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

Hello my name is Katia and I

Hello my name is Katia and I am licensed Pharmacist in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have to agree that the pharmacist salary could be better; but we must take into consideration that there are many pharmacists formed without sufficient knowledge to work. The pharmacists who specialize and continuing education has many possibilities to get a good job that pays well, like hospital pharmacist it is very well paid, but it is not anyone who will fill these positions, but those who have sufficient knowledge to this kind of function.

Retail Pharmacy

As a pharmacist in the states for 10+ years I'm afraid I have to agree with a lot of your observations in this post.

While pharmacy isn't the worst profession in the world, it has undoubtedly gone downhill during my tenure. One point I would bring up, is that there are pockets in pharmacy where pharmacists' appear to use their clinical skills - generally this is in a hospital setting. However, I never gravitated towards hospital work. Such is life.

I would also like to point out that eventually, and sooner than a lot of pharmacists will be prepared for, pharmacists will be replaced with automation in the retail setting. This won't be a 100%, across the board replacement. But pharmacist will lose their jobs. I was privy to a conversation with an executive at a large national chain. He said, in confidence, that this is the route they are headed.

This executive was a pharmacist and had grown children who were not pharmacists. He said he advised them NOT to go into pharmacy because he felt like the future was very bleak for the profession.

This replacement of pharmacists with automation is already underway but the next decade will accelerate the process.

the glamorous world of retail

Try working as a retail pharmacist in Malta...you end up having to sell make up and wasting your life counselling your "patient" on which blusher best suits them.

in doubt

i'm brazilian and i'm studying communications science in a federal university. not very happy with my studies, so i'm willing to change my professional path to something a bit more challenging, in a way that talks SCIENTIA, like pharmacy.

altough it sounds fun to deal with chemistry, i don't want to be a retail pharmacist. at least in brazil, these are very common. even if you are graduated in, like, communications, you can own a drugstore and hire someone to make medicine for you for like no money my neggey.

so uhm, what makes pharmacy different than other professions?
that's not a question for a webpage to answer... maybe i should talk directly to people. people who work with it in my local drugstores, universities or whatever.

this is just one of the thousand pages i'm gonna visit while deciding if it's a good or a bad choice.
not the one who's defining it though.

DON'T TAKE THIS SHIT SERIOUSLY.

im thinking of changing!!

Ok so im in my final year of pharmacy doing an internship in retail pharmacy and i hate it so much. I have been working in retail since my first year in pharmacy and it is has put me off it completely. I only reason i did my internship in retail was because getting an internship in hospital is very hard, only 10 students from my class of 150 got a place. I live in NZ and here there isn't much you can go into besides hospital and retail. Im thinking of changing careers to become a dental hygienest. Here a NZ pharmacist gets paid $20-35 an hour while a dental hygienest gets paid $25-40 an hour and its so much less stress.I have been spending a few days observing dental hygienests with there patients and i can tell you its a much better enviroment. The only problem is fiancially getting the money to go back and study but i think it will be worth it.

Retail pharmacy requires

Retail pharmacy requires little mental challenge? You are ignorant.

Current Conditions

Its interesting to see how nothing has really changed in the years since 2004 when this thread was started. In America, pharmacists now get a six year clinical doctorate (Pharm. D.) but are still doing the same thing. Someone has to do it. Salaries have increased but more colleges and universities have opened up pharmacy programs. For the first time in perhaps 100 years, there is a glut of pharmacists. With the technology available today (electronic prescribing, interaction checking, and bar coding, just to name a few) and the chain store retail industry, it is only a matter of time before someone takes the initiative and pushes for prescriptions to be filled by pharmacy technicians without a pharmacist. If that happens, the industry will come crashing down.

You Have Given Me Hope!

Happening upon your site and story of transition from pharmacy to computers has given me vast hope. I am in my final year of pharmacy school in Florida (USA) and I have come to the conclusion that this career is not for me....not at all. Much has changed in this field for the worst. My colleagues think me crazy for wanting to return to school for engineering or the technology route (oh how I miss numbers) and for a second I was beginning to believe them. Good thing I bumped into your website. It's nice to see that others have made the switch.

To any other potential pharmacists out there. My advice is to stay away from this career. If your an independent thinker with an iota of creativity then pharmacy is inimical to you. It's not worth it! Stay away!

ok sir , right now i am a

ok sir , right now i am a student in the clinical pharmacy program in egypt .the program was adopted by the university in my town . i am in my first year of college . i always want to be a physician ,but i couldn't because my score wasn't high enough to get me in the medicine faculty .
BUT that's not the case . i didn't like the idea of being a pharmacist because of the same reasons you sir have mentioned above in your article . like how the jobs are not very mentally challenging and how it could be boring and unrespected by physicians and patients . i mean i right now study all kinds of chemistry , botany , pharmacology ,physiology ,histology ,and many other subjects . and after five years of college ,it's not fair that a very few amount of people get to use those subjects in their jobs after graduation , when they become a university staff .

my question is .. now that i am in the faculty of Clinical pharmacy Will my life be different than the lives' of pharmacist you mentioned before ????? will i be respected not any less than a physician ??? AND WILL I GET TO WORK IN A HOSPITAL if i want ???

i mean my biggest fear is becoming 30 years old and depressed over my job .

i will really appreciated if i had a feedback and some guidance . that would really be helpful .thank you very much .

r , right now i am a student

r , right now i am a student in the clinical pharmacy program in egypt .the program was adopted by the university in my town . i am in my first year of college . i always want to be a physician ,but i couldn't because my score wasn't high enough to get me in the medicine faculty .
BUT that's not the case . i didn't like the idea of being a pharmacist because of the same reasons you sir have mentioned above in your article . like how the jobs are not very mentally challenging and how it could be boring and unrespected by physicians and patients . i mean i right now study all kinds of chemistry , botany , pharmacology ,physiology ,histology ,and many other subjects . and after five years of college ,it's not fair that a very few amount of people get to use those subjects in their jobs after graduation , when they become a university staff .

my question is .. now that i am in the faculty of Clinical pharmacy Will my life be different than the lives' of pharmacist you mentioned before ????? will i be respected not any less than a physician ??? AND WILL I GET TO WORK IN A HOSPITAL if i want ???

i mean my biggest fear is becoming 30 years old and depressed over my job .

i will really appreciated if i had a feedback and some guidance . that would really be helpful .thank you very much .

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