree, coupled with relevant experience in an industry role - such as Sales, Medical Information, Clinical Research, or Pharmacovigilance – will ensure that you stand out more to a Pharma employer.
Talk to a Pharma recruitment agency, such as Carrot Recruitment, to learn more about the possible options you have. Our specialist recruiters have the most current insights into the job market in your field and can effectively match your skillset to the requirements of their Pharma clients.
What quality do employers value most in a Medical Science Liaison candidate?
When searching for a Medical Science Liaison, our clients value in-depth scientific knowledge in the relevant therapy area. Because the role requires relationship development with KOLs and HCPs, they would look for any track record of a candidate’s ability to do this effectively.
Click here to view all our vacancies within Medical Affairs. If a career progression within Medical Affairs or as a Medical Science Liaison is what you’re seeking, our specialist consultant James Jamieson can help! Get in touch with him to find out more:
01625 541 046