As with any career path, there are both advantages and disadvantages of going to pharmacy school and becoming a pharmacist. Some of the advantages include job security, being a respected member of the community, salary, and helping curb infectious disease. Some of the disadvantages of a career in pharmacy include the difficulty of the courses required to obtain a degree, the fact that many positions offer little room for advancement, the enormous job responsibilities and liability, the probability of shift work, and the possibility of becoming a target for robbery.
One of the major advantages of being a pharmacist is job security. The aging baby boomer population has helped fuel the demand for more pharmacists. As this group gets older, it will require more pharmaceuticals and, therefore, more pharmacists. Money® magazine projected a growth of 22% for pharmacists in the period from 2006 to 2016. Recently, a survey of online employment openings for pharmacists indicated an increase of 11% in a three-month period. This demand for pharmacists and the projected growth in the field help ensure good job security for pharmacists.
Another advantage of being a pharmacist is the respect one receives from the community. Individuals trust their pharmacist to supply them with their medications and to ensure that their medications will not interact negatively with each other. The trust that the pharmacist builds with his or her customers makes him or her a well-respected member of the community.
High earning potential is another advantage of a career in pharmacy. Money magazine listed the median salary of an experienced pharmacist at $109,000. It reported the highest salary as $134,000. While not as lucrative as a physician’s salary, the salary of a pharmacist is well above average.
As it relates to the health of the community, another advantage of being a pharmacist is helping to curb infectious diseases. Pharmacists fulfill this function in different ways: some pharmacists provide vaccinations which can stop the spread of disease by preventing it outright; pharmacists can also provide curative medications that also help stop infectious diseases (e.g, antibiotics). These are important job functions that can help the pharmacist feel as if he or she is part of a global effort to halt the spread of infectious diseases.
Of course, like any job, there are some disadvantages to becoming a pharmacist. For one, it is difficult to become a pharmacist. Both the prerequisite course work and the courses taken during pharmacy school are challenging. The advanced classes are designed to prepare the pharmacist for work in the field, but those with no natural science acumen may find themselves struggling to get by.
Once employed as a pharmacist, an individual may find that there is little room for advancement. While some employers may have a structure set up such that a pharmacist can become a manager pharmacist or a pharmacy director, many other pharmacists will linger at the generic level of “pharmacist,” without an opportunity for advancement. This can sometimes generate overall job dissatisfaction and it should be considered by those who think they would like to become pharmacists.
With customer trust, discussed previously, comes a huge responsibility to those customers and, potentially, enormous liability. Customers not only expect that their pharmacist will have their medication(s) available, but also that their pharmacist will keep them safe. Lawsuits can be a major issue for pharmacists, most commonly in the area of negligence. Pharmacist negligence can lead to giving a customer an improper dose of medication, giving the wrong medication altogether, or putting the wrong dosing instructions on the medication label. Any of these could cause a potentially fatal reaction, for which the pharmacist could be held legally liable.
For some individuals, one of the major disadvantages of a career in pharmacy is the potential for shift work. Since many pharmacies operate on a 24-hour-a-day schedule and are open year-round, coverage of all of those hours can necessitate shift work. Pharmacists who are new to a position or new to pharmacy altogether may find that they need to work night or weekend shifts. This schedule can be grueling and is thought by most to be very undesirable.
Lastly, one potentially huge disadvantage to work as a pharmacist is that pharmacies are often targeted in robberies. Because many pharmacies carry prescription medications that can be desirable to addicts, they may become targets for those who cannot obtain habit-forming medications by legal means. RxPatrol® (Pattern Analysis Tracking Robberies and Other Losses) has logged more than 6,216 incidents in pharmacies, more than 1,883 of which were robberies, in the last few years. Beyond the monetary losses associated with such robberies, individuals must consider their own personal safety.
Individuals attending pharmacy school should consider all of the advantages and disadvantages of work as a pharmacist. After a careful analysis, if one is still interested in becoming a pharmacist, steps should be taken to obtain the proper education and credentials necessary for work in this field.