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.



Mixing up two things

I think you (and the person you replied to) are mixing up two different realms here.

One is the type of work you do, the other is the ownership and place of work.

The type of work you do is not much different in retail, whether it is a corporate chain vs. individual ownership. For me, the original author of the article above, both type of work were not challenging enough, and that is why I left pharmacy. I understand that others will see it differently of course, to each his own.

The ownership and place of work is a valid point, I agree. Being your own boss has its merits in whichever field one choses to work. You have freedom and you don't have to answer to quarterly share prices, you are not bogged down by office politics, and you are not hampered by other stifling corporate environment stupidities.

REALLY INSPIRING - "Retail Pharmacy is excellent"

I came across this discussion board because I typed "what jobs can I get with a Bachelor of Pharmacy?". It makes me laugh that there was a whole discussion on how pharmacy is a bad career choice!

I am female, I am very short, and I am Australian of Chinese heritage and I am a pharmacist manager. I find it frustrating that I am not a white/ anglo 6 foot mid 40's male with a white coat dispensing a prescription! I don't look like a pharmacist and often get ridiculed that I can't possibly have a degree in Pharmacy.

After reading all the posts, I found that "Retail Pharmacy is excellent" was inspiring. And maybe the pharmacy profession is not that bad after all. There are so many times when you think:

- Why am I talking to these brainless bozo's who don't even care about their health?
- Why should I care about your health when you don't even care about it yourself?
- Why is it that after studying for 4 years I end up talking to idiots all day, instead of having intelligent conversations at work?
- Why is it that after attaining a degree you can still get drugos trying to pressure you to do things you don't want to do, people threatening you, throwing things at you, criticizing you and swearing at you?

Well, every profession has its negatives. Not every profession is glamourous eg. like FLYING A PLANE/PERFORMING HEART SURGERY... But at the end of the day pharmacists are important and no other profession knows what we know.
Just don't let it get to you, don't take it personally when people criticize you and "don't focus on what the customers think". The customer is not ALWAYS right.

What you make of it is your attitude towards your life and your career. We too, can say that our job is glamourous because we save lives every day! Have the right attitude and you will enjoy anything you do.

pharmacy is really not that bad!!

retail pharmacy

I recently have been seeing a commercial on TV, I think on channel 5 here in santa fe, nm and its about being a pharmacy technician (I believe). It says you can do this in about 9 months, and I'm not young but want to start something new so that if I wanted to relocate then I can apply for a job easier. Your post is encouraging and the way I feel is that any job no matter what can get boring and gets repetative but you can make it fun as you say and learn to enjoy it. Is retail pharmacy and pharmacy technician totaly different, what is the pay difference and is this something good for me to persue?


Not Anymore

Your thoughts on retail work are nice....unles you try working for CVS or Walgreens, which makes you tell people Rx's are reaudy in 15-minutes, treat employees like slaves, DON'T let you go to the bathroom, and watch every keystroke you make. They HATE if you talk to patients (despite the B.S. they spew to customers and the National Press when babies die coz people are forced to be overworked, hungry, and rushed). If you value your sanity, DO NOT go into pharmacy. Try McDonald's...they have drive-thrus and you kill less people.

1. What planet are you

1. What planet are you from?
2. I doubt that corporate would let you run the pharmacy like this. Take you 2 hours to fill a prescription? Wait until peeps complain and then the district manager comes down on your butt about the wait time. Please get real and stop giving us false hopes. Your experiences do not reflect the reality out there, and even if we wish to do what you're suggesting, most of us would not keep our job very long. As much as we think the public are jackasses, they are the ones that pay you the big bucks. You are lucky to have a job.

Your comments are funny. If

Your comments are funny. If I took your advice, I would be fired in short order. My boss demands that we tell each customer 15 minutes or less for their prescription.


I think there are so many variables involved in every position. The employer/organization your boss your associates coworkers location payscale hours benefits etc. The great thing about pharmacy is their are several avenues to go and change to-community/retail large Small independent mail order insurance continued/long term care nuclear hospital clinical research academia and others. Some actually like the busy pace of a large retail that may be across the street from a medical center and busy intersection ij a heavy residential area with a large aging adult population. They may actually thrive helping the community /public and educating counseling them. Plus the $ is usually greater. I knew one rho chi our student class president who could of gotten into a prestiguous pgy post doctorate/fellow position loved retail. I work hospital and have for 17 years. I enjoy it but their are times I would much deal with angry or uninformed retail customers complaining about costs charges and insurance over some pig headed arrogant ignorant physicians. Yes we are supposed to be the experts but we dont diagnose or prescribe we fill and about 2 to 3 tmes a day I have some jerky doctor remind us of that. A few entrust and seek my advice. most however just are barely acknowledge you including some snot nosed interns that know little about drugs. So here I am always under a doctor. At a store, at least I was the doctor -of pharmacy and I could deny to fill a doctors prescription and catch his error. They may say thank you-hardly or pitch a hissy fit, but I had the upper hand then and the customer would actually appreciate that I found an error that probably saved their life or found something more effective or less costly saving their pocket book. So there is plus and minuses, you just have to find your fit and with the right place. Good luck to all.

A Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy??

Here in the U.S., I believe that the B.S. degree in Pharmacy has been phased out and no longer exists. To practice Pharmacy, one must be admitted to one of the highly competitive Pharmacy schools, study for 4 years to receive a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)and pass a state board exam. Most already have a 4 year undergraduate degree in the sciences when they apply. There are people over maybe 40 year old that are allowed to still practice with B.A. degrees in Pharmacy and keep their jobs, but they wouldn't qualify for many jobs. I don't know if they make the same salary as a Pharm.D.

Well, I study for 4 years in

Well, I study for 4 years in Pharmacy School in Brazil, plus one year of Clinical Analyses...I guess it has equivalency to Pharm. D in US. Lets see...I am just about to submit my transcripts to the Board, and then I can be qualified to take the board exams. Colleges in Brazil are specialized, what I mean it, you don't go to to have general education. You must choose, pharmacy, law school, etc, before getting into it.
Anyways, the hard part is the system, the routines, papers, that are so different....I will have to get some contact with the retail routine....
Thanks so much for replying me . Good luck to us!