How do over 7 million community college students learn about the pharmacy profession?
I recently took the time to find out how community college students learned about the pharmacy profession in the first place. Whether looking to start a career quickly as a technician or work toward admissions to pharmacy school, community college students have specific ways they engage with the profession for the first time. When I asked, “where did you first learn about pharmacy,” 3 answers stood out from the rest: 1. Google, 2. YouTube, and 3. iTunes.
1. Google search
The most common Google searches start with salary and education timeline requests. How much does a pharmacy technician make? How much does a pharmacist make? How long is pharmacy school? With so much variation in the information, it’s tough for a pharmacy prospect to find out what the answer is for their particular situation.
To alleviate this confusion, our college created a single webpage so that when a person puts in our “college name” then “pharmacy” as “DMACC pharmacy,” 2 webpages come up, 1 guiding them to our prepharmacy offerings and the 2 in-state colleges and the other to our pharmacy technician program. I’ve even had some of our most self-motivated students send an email after they graduated from a pre-pharmacy associate’s degree saying, “thanks for the great resources, I got into 'XYZ' college of pharmacy” without my ever meeting them. They never formally indicated they were prepharmacy with the college, so I couldn't have known.
The 3 videos they’ve cited as most helpful are:
2. YouTube search
Most people don’t realize YouTube is the number 2 search engine in the world. When someone has a question, they go to YouTube to find the answer, often in video and step-by-step form. Further, they can choose the best video based on likes and comments. This search is like a reverse Google search. While Google will geographically provide them with the closest pharmacy schools and pharmacy technician programs, a YouTube search will provide the best of the best in information about their searches in “prepharmacy” or “how to be a pharmacy technician.” Often, these videos are made by energetic and passionate pharmacy technicians and pharmacy students. They are also unfiltered and honest, weighing the good and the bad.
Those 7 million plus community college students are by and large, commuter students. Digital and even video information is tough to absorb on a commute and students that have come to my program have often come because of their interactions with health related podcasts like the Pharmacy Podcast for the general business of pharmacy, Helix Talk for introductory clinical teaching, and Pharmacy Joe for advanced clinical teaching.
Symplur.com rates the Pharmacy Podcast as the top podcast with the hash tag pharmacy (#pharmacy) space. In learning about this, I took on a role as a cohost to build out a series of career related podcasts called the #pharmacyfutureleaders that includes last professional year, new practitioners, and leadership from pharmacy organizations. I post regularly on the DMACC website to our 30,000 DMACC students by updating embeds on this page, and sending out new episodes on Twitter and Facebook, and our marketing department sends it out on their channels to our students. It’s tough enough to help a student who has parents that have gone to college to decide on a career.
However, as I was, many of these students are first-generation college and don’t know what the career possibilities are beyond the pharmacists they’ve seen at the corner retail store. Now, all a student has to do is put “my college name” “podcasts” in Google as “DMACC podcasts” and they’ll find the page ranked first in Google.
The community college world is often overlooked because these students haven’t necessarily entered a formal position as a pharmacy technician student or pharmacy student at a college of pharmacy. It’s clear how these students are looking for free advice, through Google, YouTube, and iTunes. I believe that as the most diverse college group socioeconomically and racially, community college students represent an opportunity to grow awareness of the pharmacy profession.