The COVID-19 pandemic put a visible strain on our healthcare system. Many who are considering a career in pharmacy may be questioning whether pursuing a career in a healthcare field is still worth it.
The good news is: the pharmaceutical industry is experiencing unprecedented levels of growth. And as the industry grows, so does the demand for qualified individuals to enter the career market. For those willing to make the investment of time and money, pharmacy offers diverse career paths and generous benefits.
If you’re on the fence about your future in pharmacy, here are four reasons why pharmacy is a rewarding career.
4 Reasons to Pursue a Pharmacy Career
1. It’s a versatile career path.
A PharmD degree—necessary for your future as a pharmacist—will prepare you for a multitude of careers. For many, their experience with pharmacists is limited to what they see in their local CVS or Walgreens. While retail pharmacists comprise a large portion of the pharmacy world, professionals with a PharmD are not limited to those roles.
There are many different avenues you can pursue in traditional fields such as:
- Community pharmacists: Those who work in retail pharmacies and prepare and dispense prescriptions as directed by the customer’s health care provider.
- Clinical pharmacists: Typically employed in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, emergency departments, or rehabilitation centers, and work collaboratively with a healthcare provider to treat patients.
- Institutional pharmacists: Like clinical pharmacists, they work in healthcare institutions. However, these pharmacists also verify and approve prescriptions and typically have less direct patient care activities (depending on the type of institution).
- Consultant pharmacists: Provide consulting services to various partners, such as hospitals, clinics, insurance providers, or pharmaceutical companies.
- Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists: Use their pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences knowledge and expertise for business purposes, such as designing clinical trials, establishing safety regulations, or assisting with sales and marketing.
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You can also pursue a career in a non-traditional field:
- Veterinary pharmacist: Performs the same duties as a clinical and community pharmacist, except they treat animals rather than people.
- Geriatric pharmacist: Specializes in working with older patient populations.
- Public health: Pharmacists may perform a variety of roles such as vaccine drives in at-risk communities, or advising local, state, and federal public health authorities.
- Legal pathways: These individuals specialize in pharmaceutical law and regulations which allows them to advise doctors, hospitals, and other institutions on legal issues that may threaten their business.
The career path you choose depends on a variety of factors including:
- How much control you’d like to have over your job. Smaller, community pharmacies or independents tend to have more control. You may have more autonomy in a smaller pharmacy than you would working for a large entity.
- Your personal interests. A career in pharmacy is a great way to put a passion for science into practice and make a difference in people’s lives.
- Your desired salary. Most pharmacists earn six-figure incomes with the average annual salary at around $128,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top paid settings for licensed pharmacists are:
- Ambulatory healthcare services: $137,820
- Hospitals: $131,290
- Food and beverage stores: $131,200
- Pharmacies and drug stores: $125,740
2. You get to be part of a healthcare team.
The pandemic put a spotlight on the healthcare community and proved why these fields are so important. Healthcare workers must work together for a common goal of helping others. When you work in pharmacy, you’re typically working in collaboration with a team. This includes other pharmacists as well as pharmacy technicians.
3. You’ll form strong relationships with clients.
Whether you work as a community pharmacist or in independent practice, you’ll likely interact with the same customers on a regular basis. This gives you the opportunity to interact with these patients and form relationships with them.
In some cases, the pharmacist is the “middleman” between a patient and their health care provider. Aside from educating a patient about medications, a pharmacist also needs to have great communication and conflict resolution skills.
4. You’ll make a difference in others’ lives.
One of the most appealing elements of the healthcare industry is the fact that healthcare workers can make a positive difference in their patients’ lives. If you want to have a career in which you have the chance to make a direct impact daily, pharmacy certainly provides that opportunity.
According to Jenny Van Amburgh, assistant dean, Office of Student Affairs at Northeastern’s Bouvé School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, “When you have your very first experience of helping a patient and the patient finally seeing the value you’ve brought to their life, you [understand] why you want to [work in pharmacy].”
How to Determine if Pharmacy is the Right Career for You
If you’re debating whether pharmacy is the right career path for you, take the following into consideration when making your decision.
1. Don’t base your decision on one person’s positive or negative experience.
Don’t let one anecdotal story or online discussion thread dissuade (or persuade) you from pursuing a career in pharmacy. Consider reaching out to the admissions department of a college or university you’re interested in and ask to speak with alumni of that department. Speaking to a variety of alumni can help give you perspective on whether it’s the right program for you. (Contact the Bouvé School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern here to speak with our alumni and enrollment counselors.)
2. Understand the challenges of pharmacy.
In all industries, there are unique challenges and obstacles. Being aware of the most common ones can help you determine whether you’re still interested in pursuing the work.
- Difficult people: As with any field, you’re going to have people who are disgruntled. Pharmacists can be seen as the reason a patient can or cannot get their medication so it’s important to be able to de-escalate a situation.
- False perception of pharmacists: The career involves much more than simply counting medication. Pharmacists are essential in educating patients about the effects and risks of their medications among other responsibilities.
- Inability to reach healthcare providers: Often, to verify a prescription or question whether one is the right choice, you will have to contact other healthcare providers. This can be challenging as they don’t always answer in a timely fashion.
3. Find what excites you about pharmacy.
While pharmacists make excellent salaries, money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s important for those considering a profession in pharmacy to find what excites them. Is it the positive impact you’ll have on the patient? The relationships you’ll form? Being part of a care team? It’s OK to try several pathways until you find the one that speaks to you.
The Bright Future of Pharmacy
It’s easy to find negatives in any situation, but it’s important to find positives, as well. Pharmacy is a rewarding profession that needs compassionate, smart, and hard-working people driven by the desire to make a difference.
If you’re ready to take the next steps in your pharmacy career, learn more about Northeastern University’s Bouvé School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and discover how to take action toward obtaining your graduate degree and licensure.