Working During Pharmacy School: Can It Be Done?

Should student pharmacists consider working part time while pursuing a PharmD?

Should student pharmacists consider working part time while pursuing a PharmD?

As an incoming pharmacy student, this question was often on my mind. I searched for advice on whether it would be possible to find the time to work with a heavy course load, and I wondered if my school performance would be helped or hindered by extracurricular employment experience.

I found a range of answers during my contemplation, but nothing was definitive. Instead, I learned from life experience.

The first thing to consider before taking a job is whether you’ll be able to succeed in your coursework under more time constraints. Many pharmacy internship positions require a certain number of hours worked per week or pay period, so consider the strength of your time management skills and organizational abilities before you take a job. For some students, it may be helpful to get acclimated for a semester or 2 before accepting additional responsibilities.

A strategic job search can result in lasting benefits in addition to a source of income. Employment allows students to build rapport with a company and take advantage of networking opportunities. Intern positions can also help students gain a deeper understanding of pharmacy practice and reinforce knowledge learned in the curriculum.

One challenge that arises when a student assumes the dual role of employee and student is time conflicts. Although pharmacy school may provide a standard Monday-to-Friday schedule, rotation sites visits, meetings, trainings, or retreats may be arranged outside of scheduled classroom time.

There may be a time when the pharmacy program and employer both expect your attendance or participation at the same time. I’ve faced this situation myself and am certainly no expert at handling it, but open communication and understanding among both parties helps remedy the situation in the best way possible.

To make the most of employment experience, it’s wise to engage in work that interests or inspires you. Those who view work as primarily a means to an end may consider that a luxury, but pharmacy school is the best time to align your passion with your career. Summer internship programs are also available that provide structured experiences when school isn’t in session. These summer internships can be a great option for those looking for a different experience from their day-to-day job, or those not wishing to work during semesters.

So, it’s possible to hold a part-time position as a full-time student. There’s no simple strategy for guaranteed success in this endeavor, but self-awareness, the ability to prioritize, and discipline can definitely help in students’ favor. Employment experience can complement what’s learned in the classroom and provide invaluable hands-on experience.

It isn’t always easy to manage the balance between employee and student, and students should remember to keep success in school as a priority. However, employment experience does have a lot to offer, and those who do choose to work should make the best of it.