Why being a retail pharmacist is a bad career choice?

As someone who has changed careers from pharmacy to computers, I am not totally unbiased. However, I have some objective points to make against being a retail pharmacist.

Let me first qualify what I am about to say about retail pharmacy as being influenced by how that job gets practiced in Egypt, despite finding many similarities with the way it is practiced in the USA and in Canada as well.

 

  • Studying Pharmacy is a lot of hard work
    Studying pharmacy consists of a lot of theory in lecture form, as well as a lot of laboratory hands on work. It involves a lot of senseless memorization, if you do not really love what you are studying. There are frequent exams, almost every month. At mid year and end of year, there are "big" exams. The end of year exams are written, lab and oral.
  • Studying Pharmacy crosses many disciplines
    Studying pharmacy has a lot of medical sciences, three types of chemistry (analytical, organic and pharmaceutical), biology, physiology, botany, microbiology, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, pathology, ...etc.
  • Retail pharmacy is monotonous
    The day to day work is repetitive. It basically involves deciphering the bad hand writing of physicians on prescriptions, and handing it to the customer. In Egypt, there are no bulk packaging, and dispensed packages. The medicine comes prepackaged and is dispensed as it is. No counting of pills, no labels, ...etc. So it is a lot simpler than in North America. You are also responsible for a lot of administrative type of work, such as stocking the shelves, ordering medicines that you run out, as well as the adjunct products you sell, such as baby diapers, female makeup, sanitary pads, children toys, ...etc.
  • Retail Pharmacy requires little mental challenge
    If the doctor prescribes it, then you as a pharmacist dispense it. There are of course exceptions to this, such as medicines interactions, but these cases are few and far between. In reality, being a pharmacist and a pharmaceutical assistant is not much different, except for the accreditation and responsibility/liability levels.
  • Retail Pharmacy involves long hours
    All retail pharmacy outlets involve long hours, and opening on weekends, and even on public holidays. This is particularly true if you own your own pharmacy. This is not a medical profession as much as it is a retail outlet that has to cater to the public needs and hours. If you choose to be open on limited hours, another nearby pharmacy will only be glad to take your customers (and revenue) away.
  • Retail Pharmacy is ridiculously regulated
    Prices of medicines are normally fixed by a government authority, and the price is printed on the package. Therefore, the profit is predetermined as well. Moreover, a pharmacist is subject to several types of inspections, including those that apply to any retail store (taxes, balance/scale accuracy, ...etc.), as well as those from health authorities.

The bright side is that this job normally pays well. A pharmacist has some "social prestige" as well, although it is seen as beneath physicians.

Of course, there are other careers a newly graduated pharmacist can pursue, but they are not much better.

  • Promotional pharmacist
    This is basically being a salesman for pharmaceutical companies, and promoting their products at physicians, clinics, hospitals, ...etc. This is a marketing job that involves being a salesman first and foremost. You have to be a sweet talker, do a lot of relationship stuff, give away promotional items and samples of the drugs you are pushing, as well as writing sales reports on everything you do, and collecting information on every physician and how your drug sells in pharmacies nearby!

    There is little if any creativity here, let alone much to do with pharmacy. The field is full of veterinarians, physicians and even dentists doing this line of work beside pharmacists.

  • Quality Control in pharmaceutical factories
    There is virtually no jobs for pharmaceutical research in Egypt. Most of the drugs that are manufactured there are either generics, taken out of Pharmacoepias, or manufactured under license from international pharmaceutical companies.

    There is however a market for quality control pharmacists in these factories. They are supposed to test batches for the correct quantity of active ingredients, as well as disintegration time for tablets, ...etc.

    This job is very demanding, since it requires the person to be standing all day. I know a pharmacist who is suffering from varicose veins in his legs because of that job. Moreover, the job requires you to follow procedure manuals and file results and reports. There is no room for creativity here either.

  • Academic pharmacy
    Academic research in pharmacy is restricted to universities in Egypt. If you do not get an academic job at a university, you do not get to do research.

It is no wonder that the pharmacist is ridiculed as a "Clean Grocer" or "French Grocer" in Egypt. I have found that pharmacists generally suffer from low self esteem and feeling inferior to other medical professions. I have met a pharmacist in New York City who expressed those same sentiments as in Egypt, saying that the doctor has more prestige.

During my studying pharmacy (late 1970s, early 1980s), there was a new and promising job called "clinical pharmacist". This was designed to utilize the full potential of pharmacists capabilities knowledge and training, by making them the experts on anything relating to drugs. They would be a member of a team of health professionals, including physicians and nurses, working in hospitals: the diagnosis would be made by the physician, but the best medicine and dosage was to be prescribed by the pharmacist, taking into account drug/drug interactions, patient history, allergies, ...etc.

I have not seen or heard that this was put into action anywhere so far. Until it does, I advise people who want to do something creative and challenging to stay away from pharmacy, like I did.

Feedback

Since publishing this article on my web site, I have received feedback from several pharmacists who have abandoned pharmacy as a career. One of them made the same switch, from Pharmacy to Computing. The other went from pharmacy to the stock market. You can read about some of them in the feedback page.

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Comments

nice thread

Wow, this thread is interesting.

Yes, pharmacy sucks, but this thread gives me a new appreciation for pharmacy because other jobs are often much worse.

I have an excellent hospital pharmacy job with excellent pay, hours and relatively good clinical duties. I have good relationships with the nursing staff. Even still, I am ready for a new career. Pharmacy is order filling. That is ridiculous for a college graduate, not to mention a PharmD.

I became a pharmacist because I loved chemistry. Pharmacy school was awesome. I learned pharmaceutical and biomedical science, and I still love it. However, real world pharmacy sucks as described in all the previous posts. Fortunately, I discovered how to be happy** regardless of pharmacy.

(** be sure you do this no matter what, there are plenty of sources that will fit your personal path).

My house is paid for now. If necessary, I could get a different job. Who knows what the future will hold? BTW, although I studied pharmacy for the science and intellectual challenge, I stayed in it for the money. Jeez, its been like a bad marriage people stay in for the kids: = MY FAULT. I've got no one else to blame. That's OK, I'm 49 and I still can go do great things in life without the salary of a pharmacist.

Well, here is my advice for you job seekers:

After you have thoroughly learned about your prospective job, trust your feelings. If something smells bad but everyone has a smile on their face, you better start investigating. The best jobs I ever had were those that felt good from the very beginning, and everything added up. The worst jobs were those I THOUGHT I could mold myself around the bad feelings I had, and things just did not seem right.

Thanks Khalid for your provocative post. I'm gaining my courage to jump ship.

One more thing. Pharmacy is a good fit for some people. There are lots of pluses for the right person. If you desire pharmacy as a career, no one can stop you. After you do your homework, listen to your gut feelings and obey them.

Sincerely,

Deliberately happy PharmD

Thank you!

Thank you for your insight, it is very valuable.

As you said, no one should try to mold themselves around a so so job for the money.

And as you said, pharmacy is satisfying for some.

Best wishes. Post back here when/if you change careers.

Pharmacy in Australia

Great discussion, I stumbled across this website by accident. I too practise pharmacy in Australia. I am a manager in a busy metro store, and like many of you, I agree that the job can get very boring. However, I do feel Pharmacy is a very unique profession, in that you can have decent hours, decent pay (~70,000 for 38-42 hours), it is a relatively easy job and can be very fulfilling depending on how you approach it. Unfortunately due to the high work/script load with my job and minimal staff, it is very hard to find the opportunity to have a decent conversation with customers about their health/medications. However, I know of many retail pharmacists who really do make a difference in their patient's lives and actually utilise their knowledge. Hopefully the future for pharmacy is bright, there are some government initiatives being trialled with pharmacists prescribing etc (such as warfarin dosing). Initiatives like this would be great for the profession. Obviously if you are looking for a greater challenge, hospital is the way to go. Pharmacists are respected in hospitals here in Australia, they are always asked questions by consultants and residents. Unfortunately, as you all know, the tradeoff is money. I imagine any job at some point can become monotonous, even hospital pharmacy. A friend of mine who covered a particular ward said that after a year, it becomes the same thing, same drugs, same questions form the doctors etc.

Retail pharmacy may boring, but it can provide a comfortable lifestyle. The money has also kept me in pharmacy as well, my intention is to get to a comfortable level in my life and then move onto something else, most likely medicine. I often speak to doctors who actually recommend I don't do medicine simply because it is not worth all the studying, effort and trouble. I hear so many stories about how interns are treated, how GP's are treated etc. I was speaking to a neurologist a few months back about Pharmacy and he said he feels that any profession at some point can become routine. He said even his job was routine, all he did as a neurologist was essentially focus on a few disease states, know a few medications pertaining to those conditions and it was pretty much the same thing year in year out.

how to become a pharmacist in egypt

Hi there, Im from england and have studied for a Master in pharmacy degree but due to extenuating circumstances i had to leave the course at the end of my third year, so I graduated with a Bacheolors degree in pharmaceutical science. Is this degree valid to practise pharmacy in egypt?

Also what are the major pharmacy companies in egypt? Do they have a boots pharmacy in egypt?

I have tried looking for a website for the egyptian pharmaceutical society, but to no avail.

Hard ...

There are no pharmacy chains like Boots in Egypt. Almost all pharmacies are privately owned, and run in families.

It would be hard to be licensed to practice pharmacy in Egypt. Probably you will be required to do some equivalence or something. You can ask in the Egyptian Embassy in London. See if they have an education attache and ask them.

Syndicate

Also the governing body for pharmacists in Egypt is call "Pharmacists Syndicate". Here is their web site.

thank you for your

thank you for your infomation. would i be able to use my degree to teach science in an interational school?

I think so ..

Perhaps yes. Because you got enough biology, chemistry and such.

Search for the web sites of specific schools and apply there.

london

Thank you for your infomation. Are there any pharmacy related profesions that i can get into with BSc pHarmaceutical sciences? without taking extra coures?

Could i use my degree to become a science teacher at an international school in egypt? Do you have any other ideas of careers that i can pursue in egypt with my degree?

Many thanks!

i totally agreee

all what u have said comcerning the careeeer of pharmacists is true up till now...and for all people who really loved their studies would not reallly like to proceed in their careeers this way.....im trying to work as a clinical pharmacist but up tilll now i did not succeeed to find this job.......but i'll keep on trying.....this is my dream job since i was in college in the first place....im a graduate 2008

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