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.


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.



retail pharmacy

hi khalid bhai your comments abt retail pharmacy are absolutely true becoz i experienced it in clinix+ pharmacy at jail road in my internship but i am disappointed to see that pharmacist pay is 14000/-only

I have been a retail

I have been a retail pharmacist in Alabama for 29 years. It is a very stressful job and people tend to think of you as nothing more than a fast food cook. You are expected to get the scripts filled perfectly and on the proper insurance card at the price the customer thinks it should be in record time. Pharmacy is not a career I would choose to pursue again. If provided the opportunity to do something else, I would change careers tomorrow. Think twice before making this your life work. The pay is good but definitly not worth the stress.

Confused Straight-A high school senior

Right now, I am a senior, and I am still confused about my career path. Initially, I wanted to follow my gretest passion and become a recording engineer, or a music producer, but going to school for this was worthless- its about who you know, and I know no one. So.. retail pharmacy was the next best thing I guess. I mean, it pays a whole bunch. But I know I'm not passionate about it. And from what I'm reading, passion is crucial to survival through school and the monotonous job itself. I am very estudious, but this career would be extremely demanding. Is it worth it?
And here I am, supposed to be filling out applications, but I'm stuck. An excellent student, with all the tools, but with no distiniguished direction to apply myself. And my time for deliberatioin is running out. Any help out there?

Potential Pharmacy Student

Wow. It took me the good sum of my morning to read through this entire post.
From the sounds of it, there are quite divided views of pharmacy as a career.
I've looked into other science/medical fields and found similar views of people who think their job isnt rewarding enough or too stressful.
I dont want to sound like some inexperienced, unworldly person, but my view of the subject matter is that a career-field is what you make of it. It is very hard to force yourself to be happy in a job where you feel overly stressed and unhappy.
Most jobs do this.
The real problem is perhaps (on some posts part) no recognition for the patients/customers who do value what you do and realize that a pharmacist is a valueable asset to any community.
This is why I am intended on taking my PCATs in January and applying to Pharmacy school next fall.
Its not even that I love chemistry. I love science and the application of it to cure illness, to prolong life.
I see a Pharmacy career as an immune system (how punny?). Pharmacists are the last line of defense for a patient to receive both the correct medication and to be aware of how to correctly take it. With the growing "fast-food" medicine industry, there are severe limitations as to Pharmacist having the ability/time to go through the necessities with each patient.
Anyone who claims pharmacy isnt challenging enough, intellectually, probably hasnt realized the reality of life. We go through tedious years of schooling and learn so much information and probably only use 5% of it in our actual field of work later.
For me, I intend on using my abilities to work productively to make that extra time, to be able to teach each patient/customer the things the doctor didnt have time to do. To properly educate them about medicine and how/when to take it.
Time management, customer/patient interaction and problem-solving when dealing with Insurance companies sound terrible. But to me they are a life-style, drawing upon knowledge-base and skills-base to make you the best Pharmacist you can be.

So for anyone who feels like Pharmacists are unappreciated, non-intellectually stimulated people, you should take another look at the field.
There is more to it than retail pharmacy too. (I just talk about this, because this is where my interest lies) I look forward to a career in pharmacy and appreciating the customers who do thank the neighborhood Pharmacist for what they do and all the information they provide.

Here's to a life of applied medical knowledge,


I am currently studying

I am currently studying pre-pharmacy in hopes of getting into pharmacy school. I need some advise on what to do to increase my chances of getting into the pharmacy school.

Plain and simple - retail

Plain and simple - retail sucks. Sure it pays great, but how else are these companies going to fill these positions otherwise? It's sad because people are more understanding and polite waiting 10-15 minutes in a fast food line or bank teller line than they are at the pharmacy counter. I have no idea how or where this trend started, but its going to be the demise of the profession. Let's not even touch the subject of "drive-thrus". With the aid of computers and software monitoring drug interactions, dosing, etc., our knowledge is slowly being stipped away. I've been practicing for 11 years now for a supermarket chain and to be perfectly honest, I've come to resent retail only because of the way corporations are gradually stripping the profession down to a bare minimum. BOTTOM LINE: more tasks + less labor = less patient interaction/satisfaction. It only goes to show you that people will do anything for money... I'm currently looking for other opportunities in pharmacy profession outside of retail and willing to accept less pay!

I am trying too find a good

I am trying too find a good career, i'm a freshmen in highschool, and I think a retail Pharmacist would be a good career. I was wondering how much "schooling" would I need for such a profession?

Hi, I am a Spanish pharmacist


I am a Spanish pharmacist and I have been working in retail pharmacy in the UK for 6 years but I did not enjoy at all. Now I am working in a hospital and I enjoy the clinical side but the salary is not as good.

Does anybody have any experience in Switzerland, US or Australia? I know that for the US and Australia I would need to do an exam but I do not know, if I need to do any exam for Swithzerland.

Also regarding salary and holidays, does anybody have more information about it?

thanks !

Very true :(

Very true :(