Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Certification

by Faith Davies; Updated September 26, 2017

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that although the pharmaceutical industry will grow by 6 percent from 2008 through 2018, the demand for sales representatives in the industry will decrease by more than 5 percent. Competition for positions will likely be high in some areas due to decreased demand for representatives and less job offerings. Gaining pharmaceutical sales rep certification can help professionals in the field increase their employment opportunities and qualify for higher rates of pay.


The National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives oversees the pharmaceutical sales representative program in the United States. A trade organization, the association has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. As of January 2011 the group boasted more than 50,000 members. The certification program offered by the association results in the Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative designation. Recipients have the ability to use the initials CNPR after their names for business purposes.


To qualify for pharmaceutical sales representative certification through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, reps must complete a training program developed by the association. More than 300 colleges and universities offer the program as of January 2010. In addition, students can purchase the training program materials directly from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives and complete the course online or using a self-study workbook. The program covers general information about the pharmaceutical industry as well as techniques to improve sales.


After completing the necessary training program, candidates for pharmaceutical sales rep certification must pass an examination developed by the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives. These test is given in an online format; students can take the exam using their home computers. The test consists of 160 multiple-choice questions and lasts up to two hours. Candidates must receive a minimum of an 80 percent to pass. The content of the exam is based on material covered in the training program. Participants in the correspondence program receive practice quizzes to help them prepare for the test.


Pharmaceutical sales representatives can purchase the certification training program and register for the examination online from the association's website. As of 2010, the cost of a package that included the program and the test was $195. The association offers a 14-day, money-back guarantee return policy for those who purchase materials directly from its website. Once certified, pharmaceutical representatives receive additional benefits from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, such as the ability to browse online job postings for positions reserved exclusively for certified reps.

About the Author

Faith Davies has been writing professionally since 1996, contributing to various websites. She holds an LAH insurance license in the state of Pennsylvania and has experience as a bank branch manager and lending officer. Davies graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in art history.