Are you planning on becoming a pharmacist? Taking a career in pharmacy is exciting but has its ups and downs. A pharmacist doesn’t just issue itemized medications; they advise doctors on proper medications and dosages to give patients. Some pharmacists are licensed to mix drugs when working in a pharmaceutical company.
While pharmacists are highly respected people in the healthcare system, the job comes with some disadvantages. To be a pharmacist, you need to understand a wide range of medicines and dispense the medications properly. Any error in your dosage can be fatal to the patient. The potential stress that comes with this work can be overwhelming.
Everybody has unique qualities, weaknesses, and strengths. Some people are more suited to become competent pharmacists than others. Below are the pros and cons of being a pharmacist that will help you make the best decision.
10 Pros Of a Pharmacist Career
Expect to be well-remunerated in this profession. There is a good chance that you will earn six-figures after graduating with your PharmD degrees. The entry-level positions start at $100,000 annually. In the US, the average salary is over $120,000. Pharmacists are making money, even those lowest 10% earners in the industry are raking in $87,000 a year. There are not many career options that allow you to get this much.
2. Plenty of job opportunities available
Pharmacists serve two industries, the hospital, and retail industries. Most of these job opportunities are in close proximity to each other. Pharmacists perform various roles and have different responsibilities in each sector. As a pharmacist, you can be assigned to ambulatory care or work as an academic pharmacist where you teach others. Alternatively, you can be a compounding pharmacist where you will be creating drugs that meet the patient’s needs. Some pharmacists work as consultants in various fields like infectious diseases or long-term care. The point is, there are many options.
3. Flexibility of employment
If you work in a particular field, and you decide you have had enough, you can be a medical writer or work in the pharmaceutical industry or be responsible for the final medication distribution to patients.
You can work from home by establishing an online healthcare option where you consult from home. Telepharmacy is rapidly growing in the United States. You don’t have to deal with the same physical demands you get in an actual pharmacy. You have more time for your family with less commuting. A licensed pharmacist can run an independently-owned pharmacy.
5. Strong occupational outlook
According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this sector is projected to grow at a 6% rate through to 2026. It is a fast growth rate compared to the average of other occupations. The increase in demand for prescription medications means there will be a high demand for pharmacist services and the pharmaceutical industry. The US has approximately 312,000 employed pharmacists, and the anticipate job growth of 17,000 in the next ten years.
6. Pharmacists can care for patients
California legislation SB493 went into effect in 2014 and has changed how pharmacy care is being administered. The legislation gives pharmacists provider status and authority to do patient assessments. Besides, they can prescribe medications via collaborative drug therapy. Pharmacists in many states can now administer specific vaccines like flu shots to patients.
7. Job stability
Pharmacist jobs are stable, and these professionals are valued people in the community. Regardless of the industry segment you pursue, you will still remain employed until you decide to move on to the next opportunity. Unlike some professions, your services are always needed in the community you are serving. Qualified pharmacists have the luxury of enjoying job security. Technology is evolving with new medications being discovered, which means the demand for these professionals will be there always. Jobs are plenty for pharmacists with the right credentials and proper education.
8. Pharmacists work in hygienic and clean environments
Unlike nurses and doctors who are dealing with stressful conditions, pharmacists have fewer chances of catching infections from patients. It is reassuring to prospecting pharmacists as you earn a good salary and do not have to put yourself at risk health-wise. The job is less stressful in comparison to other professionals like surgeons and nurses.
9. Easy to start and own a pharmacy
You can start a fully-owned pharmacy in just six months. The market is always there, and you can operate it yourself or employ someone to run it for you. Operating the pharmacy for 7 – 9 months is enough to give you good cash flow. You can create a comfortable lifestyle for your family. The start-up capital is at least $450,000 but with guaranteed returns.
10. Flexibility in work shifts
Most pharmacist positions offer 12-hour shifts, which can be night or day shifts. Retail pharmacies offer varieties. As a pharmacist, you can opt for part-time or full-time work, depending on your needs. You have control over your shifts.
10 Cons Of Being a Pharmacist
1. Extensive education requirements
Earning a PharmD degree is the equivalent of a doctorate for many people. You study for 6 – 8 years before you meet the pre-requisite educational requirements enabling you to serve as a pharmacist in the community. In your study, you will learn chemical structures, metabolic pathways, and drug side effects, among others. The exams come with pressure to succeed, and the process is daunting for most students.
2. Costly to study pharmacy
An average PharmD degree graduate holds student loan debt of over $100,000. Although some students lower their costs by going for grants and scholarships. Otherwise, the price of pursuing a PharmD degree is quite high. Most students have trouble paying for their tuition costs.
3. You are responsible for the efficacy and quality of medications
There is no room for error, which means you have to continually review medication safety to ensure the efficacy and quality are in order. It is your job to ensure customers get the right medications and dosage that can treat their condition. You give medication instructions and answer patient or customer questions, which can be overwhelming.
4. Long shift-hours
Hospitals run round the clock pharmacy with no exception to holidays. The job makes you busy the moment your shift starts until it ends, which can be stressing. You handle everything, including ICU patients, and have to maintain efficacy. You complete billing procedures and work with unpredictable customers.
5. Increased competition
Initially, you could work with only a four-year degree, but now you need to have a doctorate equivalent and complete residency before you start moving. The study period requires long study periods and a desire to be the best in the program to get the best jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. With the right qualifications, you can be an expat in other countries.
6. Handling problems from patients and medical professionals
Everyone comes to you with questions and issues that need your input and solutions. Doing the same thing repeatedly can be exhausting. Some people ask you questions nicely while others have the worst manners. The job exposes the worst and best of humanity. The job requires seeing people in their worst days and their best days, which can overwhelm you.
7. There is no room for error
The job requires you to be to your absolute best every day. You have to count the pills accurately and give the patients the correct dosage as it can mean life or death situations. Consequences of making a mistake can be severe, like facing a jail-term or hefty fine depending on your error and outcome.
8. Few job advancement opportunities
When you are a pharmacist, you are at the top. Ambitious people want to earn higher salaries and get to a higher position. Experienced pharmacists earn 40% more on average than those in entry-level positions, which translates to roughly $40,000 yearly difference.
9. Busy workplace routine
Hospital pharmacies remain open round the clock. The pharmacist is busy throughout until the end of the shift. Having a 12-hours shift in the intensive care unit means having specialized knowledge and more stress. On the other hand, retail pharmacies dispense prescriptions constantly, and you have to answer customer questions. Besides, you must be conversant with insurance regulations and have to deal with angry customer types. The job amplifies your best and worst qualities, which may not do you justice.
10. Training not commensurate with the respect you get
Remember the many exams you sat, years of toiling, and sleepless nights. Your job is to advise patients on medications, and diet, but you seem overqualified based on your training. However, some patients or customers will still look at you like you just a pill counter. Most of the people you will attend will be jerks.
Pharmacy is an amazing profession, and many people have gone to be expats in other countries advising companies and hospitals. Before embarking on this profession, it is best that you clearly understand the pros and cons of being a pharmacist as discussed and make a sound decision that gives you comfort and the happiness you need in life.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.