Is pharmacy a smart career choice?
| March 31, 2014
Ever since U.S. News and World Report listed pharmacy as the No. 5 best job for 2014, the profession has been hotly debating the question of the future of our career path.
Some say it's over. The dangerously-busy working conditions created, in part, by margins slimmer than a counting spatula have made many pharmacists question whether there is any hope left for the practice of pharmacy they once knew and loved.
Others, however, see hope on the horizon. The advent of provider status for pharmacists seems just around the corner, and the emergence of new opportunities for patient care and compensation fuel the optimism of this crowd.
Such divergent opinions beg the simple question: Is pharmacy a smart career choice? Would you do it again if you could start over? What do you recommend to others?
One morning this week I had the opportunity to sit and have breakfast with a local pharmacist. He has an impressive resume including an array of noteworthy accomplishments, experience and skills. Yet he's been out of work for a year.
We talked about the changes in the job market, such as those outlined by pharmacist Daniel L. Brown in his often cited article, "The Looming Joblessness Crisis." We also discussed the best strategies to help set him apart and get him working again.
But the fact remains that an oversupply of pharmacists exists in many markets around the U.S., and it is impacting both seasoned and newly-graduated pharmacists alike.
That same day I had another meeting. The parents of a high school senior invited me to their home to discuss the profession of pharmacy with their son who is considering pursuing that path. I always enjoy such opportunities and have spoken at high school career days many times over the years.
We talked about the aspects of the pharmacy profession that, in my opinion, make it a rewarding pursuit. A pharmacist starting out today has more career opportunities than ever before — hospital, clinical, retail, community pharmacy ownership, management, long-term care, consulting, insurance, specialty, just to name a few.
It can be a financially-rewarding career as well, which is good because pharmacy school is a serious and expensive investment. At the end of the day, what I like most is finding ways to improve patient care while helping organizations achieve financial stability.
But today those rewarding elements of the career must be balanced with the grim reality of the sometimes frustrating working conditions and more limited job availability that currently exists. The truth, as it usually does, lies somewhere between the rose-colored optimism and black-hole pessimism being expressed by often well-meaning but short-sighted individuals commenting on this career.
Is pharmacy still a smart career choice? Here is my answer:
Yes, pharmacy is still a smart career choice, as long as you understand going in that you should plan to be flexible with your goals upon graduation. Don't expect to be a director of pharmacy or lead clinical pharmacist on Day 1. Don't expect to find a job in the first town, state or side of the country you hope for.
And while going through school, you must not only work hard on your grades, but also work hard on your networking within your desired career path to help you find work when you're done.
Yes, pharmacy is still a smart career choice, if you commit yourself to maintaining a diverse skill set that will allow for several career paths should you need to change course. Pharmacists should always keep several irons in the career fire.
Have several state licenses, allowing for relocation if necessary. Add an extra degree. Keep abreast of the job opportunities around you through online job boards, pharmacist discussion forums and social media interaction.
Don’t become complacent. Think about where you want to be in five years and take small steps daily to get there.
Yes, pharmacy is still a smart career choice, if you truly prefer this side of medicine to choices that offer a different type of patient care such as physicians, nurses or PAs (to name just a few).
There is pretty good evidence that we have, and will continue to have, a shortage of physicians and nurses in our country. The unemployment rate for physicians is less than 1 percent, among the lowest of any profession. For those equally attracted to these other options, pharmacy might not be the best choice.
Is pharmacy still a smart career choice? Is it really the fifth-best job of 2014? No one can ever truly answer that question for you. It's a choice, like many others in life, that only you can make for yourself. Choose wisely.
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