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Salary

Because most pharma reps work on commission, their salaries vary. For some, that might seem appealing, but for others hoping for a more consistent cash flow, not so much. Most reps make a base salary, from around $50k to all the way up to nearly $100k. Remember all that driving we just mentioned? One perk of the gig is that pharmaceutical companies usually throw in a swanky company car, car insurance, free gas and cell phone, etc., to help the reps live that Road Warrior lifestyle to the fullest. When you add up the monetary value of all those perks, you might be looking at nearly $20k each year in added bonuses. Then, if a pharma rep had a good year and has sold a lot of product, the bonus might be thousands of dollars. Get out that calculator, add it all up, and you're pulling down a nice salary, perhaps climbing up over that coveted six-figure mark. Not a bad chunk of change.

If you're going for the brass ring of the big, big bucks, sign on with biotech companies—if they'll have you, that is. These companies woo the best of the best pharma reps, dangling the possibility of an income topping $250k a year. So if your skills truly live up to your exalted opinion of them, give biotech a try.

But as we mentioned, the salary isn't carved in stone, because it's based on commission. The good news—the more you sell, the better you are at your job…the more money you make. The bad news—how much cash ends up in your pocket is no guarantee and not entirely within your control. Oodles of factors out there contribute to whether a doctor opts to prescribe your particular drug—the other drugs out there, how often a patient actually needs the medication, what a doctor may have read in his horoscope that morning, and on and on and on.

Not every month will be profitable, but most pharma reps end up taking home around $70k each year (plus car), depending on the drug market and the company they work for.

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