How to become a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) without previous MSL experience is a frequent topic on many message boards. Most employers require previous MSL experience. However, you can secure an MSL job without previous MSL experience if you have other highly desirable skills essential for the particular MSL role you are seeking. I know this is true because I became an MSL without prior MSL experience and I know several people who have done the same. After completion of a clinical pharmacy residency, finding an MSL position in 1996, when the MSL role was not as popular as it is now, was challenging. What I realized in my MSL position search was that I needed to acquire and demonstrate a certain set of skills highly desirable for the MSL position. Fortunately, I secured a position in academia which included clinical practice, teaching, publications, research, and coordinating a pharmacy internship program. Three years later when I explored the MSL role again I had acquired and could demonstrate highly desired skill sets that are important for succeeding as an MSL.
Desirable MSL Skill Set
Therapeutic and clinical expertise
Ability to train others
Ability to influence practice
Execution and delivering on objectives
These are not the only desirable qualifications. Having established relationships with key opinion leaders or if you are a key opinion leader in the desired therapeutic area is an advantage. There is a good chance that if you have these skills you will be joining an MSL team soon. I secured an MSL position at BMS in 1999 and was an MSL for 5 years before transitioning to medical information. There are several paths to transitioning to an MSL role. What is most important is your experience and how it matches with the specific MSL role you are seeking.
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