Deciding on a future career or a career change?  Over the years, I’ve been asked many times about being a pharmacist.  Some of these questions come from customers, friends or patients but many come from online inquiries, emails or phone calls from a high school or college student asking what a career in pharmacy entails and what do they have to do to be a pharmacist.  This article will focus on what being a pharmacist is about and if you should pursue a career in pharmacy.   What it takes to get there and the requirements for getting into school will be answered in a future blog post.    

First you have to look at what you are interested in.  For me, I loved my science and math classes and knew that I wanted to be in healthcare.  I did NOT like blood and I really didn’t want to be in training for ten more years so I ruled out medicine.  Originally, I wanted to be in physical therapy and I did a shadowing experience there.  That shadowing experience ruled out PT for me for a couple of reasons.  Along the way, I ran into someone who recommended pharmacy.   I did a hospital shadowing experience in school and the director kept telling me what a good job it was – I was drawn to the wide variety of things that pharmacists do.  At the time, I was dreaming of working for the FDA and helping regulate and study new medications.  The director also pointed out that there were so many different things that I could do and that also I could have a flexible schedule as a woman.  At the time, I was in my early twenties and having a family was not at the forefront of my mind (though I knew I wanted one someday), but now that I am older, the flexibility is great.     

The questions that drew me into pharmacy - 

1.       Do I like people?

2.       Do I like science?

3.       Do I like variety?

4.       Do I like being challenged day to day?

Liking people is necessary for the day to day operations of a retail or hospital pharmacist.  If you don’t want to deal with patients and customers there are still other options for you (covered here).

Having a good science background is important for doing well in your prerequisites and in pharmacy school and for understanding the basic medicinal and chemical properties that predict and make drugs behave in the ways that they do.  Knowing (and remembering) how the drugs work will make you an excellent pharmacist especially if you are able to counsel people in language that they can comprehend.   As a clinical pharmacist or research pharmacist, a good science background is a must.  

Variety! I love that every day is not the same.  If you work in retail pharmacy, there is a little more monotony than other avenues but you still have some pretty adventurous days.  

5.       Money?

For me, money wasn’t the primary reason, but for many in my pharmacy school class it was.  There were many older students who had gone through a career change and entered pharmacy school.  Yes, pharmacy school is a commitment - four more years (and you will have your doctorate).  The payoff at the end of pharmacy school is a very comfortable lifestyle.  Some jobs will offer growth; some will keep you pretty steady throughout your career.  A word of caution: the people I know who went into pharmacy school primarily for the money are not happy in the day to day operations of pharmacy.  These are highly intelligent people who like to be learning and working in a monotonous job (which some parts of pharmacy are) can be tiresome.

Cons – 

1.       Cost of school and graduating with student loans  (some of my fellow pharmacy students graduated with between $100-200K of student loans.  School tuition is going up every year)

2.       Increase of new pharmacy schools – a saturated market and jobs aren’t as easy as they were to come by ten years ago

3.        Four year commitment (but well worth it)

 Again, I will go through the different paths you can take in a later post.  

For more information, see the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s top ten reasons to be a pharmacist here.  To see information on the job market (too many pharmacy students graduating) see here and here.  

If you have any questions, please post in the comment section and I will be happy to answer!

PracticeJoanna Simmon