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.



not bad not good

i just happened here by mere coincedence this is beauty of the internet well i must say it is ajob like other jobs has its pros and cons but i recommend the field of medical reps it is paying and socially accepable u still a pharmacist after all with good bucks i think retail pharmacist is the worst option the moderate are clinical or hospital pharmacist i think also that north america is the place much paying to pharmacists so head up to canada or us don't look back to egypt brazil asia pakistan plah plah plah

hellow i am doing degree in

hellow i am doing degree in pharmaceutical sciences from panjab university chandigarh and i am in 3rd year its a 4 year degree course . i am planing to go either in canada or in statas to do masters first then practice my pharmacy . please guide me what should i do i mean which exams i have to clear .

Egypt is Ridiculous

I, like so many of you have stumbled across this website--primarily because of the eye catching question followed by ridicule of the retail pharmacist proffession. I love Egypt and its people, a dear muslim brother i am, but still the practice of pharmacy and the limited research opportunities in Egypt is simply disappointing. I would think that such a country would invest in research for tomorrow's drugs instead of buying licenses to manufacture generics. The proffession of pharmacy is highly regarded for in the states, and also just as prestigious as a doctor.

p.s. Im a pharmacist--and love my proffession.

Not really

If you read the article again, you will see a reference to how a New York pharmacists confided the same as in Egypt, where pharmacists lack the prestige that physicians get.
Khalid Baheyeldin

read this for a laugh...

I spent 6 years of my life studying Pharmacy at Cairo Uni. and i graduated with a "Good" final grade which nowadays is not an easy thing to obtain,i am also a professional tennis player who was ranked top 3 under 18 and let go of that to give more time to his studies,although i hated it but i had to..
Now look at me.. am 23.. i graduated last summer and i work for ART Arab Radio Television LOOOOL.. yes i do.. no jokes about that
i handle Public relations,am a Customer Service and support representative for overseas accounts,me and a team of other graduates from really big names in the world of Egyptian education whom are all fluent in English handle the complains and enquiries of customers,contact other companies and authorised dealers and handle market research as well as online subscriptions and troubleshooting.. i work 8 hours a day.. it is one of the most hectic jobs one can ever get and the salary is around 550 U.S. Dollars a month which compared to the salary the same guy doing the same work BUT in Dubai it's almost 20%... HOW PATHETIC!!

No matter how dark and sad it seems.. it makes me laugh.. you know why? cause am sure god is merciful enough to have something good stored for me at the end and am sure god wont let all my efforts and hard work during those 6 years go down the drain.. i pray a lot.. believe me it's all i can do.

Thanks for your time.
If you reply to my post let me know by sending an email to my address i'll be happy to reply to you too..

Better luck for all of you.

Different things

You present some interesting points, but not all of them are related to pharmacy.

First, the Dubai discrepancy. Cost of living in Egypt is lower than Dubai, so salaries are lower too. This is why many companies in the West are outsourcing things to India and China. So this is not related to Pharmacy.

Second, the fact that you work in customer services not in Pharmacy. This is partially due to Egypt's economy, since you cannot get that salary working in your field as a retail pharmacist, and partially your choice, you still have the option to work as a pharmacist.

The part of pursuing tennis as a career is a bit sad, but one can look back and say "if I only did X or Y". As they say, hindsight is 20/20. This is all water under the bridge now. Do not cried over spilled milk.
Khalid Baheyeldin


Okay, well I want to grow up to be a pharmacist, and that is my opinion, and you are entitled to yours. You have to be smart, and you have to want to get into pharmacy, and I am smart, and I want to. I have never looked at this job like you have, but maybe you were just expecting it to be too easy (just stand behind a counter and count pills and give them to people) and you didn't want it, you just wanted the money. I have a reason to go into pharmacy, and that is because of my Dad. Now, you probably just thought it was going to be a piece of cake, going to college, graduate, and make 100k. Well, no, you have to study, work your butt off, and then you graduate. It doesn't just come overnight, and you have to want it that badly, and put in all of your effort. So that is my opinion on the matter.

I admit that this job has

I admit that this job has it's share of difficulties, being a pharmacist is not an easy thing but this job also offers some privileges in medical world and also in other contexts. Somehow the system tries to compensate these peoples efforts to serve as pharmacists.

talking out your pharmacy ass

from your description i take it you dont understand the industry nor the career you are involved in. pharmacy both community and hospital led is rappidly changing nd becoming more interesting and fulfilling to work in. industry is just as specialised and i reckoyou flukd your course and are a shit pharmacist. doing the masters in pharmacy aquips you with the essential scence and physiology you need to learn along withe the people skills you obviously dont have. pharmacists need to be like doctors with people skills an diagnosis along with prescitpion interptretation and legailty. you obviously have no moral nor ethically obiligation to be a phamrmacist and probably should curl up in a hole

Credibility = zero

Your credibility went out of the window right there when you started using foul language. Your spelling skills also show what kind of academic achievement level you reached.
Khalid Baheyeldin