So you’re considering becoming a pharmacist but want to know if it’s really worth all the time and money for schooling and certifications? That’s an excellent question to ask before embarking on this career path.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the pros and cons of being a pharmacist to help you make an informed decision.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Being a pharmacist can be a rewarding career with great job stability, excellent pay, and the ability to help people every day. However, it requires extensive education, licensing exams, long hours on your feet, and dealing with difficult customers.
Overall, if you have a strong interest in healthcare and science and are willing to go through 7+ years of schooling, being a pharmacist is likely worth it.
The Extensive Educational Requirements
Becoming a pharmacist requires a significant investment in education and training. Let’s take a closer look at the extensive educational requirements that aspiring pharmacists must fulfill.
Completing a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or related field
To embark on the path to becoming a pharmacist, individuals must first complete a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or a related field. This undergraduate program provides students with a solid foundation in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, biology, and mathematics.
It equips them with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue further education in pharmacy.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), it is essential to choose an accredited pharmacy program to ensure quality education. Accreditation ensures that the program meets specific standards set by professional organizations.
Earning a PharmD degree
After completing a bachelor’s degree, aspiring pharmacists must then earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. This professional degree program typically lasts four years and focuses on advanced pharmaceutical sciences, clinical pharmacy practice, and patient care.
The PharmD curriculum includes coursework in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacotherapy, and pharmacy law. Students also gain practical experience through internships and rotations in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals and community pharmacies.
It is worth noting that the PharmD degree is a prerequisite for obtaining a license to practice as a pharmacist in most countries, including the United States.
Completing 1-2 years of residency
After earning a PharmD degree, many pharmacists choose to further enhance their skills and expertise by completing a residency program. Residency programs typically last one to two years and provide pharmacists with hands-on training in a specialized area of pharmacy practice.
During the residency, pharmacists work under the guidance of experienced preceptors and gain valuable experience in areas such as clinical pharmacy, ambulatory care, or critical care. These programs allow pharmacists to develop clinical skills, engage in research, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Completing a residency is optional, but it can significantly enhance a pharmacist’s career prospects, particularly in specialized fields or in pursuing leadership roles.
The Benefits of Being a Pharmacist
Excellent job prospects and stability
One of the major benefits of being a pharmacist is the excellent job prospects and stability in the field. The demand for pharmacists is expected to grow significantly in the coming years due to the aging population and the increasing need for healthcare services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of pharmacists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This means that pharmacists can enjoy a high level of job security and have a wide range of opportunities to choose from.
High salary potential
Another major advantage of being a pharmacist is the high salary potential. Pharmacists are among the highest-paid professionals in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for pharmacists was $128,090 in May 2020.
However, it’s important to note that the salary can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and the type of pharmacy practice. With the right qualifications and experience, pharmacists have the potential to earn a lucrative income.
Ability to help patients every day
Being a pharmacist provides the opportunity to make a positive impact on patients’ lives on a daily basis. Pharmacists play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and effective use of medications. They provide counseling to patients, answer their questions, and help them understand how to take their medications properly.
By providing personalized care and advice, pharmacists contribute to improving patients’ health outcomes and overall well-being.
Opportunities for career advancement
Pharmacy offers numerous opportunities for career advancement. Pharmacists can choose to specialize in various areas such as clinical pharmacy, research, academia, or industry. They can pursue advanced degrees, such as a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), which can open doors to higher-level positions and leadership roles.
Additionally, pharmacists can also explore opportunities to become pharmacy managers, consultants, or even start their own independent pharmacies. The field of pharmacy is constantly evolving, providing pharmacists with a wide range of career paths to explore.
Flexible work arrangements
Pharmacists often enjoy flexible work arrangements. They have the option to work in a variety of settings, including retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and even remote telepharmacy positions. This flexibility allows pharmacists to find a work-life balance that suits their personal needs and preferences.
Furthermore, many pharmacies offer flexible scheduling options, such as part-time or weekend shifts, which can be beneficial for those who are looking for a more flexible work schedule.
The Challenges of the Role
Being a pharmacist is a rewarding career, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Here are some of the difficulties that pharmacists may face in their day-to-day work:
Long hours spent standing
Pharmacists often find themselves spending long hours on their feet, as they are constantly moving around the pharmacy to fill prescriptions, answer questions, and assist customers. This can take a toll on their physical well-being and lead to fatigue or discomfort.
It’s important for pharmacists to take breaks and find ways to alleviate any strain on their bodies, such as investing in comfortable shoes or using supportive mats.
Stress dealing with sick patients
Pharmacists are on the front lines of healthcare, and they regularly interact with sick patients who may be in pain or distress. This can be emotionally draining and requires pharmacists to have strong interpersonal skills and empathy.
They must be able to handle sensitive situations with care and professionalism, providing support and reassurance to patients while maintaining their own composure.
Tedious administrative tasks and paperwork
Administrative tasks and paperwork are an integral part of a pharmacist’s job. They must meticulously document and track medications, update patient profiles, and comply with regulatory requirements. This can be a time-consuming and tedious process, taking away from the time they could be spending on direct patient care.
However, it is crucial for maintaining accurate records and ensuring patient safety.
Dealing with angry or difficult customers
Like any customer-facing role, pharmacists may encounter angry or difficult customers from time to time. Whether it’s a disagreement over insurance coverage or dissatisfaction with a medication, pharmacists must remain calm and professional in these situations.
They need to listen to the customer’s concerns, address them appropriately, and find a resolution that satisfies both parties. This requires strong communication and conflict resolution skills.
Always being accurate under pressure
Accuracy is paramount in the field of pharmacy. Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing the correct medication, in the right dosage, and providing accurate instructions to patients. This requires a high level of attention to detail, even in high-pressure situations.
Pharmacists must be able to handle the fast-paced nature of their work, while ensuring that every prescription is filled correctly and safely.
Despite the challenges, being a pharmacist can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives, help them manage their health conditions, and contribute to the overall well-being of the community.
It’s important for aspiring pharmacists to weigh the pros and cons of the profession and consider if they have the passion and dedication to overcome the challenges and thrive in this vital role.
Alternative Career Options
While being a pharmacist can be a rewarding career, it’s important to explore alternative options that may better align with your interests and goals. Here are some alternative career paths to consider:
Becoming a physician assistant (PA) is a popular alternative for those interested in patient care. PAs work under the supervision of physicians, providing diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services. They can prescribe medication, perform physical exams, and assist in surgeries.
With the demand for healthcare professionals on the rise, becoming a PA can offer great job prospects and the opportunity to make a positive impact in patients’ lives.
Another alternative career option is becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs are advanced practice registered nurses who have a higher level of autonomy and responsibility in patient care. They can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide primary and specialty healthcare services.
With a shortage of primary care physicians in many areas, NPs play a crucial role in bridging the gap and providing accessible healthcare to patients.
Medical Sales Representative
If you have a passion for sales and enjoy building relationships, a career as a medical sales representative could be a good fit. Medical sales representatives promote and sell pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and equipment to healthcare professionals.
They often work closely with physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers to educate them about the latest advancements in medical technology and how it can benefit their patients.
If you have a strong interest in research and a desire to contribute to scientific advancements, a career as a scientific researcher could be a great option. Researchers in the pharmaceutical industry focus on developing new drugs, conducting clinical trials, and analyzing data to improve patient outcomes.
With a background in pharmacy, you already have a solid foundation in understanding medications and their effects, which can be valuable in a research setting.
If you have a knack for writing and enjoy translating complex medical information into easily understandable content, a career as a medical writer may be worth considering. Medical writers create a variety of materials such as drug monographs, patient education materials, and scientific articles.
They play a crucial role in ensuring that medical information is accurate, accessible, and effectively communicated to both healthcare professionals and the general public.
These alternative career options offer different paths for those who are considering a change from being a pharmacist. Each option comes with its own set of pros and cons, so it’s important to carefully evaluate your skills, interests, and long-term goals before making a decision.
Exploring these alternatives can open up new possibilities and help you find a career that truly aligns with your passion and aspirations.
As you can see, there are compelling advantages and some significant downsides when evaluating if being a pharmacist is worth it for you. While it requires major investments of time and money for education, the potential for good pay, job stability, and making a difference in patients’ lives are strong motivators.
Take a close look at both the pros and cons to determine if this demanding but rewarding career is a good fit for your interests and professional goals.
At the end of the day, being a pharmacist is absolutely worth it for those willing to put in the work and who are passionate about healthcare. But it’s not the right path for everyone. Carefully weigh the tradeoffs as you consider taking the plunge into this essential and highly skilled profession.