Healthcare jobs don't all involve direct patient care. Careers in healthcare sales combine medical knowledge and business acumen in an ever-changing economic and research environment.

St. Catherine University ( has been offering a bachelor of science degree and a certificate in Healthcare Sales since 2001, developed at the behest of corporate partners who wanted to develop a more competent sales force, according to Lynn Schleeter, director of the Center for Sales Innovation at St. Catherine.

How it works

The academic program is "very much about sales process, sales skills, but also understanding the managed-care environment and how you navigate in that managed care environment," Schleeter says.

Students also study human anatomy and physiology and learn about medical research. "We wanted our students to understand how clinical trials are done, the results that come out of clinical trials, so you can talk to your customer," Schleeter says. "We wanted them to be able to do more than repeat what the company says."

Students analyze the research process in traditional Western medicine as well in complementary therapies. They also study healthcare economics. "We're developing business acumen for them so they understand how organizations function, how they make money," Schleeter says. "Even though an organization may be a nonprofit, they still have to stay in business."

A new program

In January of 2011, the university plans to offer a certificate program with fewer science credits for healthcare professionals who have already completed them. Students should be able to complete the new 18-credit certificate course in 10 months, according to Schleeter. The traditional certificate program requires 34 credits.

"We're seeing individuals who are doing career transition," she says. "They may have an undergrad degree in nursing or occupational therapy and do the healthcare sales certificate to transition from the clinical side of healthcare to the business side."

Ericka Hazelett transitioned from a career as a mortician, receiving her certificate from St. Catherine in 2009. She appreciated the university staff's ability to show her the opportunities within the industry, and being able to shadow a healthcare sales professional while in the program.

"You need to have a love for the type of sales that you're doing," Hazelett explains. "I've always liked healthcare, so that part was a natural part of the transition."

As a sales consultant in ambulatory care for Cardinal Health, Hazelett is part of a team that covers Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and Iowa. Her customers include clinics, free-standing surgery centers and alternate care sites such as long-term care centers and home health companies.

"It's a very diverse job," she says. "You never ever get bored. I learn something new every, single day."