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How to map out a successful career pathway in Medical Affairs

Posted on: 28 Jan
A Medical Affairs team are responsible for communicating complex medical and scientific information to the healthcare community while supporting the marketing and sales team and recognising the businesses’ commercial goals.

While The history of Medical Affairs dates to the 1950s it’s only been in the last few decades that the sector has really begun to take shape. Originally, regulatory bodies put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to create a department, separate to the commercial team, with the scientific knowledge to support the creation and marketing of commercial products. This kickstarted the demand for a Medical Affairs team and since then, the sector has grown into its own.
So why work is this is a great sector to work in and how can you map out a successful career pathway in Medical Affairs?

Why work in Medical Affairs?

When first set up, the Medical Affairs team was largely responsible for relaying medical information and compiling reports. As the pharmaceutical industry has grown and adapted, the function of the Medical Affairs team transformed too. Their responsibility now extends to strategy, communications, post-launch trials and more. The influence that Medical Affairs professionals have will continue to evolve and McKinsey’s A vision for Medical Affairs in 2025 report explains there will be a stronger focus on AI technology, performance measuring and a more customer-centric mindset.

Those who choose to work in Medical Affairs have the chance to help healthcare clients find unparalleled insights and be a part of the driving force that delivers better solutions for patients. While there’s no set career path in this sector, here are some of the core roles where you can make a real difference.

Junior Medical Information Officer

Many people kickstart their Medical Affairs career as a Junior Medical Information Officer. As a separate entity from the commercial team, Medical Affairs personnel are an essential bridge between external bodies and internal pharmaceutical departments. The Medical Affairs team also works cross-functionally between other departments, such as research and development (R&D), pharmacovigilance, compliance, marketing and sales. In this role, your core responsibility will be to help the medical information team review, assess and process safety and product quality information.

Senior Medical Information Officer

After a few years in a junior role, which will have given you time to develop relationship building skills and become familiar with the Medical Affairs sector, you’ll have the option to progress to a Senior Medical Information Officer. This role will involve more interaction with stakeholders and extends to copy approval of promotional and non-promotional materials.

Medical Scientific Liaison

It’s also possible to start your Medical Affairs career as a Medical Scientific Liaison (MSL). Some companies will require previous experience as an MSL while others will accept candidates who have an MD or PhD in a relevant field. As an MSL, your day will involve answering unsolicited medical questions, informing clinicians about developments in the pharmaceutical and medical devices market, supporting with adverse event reporting and uncovering scientific data that may have the potential for publication. Developing relationships with healthcare professionals and key thought leaders will remain an important part of the role.

Scientific Advisor

Like a Medical Scientific Liaison, a Scientific Advisor is part of the medical communications team. Their role has transformed over the years, becoming more digitally savvy and focused on using medical insight to guide business decisions and expose opportunities and risks. So while the key aim of a Scientific Advisor is to deliver extensive appraisals of medical product information, they also offer a more specialised service. By providing high-quality medical input to marketing and operational plans for promoted products, they ensure that patients receive the best care.

Clinical trial educator

A Medical Affairs career is one of the most diverse within life sciences. Just as with the other roles, a clinical trial educator (CTE) is the go-to person for information, advice and problem solving. However, their role is to provide practical support to study sites to maximise the potential for patient enrolment. CTEs engage with and educate clinical trials investigators and patients, helping to identify and address recruitment barriers.

Find a new and exciting role in Medical Affairs with IQVIA

Regardless of what role you take on in Medical Affairs, you’ll be working with pioneers in the field of medicine and you’ll play an essential role in driving healthcare forward.

The market is truly global, meaning that embarking on a career in Medical Affairs opens you up to so many opportunities around the world. IQVIA has 61,000 colleagues in 100 countries, and while we might be separated by distance, we’re united by the goal of improving patients’ lives. If you’re interested in seeing where a career with IQVIA could take you, browse our current Medical Affairs jobs and start your application.