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A Job, a Career, or a Calling?

Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS; Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief
Published Online: Friday, March 12, 2010   [ Request Print ]

Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. 


Excitement is in the air with graduation around the corner.
You are entering the profession at a time when pharmacy is embarking on revolutionary times. Health care reform, medication therapy management, disease management, and cognitive services are all part of every pharmacist’s conversation these days. What their impact will be on the pharmacist’s role is still up to conjecture, but most would agree that change will surely happen. It’s an exciting time to enter the pharmacy practice.

As you approach your first job as a “licensed pharmacist,” let me share some wisdom learned from a long pharmacy career. I think it is important to think about how you want to approach this employment opportunity. You could approach your first pharmacist employment as simply a “job.” Where can you make the most money, have the best benefits, the best sign-on bonus, or the better hours may become the major considerations when accepting an opportunity. And when another job becomes available and offers a little more, you take it.

Others may see this first job as the beginning of a pharmacy career. They are interested in developing themselves personally and professionally, so they can advance into other positions that have more responsibility and eventually get the position in pharmacy that is their ideal. After all the years of schooling, pharmacy is seen by these students as a career to be nurtured.

Some, like myself, see being a pharmacist as a calling. In answering the question “Why am I a pharmacist?” they realize that it is not simply to make money or have job security, but they want to make a difference by helping people. Because there are many ways that pharmacists help people, these pharmacists look for positions that will give them the most opportunity to make the difference they want to make. For now, pharmacy has a place for all of these individuals, but as the job market gets tighter, those who are career- or calling-focused may be in the best position in a tight marketplace. So, think carefully before accepting that first position.

My wish for you is that pharmacy will be all you want it to be. Remember, whether that happens or not is primarily in your hands.
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