New pharmacy school students or even graduates of a pharmacy school are sometimes heard commenting, “Why did I (they) become a pharmacist?” This may suggest that the decision to become a pharmacist may have been a mistake for them, and they were only able to perceive the practice of endless processing of medication orders, incessant phone calls, and resolving clinical drug therapy questions until after they had finished their PharmD program and started their jobs. Needless to say, this is not an ideal beginning to what awaits them for the rest of their careers if they stay in the industry. The first week of work could be a moment similar to a deer in front of headlights when they have had no exposure to the practice of pharmacy whether in a retail or hospital environment prior to graduation or even matriculating in a pharmacy school. To save on years of frustration, and to avoid any potential career decision mistakes, it would behoove interested candidates of pharmacy schools to work or volunteer in a pharmacy setting to see if the job is the right fit.
Research, research, research. One has to know their profession as to what awaits them before making an enormous commitment in time, hard work, finances, and happiness. A PharmD program in addition to an undergraduate curriculum may take years (6-8 years) depending on the institution. Some PharmD programs accept two years of specific undergraduate study prior to being eligible to apply to the program; this could last another four years. Regardless, it takes a considerable amount of time from the point of studying for the pharmacy college admission tests (PCATs) to the point of passing the pharmacy licensure boards.
Pharmacy school tuition is not cheap. Tuition overall usually goes up, similar to taxes. Know of any legitimate pharmacy schools that continually reduce tuition? Know of any states that continually lower taxes? Probably not. Tuition, room and board, fees, miscellaneous charges, books could add up. This is significant especially in these rough economic times with high interest rates for college loans. If you have no issues with finances, or if you have well-to-do parents subsidizing the entire cost of pharmacy school expenses, then maybe it isn’t much of a problem. However, most people (or parents) will be spending a lot of investment into pharmacy education, and changing your career after discovering it is not what you plan on doing for the rest of your life will have wasted much time and money. Just think, if a career change is made afterwards, one has to go back to the drawing board and figure out what else they want to do with their life. This requires another dose of commitment, time, and money.
Time and money are enough reasons to do some research. Checking the job prospects is another good idea. Are there enough jobs in the market for your location? If you work in a pharmacy, ask the pharmacists whether there are enough jobs for newly minted pharmacy graduates, and what the salary expectations are. If you know of any new pharmacy graduates, ask them if they have a job, and the degree of difficulty in obtaining a job or an interview. “How long does it take to find a job?” How is the job market?” or “Have you found a job yet” would be some good questions to ask.
Just spending a few months working in a pharmacy setting and observing the lifestyle, workload, and attitudes of pharmacists may provide enough information for one to have perspectives of whether it would be a good fit. It would most likely save years of time, finances, and regret later on if one discovers it isn’t a good fit. The concept of research and experience goes the same for almost any occupation of choice. No one person could be 100% sure of whether one career is right for them until they actually work in the field for some time. However most people would be more than 0% sure that if they spend quality time in researching the industry in question, they will have gained valuable insight about their career compatibility.