MSL Career Satisfaction

Medical science liaison (MSL) Career development and job satisfaction are related but distinct. In this episode, I talk about “satisfaction” and ways of thinking about career growth in terms of verbs and adjectives versus nouns.

MSL Career Development

Nature of a field-based MSL job is what both attracts MSLs and cause many to feel stagnant or stifled after many years. Because many growth opportunities are “in house” at corporate headquarters, field MSLs tend to be insulated from the company.

MSL Job Satisfaction: 5 Questions to Ask

Are you satisfied with your MSL job? Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself as part of your evaluation of personal job satisfaction:

1. Do I like my boss?

This is the most important question to consider when you are enticed with a potential move. Too often MSLs are attracted by promises of advancement and greener pastures, that they forget the most important relationship in their career is the relationship between them and their bosses.

Whether this is a MSL manager or the MSL director, when you like your boss and your boss likes you, you find that you can endure corporate storms and work through inevitable bouts of professional existential struggles.

2. Am I satisfied with the general company culture?

This is not something within your control but determines the sustainability of your long term job satisfaction and more importantly, your sense of professional identity. Yes, you can say that your role is a medical science liaison, but attached to that is “with whom”? We may not appreciate the extent that the perception and reputation of our corporate cultures become embedded with our roles, and we by association are also perceived in similar light.

It’s important to feel proud of your company, and like what it stands for, and believe that it conducts itself in a way that meets your ethical expectations as an industry constituent.

3. Do I find fulfilling the key tasks I’m asked to perform in a typical week?

Obviously if you love facilitating research but find that you are with an organization that requires you to conduct mostly educational presentations, you may be tempted with opportunities that give priority to research collaborations.

No one likes crunching numbers for expense reports or documenting every breath they take, but as long as documentation does not become more the “job” than “tracking the job”, everyone has some form of administrative burden as part of their jobs. As long as you enjoy the top 3-5 tasks you are asked to perform in your job outside the typical administrative duties, you’re in good shape.

4. Am I growing along my career path or “career brand”?

Note that this does not always mean “promotion”. It can mean that you are acquiring new functional skills, additional therapeutic expertise or depth, or getting more responsibility to stretch you as a professional. Many MSL professionals find a deep sense of personal satisfaction by correlating their careers with a specific metric of contribution to healthcare.

For example, one of the MSLs I know can say that she was responsible for seeing through KOL collaborations that culminated in 80 published papers in oncology. This can be an enduring source of personal fulfillment and job satisfaction, as opposed to rapid upward mobility within an organization.

5. Do I have a satisfactory work-life balance?

Often, you have established a “routine” (however atypical that word is for the MSL professional) – maybe a monthly routine or a quarterly routine. Essentially, you have found your “groove” and acclimation for the level of work-life balance you can create in your current job. When you get into a new position, know that this will likely change, if not at the beginning with acclimating to a new company and getting trained, but also differences in work-life balance.

There are instances when you may want to leave for better work-life balance situation – for example – by moving from a position offering less travel relative to your current travel. But then you need to consider questions 1 through 4 and make sure that those questions can also be met to your expectations in any new position.


I know that there are many other considerations of work satisfaction unique to individual MSLs. Do you agree with items on this list? What would you add? Email me and let me know!



DEC 2005: Year-End Review of MSL Issues, Metrics, Salary
[podcast transcript]


FEB 2006: MSL Work-Life Balance and MSL Job Satisfaction [podcast transcript]


APR 2006: Hot Topics in Pharma's Role in CME with Tamar Hosansky and Sue Pelletier


OCT 2006: New Lessons from Neurontin


JUL 2007: Compliance Issues for MSLs with Bruce Armon