Medical Science Liaison careers: a cautionary view

Following my post the other day on preparing for a medical science liaison career, Jane Chin of the MSL Institute drew my attention to a cautionary note that she has for PhDs tempted by this career path:

I’m writing this in 2009, but I’ve been seeing Medical Science Liaison programs eliminated and entire teams laid off ever since late 2006. There are many MSLs who have experience and don’t have jobs right now. There are many more who are worried about their jobs. The reality is that at most companies, the MSL function is seen as a cost-center, and a heavy one at that. It can be easy to justify cutting heads from the MSL team to save the company money, or when the company’s drugs go generic, or when an investigational drug approval process gets interrupted.

Any PhD who enters the Medical Science Liaison career should consider the “what if’s”, especially in today’s times. What if I lose my job as a MSL? What are my alternatives? If an academic track has been this difficult for postdocs, what additional difficulties will this route present now that I’ve been out of the academic scene for a few years?

From my perspective, I suspect most of the PhDs who are interested in Medical Science Liaison jobs and other careers in pharma have already made the decision that a life in the laboratory isn’t right for them, so while the difficulty in returning to research is a real consideration, it probably isn’t one that weighs very heavily. And an MSL’s role, positioned as it is at the interface between clinical development, medical affairs and marketing, offers a number of possible exit strategies for continued career development in the event of layoffs. Nonetheless, Jane’s note is sobering and everyone, PhD or not, pursuing any career in pharma should go in with eyes wide open to the risks inherent in this sometimes chaotic industry.

You can read the entirety of Jane’s note, and find out more about her thoughts on MSL careers at the Medical Science Liaison Institute website.

Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Medical Science Liaisons | Tags: | 1 Comment »

One Comment on “Medical Science Liaison careers: a cautionary view”

  1. 1 Jane Chin said at 10:19 pm on February 11th, 2009:

    Thanks for sharing my post – and you’re absolutely right – those PhDs who are looking at the MSL jobs have made a decision about leaving the bench. That means it is more important than ever to create as many options as they can. Networking is critically important.

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