Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
Forbes’ recent ranking of pharmacist as the top health care job in 2015 has generated much controversy within the pharmacy community. While I agree that some pharmacy jobs are considerably more difficult and onerous than others, I also agree with the folks at Forbes.
Interestingly, I recently received an email from a pharmacist who claimed I was misleading pre-pharmacy students on my website, Pharmacy School HQ, that the profession of pharmacy is a great career choice despite the “increasing competition.”
Sure, our profession has its share of problems. I agree that the future of the pharmacy profession is unknown based on many factors, like the increase of pharmacy colleges, health care “reform,” and other stuff that we can’t predict.
However, what field doesn’t have its problems? What profession doesn’t have competition, down-sizing, hiring freezes, and fear-mongering about salary decreases?
The days of signing bonuses immediately after graduation may be over, but we still have a great job in comparison to MANY career fields.
I believe that pharmacists really do have great profession. Here are 10 reasons why:
Diverse career options
Pharmacists have the ability to choose a career path that is a good fit for them. From research, to clinical, to retail, pharmacists have the flexibility to train for and pursue the career that most closely meshes with their area of interest, work preferences, and schedule.
You can’t be placed in 1 box forever in pharmacy. You can transition into another field. If you don’t like your job, change it. The only person who stops you from getting out of your job is you.
Because of the diverse career options mentioned above, pharmacists can pursue jobs that help them achieve a work-life balance. Since pharmacists are in demand around the clock, it is possible to find work for any shift. For pharmacists with young kids, there are many second shift, weekend, or part-time options. Need to do the 9-5 thing? A job in a clinical setting or research lab might be right for you.
Job growth potential
Forbes states in its article that the number of pharmacy jobs is expected to increase 14% by 2022. This doesn’t just mean more jobs—it means more opportunities for advancement. Whether you are in pharmacy school or already working in the profession, this is good news.
According to Forbes, the average salary for a pharmacist is $116,700. Many pharmacy graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt, but this is still good money. And the career options and flexibility mentioned above sweeten the deal.
Money shouldn’t be our end goal in life. However, it’s a really nice salary to receive immediately out of college. There are FEW professions that create graduates who make $100,000 immediately after graduation.
Availability of online resources
A wealth of online resources are available to pharmacists, making it easy to connect with others in the profession, find information, and keep up with the latest news and research. Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, have a strong online presence and offer everything from continuing education to mentorship programs.
Despite what we’ve all heard about the vast number of pharmacy graduates, the pharmacy community is really quite small. Chances are that in most areas, everybody in the profession knows most everybody else. And good reputations travel extremely fast, which makes it easier to find jobs.
Availability of mentors
I have found that pharmacists are some of the most helpful people on the planet. Most are glad to share their knowledge with students or recent graduates. If you are willing to put in the work, I guarantee you that you will be able to find a pharmacy mentor who can help guide you along your career path.
While medical doctors consistently top lists of the most-respected professions, I believe that pharmacists are up there, too. Like physicians, pharmacists have an advanced degree and are experts at helping people stay healthy. We study the tough stuff, like chemistry and calculus, and we have a huge amount of responsibility for our patients.
Autonomy on the job
In most work environments, pharmacists have a lot of autonomy to manage their work and time. This is not to say that there won’t be some crazy moments in the average workday, but a pharmacist has the ability to determine how to best set their priorities and serve their patients.
Ability to help people
We all know that helping people has “feel-good” benefits. Pharmacists are lucky enough to directly help people on a daily basis. It’s true that some patients can be difficult and few show their appreciation, but every once in a while, you will make a big impact—and maybe save someone’s life. For me, that is what makes being a pharmacist the best profession of all.
The pharmacy profession has so many available options available. I know dozens of pharmacists who hated their jobs in retail, hospital, clinical, managed care, research, academia, but they didn’t settle with their “awful jobs.” Instead, they pushed themselves to network, receive certifications, and achieve accomplishments that attracted new opportunities in completely different pharmacy fields.
The only person who determines whether you have a great job or a lame job is you. Every day, you determine what kind of career, life, and day you will have. I encourage you to look on the bright side of our profession.