Know No Limits: Future Pharmacy Careers

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Fall 2017, Volume 11, Issue 4

How many career paths are open to today’s pharmacy graduates?

How many career paths are open to today’s pharmacy graduates? I often marvel as I look at the diversity of both titles and organizations with which pharmacists are affiliated.

My pharmacy education began more than 40 years ago when I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program. When offering career guidance, our faculty would often say, “The majority of you will work in community or hospital pharmacies upon graduating, so that is what we will focus on.” Even then there were many other “non-traditional” roles, but we had few opportunities to understand them from within our classrooms.

Fortunately, I listened to students in classes ahead of mine who encouraged us to join student organizations and attend local, regional, and national pharmacy association meetings. It was at national meetings especially that I began to hear pharmacy leaders speak about the new and emerging roles that pharmacists were assuming in long-term care, managed care, the pharmaceutical industry, and government. My engagement in national associations have never ceased since then, and I continue to learn about the expanding number and types of positions my colleagues in pharmacy are creating.

I was also very fortunate to find opportunities during our summer breaks to identify diverse opportunities to learn about pharmacists’ roles in the community, hospital, industry, and government settings. While early practice experiences and calendar-year degree models might limit the time available for summer internships, gaining experience in multiple types of settings should be a priority for every PharmD student. Not only did I gain a broader appreciation of my career pathways, but the practical experience enhanced my learning in the classroom.

Not too long after I graduated from my post-graduate degree program, I became involved in the development of a fantastic opportunity for students developed by the Glaxo Corporation (now GlaxoSmithKline). Elliott Sogol was the Glaxo originator of the Career Pathway Evaluation Program for Pharmacy Professionals, which continues to be available today through the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).

The Pathways program allows participants to complete a self-assessment related to a set of “critical factors” identified through research as essential to career success and fulfillment; the program identifies the career pathways that are most aligned with the individual’s responses. There are profiles of 28 different broad career areas included in the online program resources.

Many colleges and schools of pharmacy incorporate the APhA Career Pathway Evaluation Program into their efforts to provide career information and consultation to students. In many cases an assistant or associate dean for student affairs will take the lead in guiding students through the program, butt other faculty and preceptors can be equally valuable sources of insight into the wide array of roles for contemporary pharmacy graduates.

Given the wide array of career opportunities available to pharmacists today, I feel confident in saying that there is a perfect career match (or 2 or 3) for every individual in the profession. Sometimes geographic constraints or the need for some additional education might create barriers to finding your best fit position, but don’t give up assessing your options and working toward that excellent match between your interests and aptitudes and positions. At some point, you may have the opportunity to even create your own position, one that perhaps has never existed before, to address patient needs that your pharmacy education has prepared you to meet.

I think that Jeff Goad, PharmD, MPH, the 2017 Next Generation Pharmacist® of the Year, said it best: “In work and in life, if you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong.” There are endless way in which you can make an impact as a pharmacist, and if you are having fun while doing so, then you’ve succeeded in finding the perfect career fit for you.

Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, RPh, is the executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.