What Is a Medical Science Liaison? | George Washington University (2023)

What Is a Medical Science Liaison? | George Washington University (1)

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Medical science liaisons (MSLs) are health care consultants who typically work in specific domains ― such as pharmaceuticals, biotech and medical device manufacturing ― as experts in specific products and clinical research trends. While MSLs do not need to be licensed medical doctors, they must still have advanced scientific training and medical knowledge.

They may in fact possess an M.D., D.O., another postgraduate degree such as a Ph.D., PharmD, Master of Science, or Master of Business Administration (MBA) in the life sciences (e.g., a health care-focused MBA), or an advanced degree in nursing or dentistry. According to the Medical Science Liaison Society, 90% of MSLs have a doctorate degree of some kind.

A look at medical science liaisons

The term “medical science liaison” was coined by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in 1967 but has since passed into general usage. Upjohn’s original definition described the MSL position as being dedicated to various “education services.” That included helping with lab-based drug studies led by pharmaceutical companies, as well as with the setup of symposia and workshops at academic institutions.

Such responsibilities are still central to the MSL position. As the job title shows, MSLs are expected to liaise between stakeholders including physicians, researchers and other key opinion leaders (KOLs) on the one hand, and companies such as medical device manufacturers and drugmakers ― who are often their employers ― on the other.

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Indeed, their work is frequently (but not always) focused on promoting certain products and services for use in health care environments. They may also provide important updates on advances in medical treatments and devices, analyze and present on trends in clinical data, and handle any incoming requests for information from health care professionals.

There are many synonyms for this role, including clinical science liaison, medical science manager and regional medical scientist. No matter the title, MSLs typically work for health providers (hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, etc.), in academia or within pharmaceutical research. They may specialize in specific scientific, clinical and therapeutic areas, such as infectious diseases or rheumatology.

What do medical science liaisons do?

MSL job responsibilities vary from place to place and by the employer. That said, they generally revolve around a few key tasks such as:

  • Working with researchers to understand drugs and medical devices
  • Promoting and advocating for these same products
  • Hosting advisory boards, panels and other meetings
  • Reviewing relevant scientific and medical literature
  • Assisting with compliance with relevant government regulations
  • Building professional working relationships with KOLs
  • Training and assisting sales teams
  • Responding to information requests

How does someone become a medical science liaison?

As discussed earlier, it’s very common for MSLs to have a doctorate degree or to be licensed medical doctors. A Ph.D., PharmD, M.D., D.O., D.D.S. or D.M.D. will provide the necessary background for success as an MSL. Note that the combination of a Ph.D. with a medical degree like an M.D. is a popular pairing in related professions such as medical scientist, and can work for MSLs, too.

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Before reaching the doctorate level, though, aspiring MSLs will need an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as one of the life sciences, physical sciences or mathematics. A health care-focused MBA, such as the online HCMBA available through the George Washington University (GW), can also be helpful in developing the knowledge and skills needed for pursuing a career as an MSL. The coursework in the GW HCMBA covers topics in clinical medicine and research, in addition to the managerial focus of a traditional MBA.

What is the career outlook for medical science liaisons?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain a formal listing for medical science liaisons. However, the BLS does track statistics for related professions like a medical scientists.

According to the BLS, there were more than 130,000 medical scientists employed in 2018. From 2018 to 2028, their total employment was expected to increase by 8%, which is faster than the growth rate for the average occupation. This projection is attributable to the aging population and to the accompanying demand for treatments for a wide range of chronic conditions.

The median annual pay for medical scientists was $84,810 in 2018, which is well above the national median income. Scientists employed in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing had the highest earnings, at more than $115,000 annually.

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To learn more about how you can get started with the GW HCMBA, visit the main program page. You can also read some student success stories to see if the degree is right for you.

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What is a Medical Science Liaison?
Medical Scientists


What is a medical science liaison? ›

The Medical Science Liaison (MSL) is a specialized role within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and related health-care fields. They concentrate on a specific therapeutic area or disease state (e.g., oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, rheumatology).

What are the duties of a medical science liaison? ›

Medical Science Liaisons are vital to the success of a company. They work throughout a product's lifecycle, help to ensure that products are utilized effectively, serve as scientific peers and resources within the medical community, and are scientific experts to internal colleagues at companies.

Is being an MSL easy? ›

Becoming an MSL professional is not an easy task, but the certification is worth it. In addition to the higher pay, your organization will give you an official car, and you will get flexible working hours. All these together make building a career in the pharmaceutical industry worthwhile.

How can I be a good medical science liaison? ›

While MSLs are not sales representatives, they ARE proactive educators. This means that as an MSL, you will consistently reach out to people with the intent to educate them about your company and its products. To be successful at this, you must always maintain diplomacy, self-discipline, and integrity.

Do medical science liaisons travel a lot? ›

The MSL position differs across companies but typically, you work from home 1-2 days per week and then travel roughly 3 days/week. It is a very flexible position, in that generally you are responsible for your schedule and are setting meetings.

Why do you want to be an MSL interview question? ›

In an MSL interview, use this question to show that you're enthusiastic about the role, can build relationships, have knowledge about the company and have excellent communication skills. Consider talking about relationships you've developed and skills you bring to this new role from past experiences.

What is the main responsibility of liaison? ›

A liaison officer is an employee who builds and maintains mutually beneficial relationships, facilitates communications and coordinates activities among two or more people, agencies or organizations.

What are the duties and responsibilities of a liaison? ›

Liaison responsibilities include:

Reviewing company norms, processes, and goals to maintain knowledge thereof. Detecting opportunities for meaningful collaboration within and across industries. Securing collaborators' buy-ins and discussing parameters to be observed.

What is the value of a medical science liaison? ›

The primary purpose of the Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) role is to provide value to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), in part, through the exchange of scientific information. In fact, the success of every MSL is based on their ability to add value to the KOLs they support!

Can I be an MSL without a PhD? ›

Some liaisons can get an MSL position with a Masters degree, but most positions require a minimum of a PhD in the area of medical expertise that a company or product requires.

How to get a job in MSL without experience? ›

To become a medical science liaison with no experience, a person needs to ensure they have the right educational qualifications and develop expertise in a specific therapeutic area. This will help a person get a job as a medical science liaison without prior pharmaceutical experience.

How do I get my first MSL job? ›

Find ways to connect with the experts within the therapeutic area. A recommendation from a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) can help you land your first MSL job. Look for managerial positions in Medical Affairs that are corporate-based. Once a company knows you, it's easier to move into an MSL position.

How hard is it to get an MSL job? ›

It is hard to get a medical science liaison job.

In order to get this role, a person will need to concentrate on a specific therapeutic area or disease state (e.g., oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, rheumatology) and gain expertise in the field.

What skills do you need for MSL? ›

  • 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.

Is Medical Science Liaison competitive? ›

It is extremely competitive to become an MSL. Dr. Dyer said that The MSL Society has “launched more than 100 careers of medical science liaisons.” He recommends that candidates educate themselves on the profession and become aware of the resources out there to support their careers, including The MSL Society.

What is the next step after medical science liaison? ›

MSL manager or medical manager/director

A definitive step up in your medical affairs career would be to seek an MSL manager role and then, to get to the top of the medical affairs career ladder, a medical manager or director job.

Do MSLs get bonuses? ›

The MSL bonus target range can also vary, but generally, it is anywhere from 5% to 20% of the base salary. Other benefits that come with the medical science liaison position are the common benefits you see with full-time employment: Paid Time Off.

What can I do after medical science liaison? ›

What is the typical career path of a medical science liaison? As aforementioned the most common career path for MSLs is: PhD Graduate – Medical Science Liaison – Senior Medical Science Liaison – Medical Manager/Medical Advisor – Country Medical Director – Global Medical Director.

How do I nail my MSL interview? ›

5 Concrete Things you Should Absolutely do before Every MSL interview.
  1. Ask this question when you start (but not in a confrontational way). “I'm excited to be here. ...
  2. Practice the “Tell me about yourself” response out loud several times. ...
  3. Research the company. ...
  4. Presentations. ...
  5. Money.

How do I prepare for a MSL interview presentation? ›

Preparing for the MSL Presentation
  1. Begin your preparation by asking who will be in attendance for your presentation. ...
  2. Practice, but do not memorize your slide deck. ...
  3. Have your presentation ready to digitally submit in a timely manner. ...
  4. Technology can fail. ...
  5. You'll want your presentation on your laptop and on a flash drive.
Jan 4, 2022

What to say when asked why do you want this position? ›

I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry, and I feel I can do so by/with my …” “I feel my skills are particularly well-suited to this position because …” “I believe I have the type of knowledge to succeed in this role and at the company because …”

Why is liaison important in healthcare? ›

They provide a point of contact for patients, their families and their carers.

What are examples of liaison? ›

What's a Liaison in English? In English pronunciation, you use the word liaison when words are linked together in pronunciation. For example, in the sentence “My name is Ann“, a linguist would say there's a liaison between the Z sound of “is” and the letter A of “Ann” – [my nay mi zan].

Is liaison a good job? ›

Yes, being a liaison can be a good job.

That is more than three times the national average for all liaison careers. The average liaison makes $47,539 a year. While this leaves something to be desired, the benefits may outweigh the pros of this career. A liaison is a mediator between two parties.

Is being a liaison a skill? ›

Three common soft skills for a liaison are time-management skills, compassion and problem-solving skills.

What rank is a liaison officer? ›

E-4. A liaison officer (LNO) represents the commander or a staff officer. The task and its complexity determine the required qualifications. At higher echelons, the complexity of operations often requires an increase in the rank required for LNOs.

How do you list a liaison on a resume? ›

Skills to include on your resume as a liaison
  1. Written and oral communication.
  2. Self-motivator.
  3. Problem-solver.
  4. Organization.
  5. Conflict resolution.
  6. Teamwork.
  7. Supportive.
  8. Time management.
Jan 10, 2023

Do medical science liaisons do research? ›

Therefore, when approaching prospective thought leader candidates, medical science liaisons must focus their interactions on the science behind the products. By doing so, the MSL provides physicians the opportunity to advance research within the given therapeutic area.

How much does Pfizer medical science liaison make? ›

Medical Science Liaison (MSL) salaries at Pfizer can range from $120,651-$132,211.

What is the difference between medical advisor and medical science liaison? ›

MSLs typically handle external communication, engaging in scientific discussions with key opinion leaders in the industry. Medical Advisors predominantly oversee internal governance, sales and marketing training as well as the approval of medical and marketing materials within the organisation.

How much does a Medical Science Liaison earn in the US? ›

How much does a Medical Science Liaison make? The national average salary for a Medical Science Liaison is $1,65,022 in United States.

What challenges do you see with the MSL job? ›

5 Daily Challenges of MSLs
  • Where Does Medical End and Commercial Begin? The issue of not crossing into commercial territory has two distinct parts to it. ...
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. ...
  • Living the Life of a Road Warrior. ...
  • Too Much Information, Too Little Time. ...
  • Being in (Too Much) Demand.

Can I work in a call center without experience? ›

Call Center Agent | Open for Beginner | Work from Home

With or without Call Center experience. At least high school graduate. Good listening, verbal and written communication skills. Must be willing to work immediately.

How can I make money in the medical field without a degree? ›

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monster gathered great health care jobs you can get without a college degree.
  1. Medical scribe. ...
  2. Phlebotomist. ...
  3. Medical coder. ...
  4. Surgical technologist. ...
  5. Ultrasound technician. ...
  6. Assisted living.

How do I get hired with no experience? ›

How to Get an Entry-Level Job with No Experience
  1. Find a Personal Connection. ...
  2. Tell Your Story in the Cover Letter. ...
  3. Explain the “Why” on Your Resume. ...
  4. Don't Undersell Your Experience. ...
  5. Tailor Resume to the Job Description. ...
  6. Research the Company and the People. ...
  7. Prepare for the Interview. ...
  8. Make the Most Out of the Interview.

How much does a Medical Science Liaison at Eli Lilly make? ›

$183,333. How accurate does $183,333 look to you? Your input helps Glassdoor refine our pay estimates over time.

What is the highest paying job in medical science? ›

Anesthesiologists and surgeons earn the highest income among doctors. According to Payscale August 2022 data, anesthesiologists earn an average of $307,740, and surgeons earn an average of $287,500 as of July 2022 data.

What degree do you need to be a medical liaison? ›

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: Biochemistry.

Is a medical science liaison a drug rep? ›

MSLs are trusted scientific advisors to HCPs, who provide truthful, non-misleading medical and scientific information, whereas the sales rep's focus is commercial and promotional and geared towards convincing the HCP of the merits of the company's drug.

Is medical science liaison competitive? ›

It is extremely competitive to become an MSL. Dr. Dyer said that The MSL Society has “launched more than 100 careers of medical science liaisons.” He recommends that candidates educate themselves on the profession and become aware of the resources out there to support their careers, including The MSL Society.

What is the highest paid medical professional? ›

Anesthesiologists and surgeons earn the highest income among doctors. According to Payscale August 2022 data, anesthesiologists earn an average of $307,740, and surgeons earn an average of $287,500 as of July 2022 data.

How much does a medical liaison earn in the US? ›

The average medical science liaison salary in the USA is $170,400 per year or $81.92 per hour. Entry level positions start at $150,000 per year while most experienced workers make up to $200,000 per year.


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