So you finally earned your Doctor of Pharmacy degree after sitting through 3-4 years of mind-numbing lectures on cytochrome p450 enzymes, vancomycin dosing nomograms, and reading through hundreds of adverse effects, contraindications, dosage/administration, and mechanism of action information about drugs. You also secured a hefty loan from a lender where now the interest on the loan will start adding to the principle. First of all, congratulations on finishing pharmacy school and getting your degree. It is no small feat, and the patience, discipline, hard work, and fortitude required to achieve a PharmD will have prepared you to become a professional working contributor to society, which will help facilitate and advance your career.
So now what? If you haven’t already begun (perhaps six months prior to graduation in seeking a job or a post-graduate position (residency, fellowship, etc) then you should probably begin searching for a job. Apply to jobs within a state in which you plan living in, and obtain the necessary requirements by referring to the State Board of Pharmacy for each state, which will guide you on what you need to start practicing as a pharmacist. Usually, this will require a state exam (MPJE for most), and the national pharmacy licensure exam (NAPLEX). Apply to as many jobs as you are able to, and begin studying for your tests so that you’ll be eligible to start working if you are fortunate enough to be accepted for a position. Many employers would want to know that you have the required eligibility and license to practice as a pharmacist before they would even consider granting an interview. Post-graduate programs such as residencies and fellowships may not require this since interviews with those programs may begin long before graduation.
Ok, so now you have earned your state pharmacy license(s) to practice, and you have hopefully found a job. You’ve made it! You can now start to apply for health insurance benefits, contribute to your retirement plan, pay off those high interest college loans, help out your family, and maybe consider replacing that broken-down car of yours. You may finally get to go out with your friends and eat something nice for once rather than looking for the cheapest item on the menu, or sticking with the cup-o-noodles and peanut butter sandwiches that you feasted on through college. Hopefully, your bank account statements will look nicer each month as long as you save some of your income, and if you don’t spend more than you earn. Now what? You’ll notice after a couple years of working as a pharmacist that it’s pretty much the same old same old everyday whether you work in the retail or hospital setting. As a retail pharmacist, you’ll come to work with dozens of refills to process, and insurance companies to call when the claims are rejected. You’ll constantly talk to angry customers waiting to pick up prescriptions that are not ready for them, or even misfiled. You’ll have pharmacy technicians not report to work on time, or call-in sick which will almost certainly lead to a very stressful morning. You’ll deal with slippery situations when you feel a prescription is forged, or if customers are being prescribed too much narcotics for their pain, but yet are yelling at you because they want their pain medications immediately while you ponder what to do. As for hospital pharmacists, you’ll deal constantly with nurses on the phone calling you for missing medications which was supposed to be sent hours ago, and which you may have already sent twice but somehow kept getting lost. You’ll deal with your coworkers calling in sick requiring you to do another double shift. These are some examples of situations that await you after pharmacy school. Generally, the pay appears to be very good at first. However, you’ll notice the salaries plateauing and not increasing as they may do for other occupations. Even after many years, you may not earn much more than when you first started your position after graduation. As your life progresses and you get older, you’ll probably be getting married at some point, have kids, and buy a new home. You’ll wonder if you’re able to earn more income, and if there other ways to better your position, of if doing the same old same old stagnant job every day is it for you until you retire. Of course, this applies to pharmacists who are unsatisfied and want more out of their careers. There are many pharmacists who are okay with the same old same old status quo until they retire, and may not care to do anything else.
There are some options you have that may put you in a better position to excel or move up the ladder. Opportunities for leadership positions such as a manager or director of the pharmacy, or a different type of industry altogether such as pursuing a career in consulting ,or an atypical pharmacist position are some options for you. Applying for these positions may require either experience or degrees and certifications, or both. If moving up the ladder to management positions, a masters in business administration (MBA) or a masters in public health (MPH) may be a good start, or something to put on your resume. There are many pharmacy schools that offer a dual degree program combined with a PharmD, but since you’ve already graduated, perhaps you could check your benefits department to see if they would subsidize part of your tuition if you decide to obtain another degree. If you’re interested in pursuing the clinical route, asking your management whether board of pharmacy specialty certifications will earn them more income, or whether the exams and certification fees can be reimbursed by the employer may be appropriate considering the costs required to obtain the certification. Networking with other similar health professionals by joining an organization, attending or participating in meetings and events (continuing education) is another great way to learn about other opportunities that you would otherwise not know of when using only the internet or job sites. Networking can be the most formidable tool you have if you are able to establish relationships easily. Attending classes or joining clubs which focus on helping you network may be beneficial for you such as courses that educate people how to perform presentations (e.g. toastmasters).
These are only some of the options that are available for those that feel stagnant in their careers. Keep in mind that pursuing another graduate degree, or a board specialty certification could be costly, and may take your time away from your family or social life. Work/life balance is something that has to be assessed by each pharmacist depending on their life situation and age.