How you answer this set of questions can either save you from a couple years of heartache with a mountain of student debt, or catapult you into the chaos of life knowing that you will succeed.
When you’re choosing a career path in high school, someone told you to become a pharmacist. You performed a Google search of “pharmacist” and learned that you’d make more than $100,000 per year as one.
You start ferociously applying for colleges, hoping to get into any program that can secure this future. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to choose from a variety of programs.
Everyone will tell you about the joys of being a pharmacist, which include providing great patient care, using clinical knowledge on a daily basis, and having job security. You enter freshman year full of excitement and love for a career that you’ve yet to experience.
Very rarely does anyone stop and question whether this profession is really for you.
Is this the career path you should be taking to personally succeed? What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? Are you only pursuing pharmacy because your parents or family members pushed you into the profession, or because you believe you will love it?
Some learn to enjoy the pharmacy profession or truly fall in love with it. Everyone, including you, has that potential, but many don’t fulfill it.
Whenever someone asks me whether he or she should become a pharmacist, I ask a particular set of questions. How you answer the following questions can either save you from a couple years of heartache with a mountain of student debt, or catapult you into the chaos of life knowing that you will succeed.
1. Do you want to become a pharmacist because you want to make a lot of money?
If your driving force of motivation is to become wealthy after 6 to 8 years of college, you won’t make it through. That’s a promise.
2. Do you want to become a pharmacist, or do your parents want that for you?
While attending Accepted Student’s Day, I witnessed a mother rambling to her son in the elevator about how great it is to be a pharmacist, how much she had loved attending MCPHS, and how perfect it will be that they will have a family of pharmacists.
Do you want to know what her son was doing while she rambled? He was picking his nose and wiping it on the elevator wall.
It was pretty obvious to me that he had little interest in the tour and was only there because his parents wanted him to follow in their footsteps. He didn’t want to become a pharmacist, though, so let’s just say I didn’t see him after freshman year.
Remember: you are the one who is taking the classes and spending 40 years of your life working as a pharmacist, not your parents.
3. Do you want to help people?
A 15 year-old high school student once scoffed at me when I asked him this question in the middle of the grocery store.
I then nodded in the direction of an elderly lady who could almost reach the stack of paper towels she wanted, but not quite. I asked him, “Do you want to help her get those paper towels?” All of a sudden, it clicked and he went right over and helped her not only with the paper towels, but also down the entire aisle.
If you don’t want to help people, then why would you enter a profession where your job is to primarily help people? Life is short, so do something that makes you happy.
4. Do you enjoy learning about biology, chemistry, physics, and math?
If your answer is something along the lines of you laughing and saying “no way,” it’ll be a very long 6 to 8 years for you.
Drugs are made up of chemicals, so you will need to learn what those chemicals do when you put them into the human body. In order for you to know how they are going to act in the body, you need to take a lot of biology classes. You also need to know how long the drugs will work in the body and how to dose them correctly, so calculus is vital—and yes, it is on your licensing exam.
This is a very basic view of college for a future pharmacist, but if you don’t enjoy any of the classes you would be taking, it’s going to be that much harder to succeed in them. If you don’t like the sciences, you just might not like the building blocks of pharmacy—and that’s a recipe for disaster.
5. What matters to you more: having the party-based college experience or being a successful student?
You will always find time for extracurricular activities, regardless of whether they involve watching TV, joining clubs or organizations, playing on a recreational volleyball team, or bar hopping. But, more often than not, you will have to make a decision in choosing school over fun and relaxation.
Over a Christmas break, I sat at the kitchen table and pre-made 500 drug notecards for the following semester instead of going out with my friends. Honestly, I have at least 50 more stories of when I had to choose to be responsible for my future over being the “fun friend” I once was.
You will have to make more of these choices than the average college student. What are you willing to sacrifice?
6. Do you enjoy learning, studying, and expanding your knowledge?
Nobody wants to go to 8 AM classes or 7 PM Friday night labs, or study for 12 hours straight and miss Super Bowl Sunday. However, do you like feeling accomplished after leaving class, learning a new body system, attending tutoring sessions, and acing the exam? If none of that sounds exciting to you, or at least an accomplishing feeling, then you might not want to pursue a career in pharmacy.
There are 24 hours in a day, and towards the second half of my schooling, I was easily studying for 16 hours per day. I was able to do it because I wanted to succeed, and those who didn’t care didn’t succeed.
You have to want to do it and enjoy doing it.
7. Do you have a reliable support system?
Whether it’s before a big exam or after you receive a poor grade on one, you will have a moment of self-doubt and question whether you can handle the program.
When (not if) this happens to you, do you have family or friends you can count on to help pick you back up? If you do, I can assure you that everyone who supported you will be at your graduation, and you will not be able to thank them enough for the countless midnight phone calls to get you through.
If you don’t have anyone you can really count on, you might be sitting in the stands by yourself at graduation simply because you didn’t have that one person to talk you out of your self-doubt.
We all need such a person. Who is yours?
8. Are you a hard worker?
This usually prompts the person to ask, “What do you mean ‘a hard worker’? I have a job now, so yeah, I guess so.”
This is an open-ended question to determine how you define hard work. If your definition is simply “having a job,” then I think you’ll be shocked when you get to college, because that’s not really hard work.
On top of attending school full time, I held 2 to 3 jobs at a time during college, was a member of multiple clubs and organizations, and was president of one organization for multiple years. None of this is easy, but if you have a personality or attitude that makes you keep mucking through the trenches, knowing that every little thing you do will be worth it one day, then this career could be for you.
You have to work hard because school and life aren’t as simple as sitting in the library for a few hours a day or working once or twice a week. In the giant scheme of life, succeeding in college is only half the battle, or maybe even less.
Choose a career that you can personally succeed in, whether it means becoming a pharmacist or pursuing another title. The key to knowing whether you’re entering the right field is determining your personality traits and finding out if they fit with the profession.
I hope that these questions were helpful for all the struggling high school or college students and parents out there who are trying to decide whether being a pharmacist is right for you or your child.