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.
Anonymous (not verified)
URGENT!!Sat, 2008/12/20 - 15:11
pls am kind of confused and i need ur help!i have heard alot about pharmacy and i wnt to study the course.but the thing is dat i dont no alot abt it and wont wnt to waste my time doing something i would end up not liking.I like chemistry but i dont really dig biology.so pls can some1 advice me cos i wnt to move over to accounting or something else.Another thing is dat people arund me dont wnt me to study pharmacy cos they think its a waste of time.WHATS the differnce btwn a retail pharmacist and a chemist?They both sell drugs!
MSG (not verified)
Pharmacy vs. I/TSun, 2009/01/11 - 22:09
I've been working in I/T for the past 10 years, and it sucks. I'm ready to do something new. There's always so much new stuff to learn, the technology changes SO fast (most people I know can't keep up with software development), it's very much a stressful job, they're outsourcing lots of development and I/T jobs overseas, wages are stagnant. You have to be in the top 15% of I/T developers to really have good oppty's, otherwise, you're stuck as a high tech mechanic doing lame technical junk like setting up servers, fixing software issues, stuff like that. The other thing is, most people think that if you are in I/T, then you should be able to qualify for most I/T jobs. It's not that simple. You find a niche in I/T, and that's what you defines you. If you're a pharmacist, you can apply to most any pharmacy job. If you're a respiratory therapist, you can qualify for most respiratory jobs. That applies to nursing too. With I/T, you probably only qualify for 5-10% of the jobs. It's better if you're a developer, but not by much. The only good challenging fun jobs are in software development, and that's usually only fun when it's a hobby or something you're passionate working on. If you belong to a team and working on something you don't care for, it becomes a tiresome job like any other. There are so many cons with being in I/T. The biggest one for me is lack of mobility. In pharmacy, I could easily just quit my job, and move to another city or state. That would make life interesting for awhile. Also, I could work as much or little as I want to as a pharmacist, e.g. I can work for 6 months, quit, then find another job in another 6 months. You lack that in I/T.
Well, i've learned after 10 years of working in corporate America that most people, at some point, will hate their jobs. Someone posted that it's about balance. I definitely agree.
Pharmacy vs. IT/SoftwareSun, 2009/01/11 - 22:40
Here is my opinion. I am the author of the original article. The one who left pharmacy and went into software, so you know where my bias is.
I can't talk about regular IT, since I always worked in technology providers, consulting for clients, including software development, support, ...etc.
1. New stuff to learn:
That is one of the attractions to me. I have been in software since 1985, and learn new stuff every year. Yes, it can overwhelm you, but it also stimulates the mind so much to stay sharp.
Yes, that is an issue, but the underlying one is corporate greed. If they can outsource anything they will do it so the execs high up will get bonuses at the expense of the regular worker.
any job can be stressful. Depends on the particular place you work at, your boss, and your colleagues.
4. Niche vs. being generalist:
You define what you are. I worked on programming and supporting mainframes, minis and PCs, using operating systems from Linux to Windows to proprietary ones. I programmed in COBOL, C, C++, shell, and PHP. Learned different databases, you name it. Part of that goes to the first point. Part of that is learning on your own new stuff.
5. Boredom on the job:
Again, that happens anywhere for any job. If that happens to you, look for another job, first within the department, then within the company, then elsewhere.
6. Lack of mobility:
Depends on the place and what opportunities open up. People retire, quit, ...etc. That opens a slot for you. In the same company, I was stagnant for 5 years in one location, but in another, my salary tripled over less than 10 years. Depends on the management, and how pigeonholed you are.
7. Quit and move on:
You can do that if you work as a contractor. This gives you variety, but has its risks and downsides. It is not for everyone, but it is rewarding and stimulating.
8. Working in corporate America sucks.
Absolutely. For many reasons. Read Dilbert and you will know. And it is not just engineering or IT. It is EVERYWHERE. I am now a business owner, a consultant, and entrepreneur, and enjoying it. Again, it is not for everyone, but rewarding for flexibility and independence. Has some baggage (you have to do sales, payroll, taxes, ...etc., but it comes with the territory).
MSG (not verified)
More evidence that I/T sucksMon, 2009/01/12 - 00:01
More evidence that I/T sucks just as much as pharmacy. Read all of the disgruntal I/T employees at IBM:
Khalid, you just expressed my points to a tee. For me, I/T sucks as much as pharmacy sucks for you; just like most jobs suck for anyone else, but that all depends on YOUR PERSPECTIVE. I would never go back to I/T. Retail pharmacists may say they feel like overpaid pill counters. I say I feel like a high tech mechanic. Time for something new!
yaya (not verified)
pharmacy schoolFri, 2009/01/23 - 14:16
who has the best pharmacy school florida A&M univ, univ. of florida or nova southeastern?
Je Bryant (not verified)
ADVICE ANYONEThu, 2009/02/12 - 14:24
I am very interested in pharmacy. I wish to procure full education and benefit for a career. I am very motivated although intimidated by mathematics. In all other areas I can be excellent. To get to the point I am wondering about the atmosphere in the workplace for example walgreens are a retail store. I am very determined because I am a young african american male and would like to overcome the bias of being at the minimal of career advancement. I feel that I owe a great debt to those before me whom paved and paid the way for me to persue such a career. If it is not too much to ask could a pharmacist perhaps give me a few pointers and info based on knowledge and experience.
Anonymous (not verified)
You're a ***. JustThu, 2009/02/12 - 20:05
You're a ***. Just because you think you're too good for the pharmacy profession doesn't mean you have to ruin it for the rest of us. (And all the excited students as well, oh unless you forgot that pharmacy schools are being overrun with applications now a days) Get over your self and get a life you *** ***.
[Edited to remove obscenity]
Pharmacy Student (not verified)
Pharmacy courseworkTue, 2009/02/17 - 05:17
I stubled across this because I typed "pharmacy" and "bad" into google lol. I'm a 3rd year Pharmacy student in the UK. I would firstly like to make my opinion very clear: I despise pharmacy and more specifically the MPharm course.
The coursework is extremely hard work, but that is not the problem. The problem lies with just how tedious the coursework is. You cover a bewildering cross section of science that is 100% completely irreleavent to the job as a pharmacist. This results in delusionment amongst the students. I've now gotten to the stage after having passed the first 2 years, that I just don't see the point of this course. I now completely lack self motivation and I often miss lectures and the occasional lab sessions. I would advise, that unless you're REALLY passionate about pharmacy and science, leave pharmacy out as a career choice.
It goes without saying that this advise is more for school leavers than anyone else.
Anonymous (not verified)
Hey there.. I'am a 3rd yearThu, 2009/02/26 - 14:27
I'am a 3rd year pharmacy student too and despise pharmacy as well and can see my career go topsy turvy..Im just so tensed with whats going to happen to my career!
what are your plans for the future!?
Anonymous (not verified)
I agree, im also a 3rd yearWed, 2009/10/14 - 12:00
I agree, im also a 3rd year pharm student in UK and hate every moment of it. Jus dont know what to do. Think I should at least finish the degree. Dont know what to do after that. So worried. Any suggestions?