Let’s Talk About Titles

What should your expectations be for your title as an MSL?

Not long ago Crecia, Heather, and I were reminiscing about how much has changed from when we started recruiting (for some, almost 10 years ago), to now. We talked about how much the MSL role has evolved, how MSLs starting salaries have increased (YAY!), and how titles for MSLs have changed throughout the years.

Our discussion on different MSL titles and experience levels had us thinking that we should share what we’ve learned with you all. What should your expectations be for your title as an MSL? Let’s dive in!  

Although it’s much more complex than this, the simple answer is- it depends!

It depends on a lot of things. The company you’re at/interviewing with, the internal bandwidth with titles at that organization, and the biggest one, what your motivation is.

  • The Company You’re At / Interviewing With

Every company is going to be different as far as MSL titles. Some companies bring everyone in at the same level, no matter how many years of experience you have. Some companies have MSLs, but all of their titles are Regional Director. It really depends on the company that you’re at or interviewing with, and what the “norm” is for them. A lot of times the company does not or cannot flex on the title for someone, so keep that in mind if having an elevating title is a priority of yours. Also, be sure to be transparent with HR, or your recruiter if a certain title will be a deal breaker for you.

  • The Internal Bandwidth with Titles at That Organization

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen with titles throughout the years is what level of experience allows you to have an elevated title. When we first started recruiting, industry standard was around at least 5 years of experience to move from an MSL to a Sr. MSL. Some companies required that 5 years to be total years of experience, while others wanted that 5 years to be with their specific company. Luckily, I think a lot of companies have had some flexibility with this timeline, but it’s something to still consider when asking for an increase on your title.

Here are some things to keep in mind and to look for when wanting a title change:

  • Do their current MSLs have different tiers of titles?
    • What does their experience look like compared to mine (at MSL, Senior, Principal, and Executive level)?
    • Does it look like anyone has joined their team with an elevated title, or is everyone joining as a Medical Science Liaison?
    • Once I join this company, will there be room for be to grow in my title?

Use those points to do your research. The easiest way to find out is to go on LinkedIn, search the company of interest, and review what their current employees look like. That will be a great guide on what a reasonable title will be if you were to join their team.

  • What’s Your Motivation?

The Muse has put together a great article on helping find out what motivates you. This is a great resource and something you should be considering when finding a new position, and/or when wanting a title change. Everyone’s motivation is different, so everyone’s title reflecting that will be different as well.

Here’s some examples on different motivations:

  • Your motivation could be more focused on being with a smaller company and being a more involved MSL. That might mean that company can’t provide you with an elevated title because it’s something they don’t offer. Your tradeoff is wearing more hats and expanding your scope as an MSL, but not getting a title increase.
    • Your motivation could be to move up in medical affairs. In order to do that, you may benefit from having a title progression on your resume so you may need to only consider companies that you’ve seen that progression in.
    • Your motivation might be to not move up in medical affairs, but to continue to grow as an MSL. In this instance you may want an elevated title to showcase that progression (Ex: MSL to Sr. MSL to Principal).
    • Your motivation might just be to get a pay increase. A company might not always be able to offer a certain title, but that doesn’t always mean they can’t offer a competitive increase on comp.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand your motivation, you’ll have a better idea of what your title should be to reflect that.

There’s not a formula for breadth of experience getting you a specific title (although I wish there was!). It’s something that will be different from company to company, but I hope we helped shed some light on expectations and how to decide what title is right for you.

As always, we’d love to hear from you on this topic! What has your experience been with getting promotions and title changes?


MSL; Title; Interview Tips