Pursuing an MSL Job – Part 1

In today's episode, John presents his roadmap for landing a captivating career as an MSL. 

This is Part 1 of a 2-part excerpt of his course How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison. John developed this course as one of the first courses for his Nonclinical Career Academy.

Part 2 will be presented next week. Together, these 2 presentations will provide you with a good understanding of what an MSL does and how to pursue your first job as an MSL.

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/physicianmba.

The Captivating Career as an MSL

The Medical Science Liaison (MSL) in the pharmaceutical industry is a popular position for physicians who wish to leave clinical practice. This is true because it is possible to qualify for the job regardless of the extent of training. Whether you're residency-trained, board certified, or not, it does not require special certifications or degrees (beyond a medical degree).

And the job provides a moderate amount of flexibility working part of the time from home. However, it involves traveling to meet with clients up to 60% of the time.


John created How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison for the Nonclinical Career Academy. He provides excerpts from that course for this podcast episode and next week's.

By presenting the pros and cons, and an overview of the steps you can take to prepare for a job as an MSL, you will gain a much deeper understanding of the position to help you decide whether to pursue it.

He also goes into great detail about common tactics used to find a nonclinical career, including:

  1. converting your CV to a resumé,
  2. engaging mentors;
  3. networking effectively,
  4. creating a LinkedIn profile,
  5. and identifying professional organizations that can hasten your progress.

The full six-part course can be found at: https://nonclinicalphysicians.com/mslcourse.

Dr. John Jurica's Advice

This job is open to physicians with almost any background, even those who have not completed residency training. And it requires no special certifications or degrees in most cases.


By listening to this episode and Episode 277, you will understand how to pursue a captivating career as an MSL and why it is so attractive.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

EXCLUSIVE: Get a daily dose of inspiration, information, news, training opportunities, and amusing stories by CLICKING HERE.

Links for Today's Episode:

Download This Episode:

Right Click Here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton

Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 276

How to Secure a Captivating Career as an MSL

John: A medical science liaison or an MSL is one of the most popular first nonclinical jobs for physicians, especially in the realm of the pharmaceutical industry. I've interviewed MSL from all kinds of medical backgrounds. And after completing my own research, I put together everything I learned into my course "How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison." It's one of the first courses I created for my nonclinical career academy. And I thought those of you interested in breaking into the pharmaceutical industry might be inspired to pursue this career after learning more about it.

I'm presenting a sample of the content in the course, starting with part one today. And then part two will be presented next week. Together, these two presentations will provide you with a good understanding of what an MSL does and how to pursue your first job as a medical science liaison.

Now, the material presented over these two weeks while dense with information only represents about 15% of the material in the course itself. But if you're struggling with whether to consider a pharma job, this will help you better understand the most popular entry level position in the pharma industry that I've encountered. So, here we go with part one on how to pursue a career as an MSL.

Hello everybody. This is John Jurica, and I'd like to welcome you to this course called "How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison." Let's go ahead and get started with lesson number one.

Okay, here we go. Let's start lesson number one - Let's prepare. Now, this particular career is open to both types of physicians that have board certification and residency training, and those that do not. That's one of the reasons I selected this as the initial type of course to present for my students because it's open to those of you who perhaps have an MD or the equivalent type of education and degree, but chose not to complete a residency and become board certified. Perhaps you're not licensed, but you do have an advanced degree, which is in a way equivalent to a PhD. The MD also has the fact that you probably had some contact with patients, obviously, so that gives you a leg up on some kinds of jobs. But you may be residency trained and board certified, and you may have some clinical experience. So, the MSL job is open to both.

But one of the things we need to address before we go into the specifics of a particular career, including this one, is this issue of self-limiting beliefs that may hold you back. And I hear about this all the time. I've spoken with many coaches who experience these kinds of comments or thoughts by their clients, and that is that we need to overcome some of these limiting beliefs so that we can successfully and aggressively move forward to that new career.

I just want to talk about a few of the more common self-limiting beliefs. There are many, but these are the ones that seem to be the most common. The first is the imposter syndrome. Now, technically the imposter syndrome is experienced by those who are already in a position, and it's a sense that "Even though I've reached this point, and I may on the outside appear to be successful, inside I feel as though I'm just barely hanging on. I don't really have the skills or the experience needed to do this job. And at the core, I'm an imposter. And at any minute now, I'm going to be found out."

Now, there's a concept I want to talk about here, and it's written about by Gay Hendricks in the book "The Big Leap", and you might want to pick this up and read through it, but let me explain the one concept here as it relates to feeling like an imposter. There's this concept of zone of excellence and zone of genius. Gay Hendricks talks about that. As we move through life, we move through different zones. And many of us, when we're very young working a job where we're incompetence. So, we're in our zone of incompetence, we're just struggling, we're learning as we go, but it's usually an entry level job and it's okay. After we learn a little bit, we can work and be competent. So that's our zone of competence. It's not really rewarding, but let's say we've learned how to balance a checkbook and do some basic accounting, and we can do it, but of course, there's probably a lot of other people that can better able to do that.

Now, once we complete our medical training, we're ready to go out and see patients, at least start a residency, if that's what we choose to do. And we are probably in our zone of excellence. But the zone of excellence means that while you're capable and probably very capable of doing that job, you're not really doing the work that you were called to do. And that's where the zone of genius comes in.

So, what we're working on today is getting past that zone of competence, past that zone of excellence and getting into the zone of genius. But you don't get to the zone of genius quickly. Once you've entered that new career, you're going to be enthusiastic and passionate. You're going to learn as much as you can, and then you're going to get to that point where you enjoy doing what you're doing and you're doing the work you were meant to do. And the whole imposter syndrome will, during this process, just fade away as a distant memory.

Now, the guilt is the second one. Feeling guilty about leaving your current role or leaving medicine behind. Well, a couple of things to consider in this situation. First of all, when you move on to one of these nonclinical jobs, you're still a doctor, you're still a physician. You'll always be a physician. And many of these jobs require you moving up, so to speak, in the hierarchy. In other words, for thousands of jobs, being an experienced physician is actually the baseline, it's the cost of entry to that job. There would be no other way to get that job other than to go through the process of completing your medical degree, and in some cases, working clinically.

You have nothing to feel guilty about. You're moving to some position that is extremely important, that meets the needs of a larger group of patients in many cases, or meets the needs of the healthcare system. And there's really no reason why you should feel guilty about going from being a clinical physician to a nonclinical position somewhere any more than let's say an attorney should feel guilty about going from being an attorney to a politician, or in other words, an attorney to a mayor, to a governor, to a senator, to a congressman. Those are positions that often build on the previous experience as an attorney, and certainly nobody should feel guilty about that.

Then there's this fear of failure. This is really the core of most people, including physicians, this core belief that holds us back. "What happens if I fail? I have responsibilities. What if I can't pay my bills? What if I can't get rid of my debt? What if I can't provide for my family?" These are serious issues that should definitely be mitigated and addressed and planned for.

But again, the reality is you've already demonstrated your ability to succeed better than 99% of your cohort, of people your age, students your age, people you went through school with. You've demonstrated that you can successfully finish college, successfully apply to medical school, successfully get accepted to medical school, successfully complete medical school, and in some cases even go beyond that. So, the likelihood of failing, particularly if you plan sufficiently, is very, very low.

And here's another one, it's too late to make a change. Now, if you're a physician who over a period of time has developed the signs of burnout, and you know what those are, but you're feeling really unhappy, you've decided you're not a failure, that you do have the necessary skills and experience at least to start working towards a different career. And even if it's late in life, so-called "late in life", age 45, 50, 55, even 60 years old, I've seen many examples of physicians who made drastic changes in their careers as late as 60 or 70.

In summary, in lesson number one, we've talked about "Prepare, do your homework." That's one of the reasons I am providing this course for you. Number two, don't skip the steps that we're going to go through here in the rest of these lessons. As long as you're methodical, you follow the steps, you don't say, "Well, I don't want to network. I don't want to write my resume the way John says to do it." No, don't skip the steps, do what we're going to talk about, and you will be successful.

Keep in mind the limiting beliefs and make certain that you've fully addressed them. And this is something to talk about with your spouse or significant other or other family members or even to a colleague. And you can have mentors and coaches that we'll talk about later where you can address some of these issues. And then it's an optional part, but read "The Big Leap" by Gay Hendricks. I think it'll help motivate you and see that if you haven't already found that job that you were truly meant to do, it's time to do that. So don't let that hold you back. And I think you'll be inspired by reading the book if you choose to do so.

I think it's time for us to move on to lesson number two. But these are the methods that we often use when seeking a new career. And it applies to almost any kind of nonclinical career search and probably could apply to almost any career search in general, even outside medicine or healthcare. But there's some exceptions to this, but in general, when you're making a shift from a clinical position to a nonclinical career and you really got to start from the very beginning in some sense, the needs have the universal truths or strategies that almost everybody's going to want to follow or utilize in some combination, and which should therefore be done effectively and intentionally.

Let me talk a minute here about mentors and coaches. For career change, I'm definitely saying you must identify a mentor and then at least occasionally touch base and have that mentor provide input into some of the decisions you are making so that you can stay on track and avoid going down some dead ends that aren't going to be useful.

Now let's talk about networking. Networking is a term that sometimes scares people. It sounds like something that sales people do more so than physicians, although I think at a high level, most of us understand that networking is a good thing. It's just a way to increase the number of people that you know in a certain field that can help one another. The thing is, for whatever reason I found, I think it's true that a large percentage of physicians are somewhat introverted. It's obviously not 100%, but many of us are nerdy. We like science. We have no problems most of the time sitting by ourselves, focusing on our studies, learning things, reading.

And so, networking for many of us, again, not all doesn't really come naturally. But we want to talk and think about networking as a standalone part of this career change because I've talked to some people in my podcast who have shifted, again, completely. I'm thinking right now of one MSL who made a shift. And she said that online resumes were worthless and that you're most likely to find a job by networking. Networking is very important. It should be on top of your list in terms of part of the strategies you're using during your career transition, especially early on. And we'll talk a little bit about how this can tie in with the other universal truth.

Now, professional organizations are the third universal. Now pretty much with every new career that you can think of, whether it's any career in pharma, whether it's medical writing, insurance, medicine, leadership, management, there are always physician professional organizations, not always a hundred percent physician. So, there's the physician organizations that might be applicable, but there's also organizations that are not dominated by physicians. They may have physician members, but they may not be dominated by physicians.

This is part of the strategy. Every time you're starting down that path, you're going to identify the most prominent organizations that may be able to help you in your career pursuit. The one listed here, the Medical Science Liaison Society has many professionals, because MSLs include PhDs and PharmDs as well as MDs. So obviously there's that.

Now LinkedIn. Why would I list a social media platform as one of the universal truths of career transition? And why would I not include something like Facebook or one of the other social media sites, Instagram, or even something like Doximity, which is a social media site for physicians. Well, let me explain why a couple things. First of all, LinkedIn isn't really like some of the other membership sites. It has pretty strict guidelines, and it's a professional organization or it's an organization design for professionals. And so, the whole thought process and just the atmosphere when you're on LinkedIn is different.

The last part of this, it's almost a given that in any job search you're going to be using some kind of a CV or resume. Let's just briefly talk about these two topics. A curriculum vitae is what most physicians who are in clinical medicine, most academicians and others of that nature use when looking for a new position. They want to put down anything and everything they've ever accomplished from the standpoint of education, certification, any publications, usually includes a list of presentations, things of that nature.

Well, in the business world, it's a little different. And so, for most nonclinical jobs, rather than using that kind of a CV, you're going to be using a resume. Now, granted, these two terms can be used interchangeably at times, but we're going to talk always about a resume.

The resume typically is focused more on your accomplishments than on your positions or your education. Just to give an example. There might be 20 MBAs or MD MBAs applying for a job. It's sort of the MD and the MD MBA are the baseline. What's important is their accomplishments. And so, usually on a resume, you're going to have a short paragraph at the top that talks about why you're seeking this position. And then you're going to have a list of accomplishments or experiences that you have enjoyed that demonstrate your abilities.

The other thing I wanted to mention here is that people ask, "Well, do I need to send a cover letter?" Yes, you need to send a cover letter. If it's superfluous, okay, fine. If it's something that they don't look at, then they just won't look at it. But the cover letter is less than a page. It's very short. Simply states the fact that you feel you have the requisite experience and education background and so forth to do the job. And a few sentences about why you think you can meet the needs of the organization. And of course, the more specific you can be, the better. Sometimes these things are even keyed off of information you might have gleaned by talking to the HR director or VP for your HR or whatever, depending on the organization you're going to work for. And each cover letter and each resume are customized. And then we're going to get into specifics for this particular course in the next section.

The summary for this lesson is that you must connect with a mentor or two. You should network. We've talked about the importance of professional organizations. Again, they provide their own level of networking, they provide education certification and even their own mentoring at times.

And then of course, LinkedIn overlaps and does all these different things as well. So, you must have a fully completed profile with the picture there of you that's recent. And then you need to sort of use that LinkedIn profile to kind of look for things you can put and maybe test things out to put on your resume. And be sure to use the cover letter, try to find someone directly to send the resume and cover letter to. Whether it's the CEO of the organization, the human resources director by name. Again, you can use the online submissions and they do get to the person generally, but it's very impersonal. So, if you can get a name that you can send that to directly with the cover letter, that is going to work out a whole lot better. And I think with that, that's all for lesson number two. I'm excited to move on to lesson number three.

By getting deep into what an MSL job is and how to apply for your first MSL job, I think you get a much better idea whether it's a good choice for you. Remember, a physician with almost any background can pursue this career. Even if you aren't licensed, even if you don't have residency training or only have partial residency training and you're not board certified, you can apply for this job and there are positions available for you. But if you are board certified, if you have extensive experience, then there's also jobs for you as well. They usually pay a little more. And this job is also available to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists with a Pharm.D degree.

We're only halfway through this presentation, so make sure you return for part two next week. Remember too that the material being presented in these episodes is only a fraction of the lectures and supporting materials found in my course "How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison."

Now, you can get the show notes with all the links that are discussed during this presentation at nonclinicalphysicians.com/captivating-career. So, you can get those links there. And if you want to go straight to my academy and learn more about the course, you can do that by going to nonclinicalphysicians.com/mslcourse. And of course, there's no obligation. You can check it out there.

Now, any of the new courses that I'm putting out at this time in late 2022, I'm including two 30-minute coaching sessions or consulting sessions, as well as the ability to join a Mastermind group monthly for at least three months after you register for this course. Those are extra bonuses that aren't even mentioned on the website. Again, go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/mslcourse. Get the full course. It's six lectures and a bunch of material that goes with it, very similar to what I'm presenting this week and next week. And it also includes those two coaching sessions and membership in the Mastermind for a minimum of three months.


Many of the links that I refer you to are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you.

The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life, or business.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. I do not provide medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counselor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.