I have finally decided on a career path, but am scared of the prospects described online in forums.
May 23, 2012 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I have finally decided on a career path, but am scared of the prospects described online in forums.

I find anatomy, physiological processes, and the chemical processes within the body fascinating. I am almost done with my undergraduate in Biochemistry and am thinking of going into pharmacy. I was so excited about it as I had struggled to figure out what I eventually wanted to do. Medical school is out because I don't think it's for me, I don't want to do nursing, and veterinary school is still on the table although I realize it is very competitive.

However, despite what the BLS says, I am worried about job prospects. People in a lot of online forums make it seem like the worst idea possible, due to saturation. I wonder if that is not just how the economy is right now, in most fields. In any case, is this a bad decision? I wish I had the 20/20 vision that experience gives, which is why I turn to the green.

A long aside:

I am also open to new career suggestions. I do not want to work directly in animal testing, research, etc. I am aware that working in pharmacy, well, is a byproduct of that, but actually my end goal is to make a decent living so that I can put most of my monetary resources (aside from my bills and other basic living expenses, savings, etc) into helping animals. Vet would seem like an obvious choice, but, well, they apparently make less than pharmacists unless it's a private practice, and quite frankly, I'm not so interested in helping the animals that are being brought in by good pet owners. I'm interested in helping the animals that are ignored, homeless, in shelters, etc. Money is my tool to do this. Of course, there are other ways to make money, but like I said, I do find biochemistry/pharmacy/medicine fascinating.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pharmacy is awesome!

Plus, it's very portable, you can work anywhere and everywhere. If this is something that lights your fire, go for it.

Have you seen how many drug stores there are? I don't think there's an issue with saturation. To prove this, go on-line to Monster or Career Builder and see what comes up.

Also the US Government has Pharmacy jobs at the VA and military hospitals. Getting a job with the federal government is like winning the lottery. My dad is a therapist and my parents traveled the world living in Asia and Europe and are now very well off living on a government pension.

You can work in a drug store, hospital, goverment installation, and even for pharmaceutical companies if you want.

I am envious of your brain, but if this is something you like, don't hesitate to act on it. It's not like you want to be a lawyer or something.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:29 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Step 1 - stop reading online forums ;) Go talk to some real pharmacists about what is happening. With the aging of the population in the US I can't see how pharmacy is anything but a growth field.

This may be instructive.
posted by COD at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

A frequent complaint I hear from pharmacist friends is the hours (evenings, weekends, long days on your feet). This of course depends what kind of pharmacy you are working for (retail store vs hospital, etc.). I'm also thinking of US pharmacies... not sure if it is different elsewhere/you're writing from another country.

Other than that, and the occasional problem customer, they enjoy it. Pharmaceutical compounding sounds especially fun to me, for some reason.

Have you looked at their professional society websites? Might have some good info there, or be a launching pad for informational interviews with mentors in your area.
posted by NikitaNikita at 2:35 PM on May 23, 2012

Realistically, branches will close and consolidate - especially as the baby boomers die. Mom and pop pharmacies are a thing of the past - you will likely have to work for a CVS or Rite-Aid or Walgreens or whatever flavor is in your area.

But, with that said, employment as a pharmacist will pay the bills. If you like the idea, you like the work, and you are good and continue to learn and develop your skills, you will likely find a long and successful career. Think if it like this: if you were a singer and you were auditioning for American Idol, you might not win, might not make the top 10, ir even the top 25. You could still become a great studio musician, be a vocal coach, teach or or any good manner of tangential but related levels for success.

If though, you are untalented at biology, you cant count pills, you wont work the third shift at a 24-hour pharmacy to start, and/or your heart isnt in it -for goodness sake - then and only then consider something else.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:47 PM on May 23, 2012

Mom and pop pharmacies are a thing of the past - you will likely have to work for a CVS or Rite-Aid or Walgreens or whatever flavor is in your area.

There's the hospital pharmacist option, which seems to be one of the better paths to take.
posted by deanc at 2:50 PM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also you could go Pharmacy/Public Policy and head the route of the health insurance agency... That will be a goldmine in the future (assuming society doesn't collapse... and then being a pharmacist is probably a really good skill in rebuilding the world.... I digress....)
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:56 PM on May 23, 2012

If you read too much about ANY career, you will eventually talk yourself out of doing it.

In any field that suffers from saturation, its passion and commitment that will stand you out from the tyre-kickers and chancers that you will be competing against for jobs. If you like pharmacy, then you would be crazy to do anything else!

I work in medical science. I heard horror stories about one young professor recently getting 200 applications for a technician job in her lab.

I was mortified, as there is a good chance I will be looking for new jobs in the next 6 months and certainly didn't fancy competing against hundreds of other people.

But just today I found out that a good percentage of them were just people literally sending their resumes at random to any job posting they could find. As a result she had applicants with a background in completely unrelated sciences (like mechanical engineers), or even non-science backgrounds (literature, finance).

Only a small number had the actual qualifications she was looking for ie. a biological sciences degree with maybe a bit of lab experience.

In science, if you are in a field you truly are passionate about, motivated enough to get some work experience and you make sensible decisions about the jobs you apply for, then you really can't go wrong.

Good luck!
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you read too much about ANY career, you will eventually talk yourself out of doing it.

This is the truth. I find this true about the medical field quite a bit, actually. A lot of people in medicine have great jobs, but things have changed during the course of the time they've been in the career, and things, they feel, were so much better in years past, so now they'll badmouth their field, even though their jobs are quite good.

I think the thing to keep in mind is that people go into a field because of the promise it held when they were young. And now, decades later, that field is no longer like that. It doesn't mean it got worse (or necessarily better), it's just different than the expectations that someone in that field held in their early years.

As a physician, it's hard to make a living as a solo practitioner in primary care. And any solo practitioners in primary care will tell you, "don't go into primary care! it's a terrible field!" Now that's true if you want to do what they did, because what was a good career path 30 years ago isn't necessarily a good option now because of changes in the field. But being a primary care physician at a hospital or a VA or in emergency medicine is actually a pretty good job to take, looking at things from the standpoint of, "what is a good thing to do now?"

Plenty of mom & pop pharmacists will probably tell you not to go into pharmacy because it's not good for running an independently owned mom & pop pharmacy. They're probably right. But there are probably plenty of good options in pharmacy outside of that.
posted by deanc at 3:10 PM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anecdata, but all my friends who went the pharmacy route have been immediately (and lucratively) employed upon graduation. Most of them work for chain pharmacies and are very happy.

I've also heard that the VA system is great for pharmacists (and offers a ton of portability, because you only have to be licensed in one state and can work anywhere in the country). Sadly, veteran's care is going to be a huge growth industry over the next 70 or so years, what with the Vietnam vets rapidly aging and the new vets entering into the system with high rates and levels of disability.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:15 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The job market in pharmacy is not what it was 10 or 15 years ago - it's pretty competitive. And pharmacy school is really expensive. Here's what I recommend you do:

You probably don't have all the prereqs for a pharmacy degree, even with that BS in biochem. Also, you don't sound like you've take your PCATs yet. So, in whatever order makes sense, take your prereqs from a good community college, get your pharmacy tech license and start working in a pharmacy, and study up for the PCAT. Working in a pharmacy will give you a better idea about whether pharmacy is a good match for you, and you'll get the chance to talk to pharmacists (and maybe pharmacy students on rotation) while you do it.

You can start to pursue a career in pharmacy without committing to it right this second! It's OK!

(My credentials: I've worked in pharmacy schools for most of the last decade.)
posted by mskyle at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yikes, the beginning of that answer came out much more discouraging than I intended! I'm genuinely not trying to discourage you.
posted by mskyle at 3:19 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yesterday, there was a story on NPR's Marketplace called "Overdose of Pharmacy Students" about the surplus of pharmacists. May be worth a listen. One point I recall is that the urban jobs are snapped up, but rural jobs are still available.
posted by rw at 3:23 PM on May 23, 2012

Just an aside....we have a rather new mom and pop store here that did so well they opened a second location....right outside a walmart for heavens sake.
They compete with the chains well.

Go for it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:23 PM on May 23, 2012

Read has many articles on trends in the market.
posted by rr at 5:05 PM on May 23, 2012

If you decide to go this route, you might consider applying to the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. They paid for a ton of my sister's grad school and paid off a large chunk of her student loans, in exchange for service (i.e., well-paid employment) at a federal facility.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:15 PM on May 23, 2012

This isn't the kind of thing to ask Mefites about. There are very few pharmacists here. The online forums are shitty places to find info because it's full of eighteen and nineteen yr olds who don't know jack.

Go to open houses, talk to REAL pharmacists in different environments (retail, hospital, home, etc). If you want to hear about law school or PhD programs, ask in here. If you want to really hear about where pharmacy is going, ask a pharmacist or someone in their 3rd or 4th yr.

Btw, have you considered being a pathologist's assistant?
posted by discopolo at 7:02 PM on May 23, 2012

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