STEM Professions: Jobs in the Medical Device Sector
Medical devices are essential for the safe and effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of illness and disease. By aiding natural physiological processes and providing important clinical data, they are crucial for safeguarding the health and wellbeing of people all across the globe.
With plenty of opportunities for travel, professional development and international employment — as well as the opportunity to make a positive impact on public health — there’s never been a better time to work in the field.
But what are medical devices, exactly? And what does a career in the industry look like? To help your job search, we’ve put together this sector specific job profile.
What is a medical device?
“Medical device” is an extremely expansive term that can encompass a wide range of items intended for medical use — from syringes and scalpels to pulse oximeters and pacemakers.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a medical device is any instrument, apparatus, implement or machine intended by the manufacturer to be used (either alone or in combination) for a medical purpose for human beings. These purposes can include:
- Diagnosing, monitoring, treating and alleviating disease
- Supporting or sustaining life
- Controlling contraception
- Providing accurate patient data to help improve healthcare pathways
Often, it can be hard to distinguish between a medicine and a medical device. For companies to market a product as a medical device, they first need to gain approval from the relevant regulatory body.
In the UK, the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) makes decisions on whether a product is a medicine or medical device. Until a product’s status has been decided, it is known as a borderline product.
Medical devices are classified by the regulatory authorities that oversee the marketing of such devices in different countries. Devices are often split into classes depending on the level of risk to the patient or user. Under US Food and Drink Administration (FDA) regulation, for example, there are three classes of medical devices.
- Class I - These are low-risk devices, such as bandages, handheld surgical instruments, enema kits, and non-electric wheelchairs.
- Class II - These are intermediate-risk devices. Examples include electric wheelchairs, infusion pumps, and some pregnancy testing kits.
- Class III - These are high-risk devices that are vital to health and/or sustaining life. 10% of medical devices regulated by the FDA are class III devices. Examples include implantable pacemakers, pulse generators, HIV diagnostic tests, and automated external defibrillators.
|Did you know?
|The world’s oldest known medical device — a Neolithic dental drill made of flint — was made over 9,000 years ago in modern-day Pakistan.
Medical devices industry outlook
Fortune Business Insights estimates that the global medical devices market was worth US$ 425.5bn in 2018. By 2025, the global market is expected to reach US$ 612.7bn, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4%.
Interestingly, the growth of the market in emerging nations is outpacing growth in developed nations. In 2018, the North American market was valued at US$ 169.3bn (40% of the global market share). While this region is expected to hold a significant share of the market in the forecasted period up to 2025, growth in the emerging Asia-Pacific region is anticipated to be faster due to increasing per capita income, an ageing population, more widespread disease awareness and improving health infrastructure.
Certain trends underpin this rapid growth. Increasingly, large companies are outsourcing their R&D efforts to smaller Medtech businesses that specialise entirely on medical devices. Meanwhile, tech giants such as Google have launched pioneering partnerships with the digital health market, turbocharging innovation and creating new jobs. Finally, the rise of Big Data and Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) is creating a new revenue stream for Medtech.
Examples of medical device manufacturers
According to Medical Product Outsourcing, the most prominent global medical device employers with the biggest market share in 2019 were:
- Johnson & Johnson
- GE Healthcare
- Philips Healthcare
Aside from the big conglomerates, there are also hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and combined drug-device companies that manufacture medical device products.
Medical device companies near me
Interested in working for a medical device company in your area?
Different types of medical device jobs
Because the medical device industry is such a broad field that is constantly expanding, medical devices roles are split into various sub-sectors. These areas of specialism include:
- Quality Assurance (QA)
- Quality Control (QC)
- Field Engineering
- Research and Development (R&D) Design
What does a medical device sales rep do?
One of the fastest-growing sub-sectors of the medical device market is sales.
As a sales representative, you’ll be expected to sell your company's devices to a range of customers and clients, including GPs, hospital doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Medical device sales roles are target-driven and can often be demanding for newcomers to the sector.
The job typically involves ensuring compliance with healthcare and medtech regulation, as well as working strategically to raise awareness of your employer and its products. Sales reps act as an important link between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.
Most sales reps specialise in a particular product or medical area.
While you may often have to work extra hours in the evenings, you will not be expected to work shifts or weekends. Work is mostly office-based but often involves being responsible for a particular geographical area, so you will be required to travel to meet clients. Self-employment or freelance work is possible but very uncommon. The vast majority of medical device sales reps work on a full-time, 9-to-5 basis.
The ongoing technological innovation and the globalisation of markets in recent years mean that the minutiae of medical device roles are constantly changing to meet demand. The duties and responsibilities of medical device professionals vary from company to company, though typical tasks usually include:
- Arranging appointments with key people in the medical world
- Developing long-term relationships with existing customers and building new ones
- Delivering presentations to healthcare professionals in hospital and retail environments
- Organising conferences for doctors and other medical staff, and manage the budget for such events
- Meeting (and, if possible, exceeding) annual sales targets
- Keep an eye on competitors’ activity and their sales performance
How much do you make in medical device sales?
According to Payscale, the average salary for a medical device sales professional in the UK is around £35,000. The starting salary for entry-level medical device sales jobs typically ranges from around £20,000 to £30,000. Managers and senior-level sales reps usually earn upwards of £40,000.
How do I become a medical device sales rep?
Despite being a highly competitive and demanding field, medical device sales represents a great opportunity to make a name for yourself in an innovative, dynamic sector.
Typically, the minimum requirement to become an entry-level medical device sales rep is usually a graduate degree, particularly in an area such as life sciences, engineering, medicine or pharmacy. Having an additional postgraduate degree in a field related to medical device sales can also substantially enhance your career prospects.
Having a science degree isn’t a necessity, however. Business and marketing are particularly useful areas for medical device sales. If you don’t have an academic qualification, it’s possible to enter the profession with a Higher National Diploma (HND) or foundation degree. Enrolling in training courses specific to your desired area of specialisation will also give you an advantage.
Skills and experience
Medical device sales employers look for candidates who are adaptable, proactive and can point to a proven track record of success in the area. As such, academic qualifications alone will not be enough if you are looking for a mid-to-senior-level role.
Again, requirements vary from business to business. Certain skills are mandatory, however, and successful candidates should be able to demonstrate:
- Commercial and business awareness
- Sales and customer relationship skills
- In-depth knowledge of the latest developments in biotech, medtech and healthcare
- IT and numeracy skills
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Critical thinking
TIP: To boost your chances of landing your dream medical devices role, make sure to network and build relationships wherever you can. Having key industry contacts who can attest to your skill set will enhance your online presence and help you stand out to potential employers.
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