I know I've shared a little here and there about my job, but I actually get a good amount of emails about how to get into pharmacy school, what all it entails, should you go that route?, how do you get into the field that I'm in (considered ambulatory care), etc etc and I started to just make an instagram caption and then that got really long really quick so here I am! :)
So, I'm just going to do it in a Q&A fashion so that's easier to answer!
How do you get into pharmacy school?
You do all of the pre requisites, take the PCAT (the standardized test for pharmacy school), apply through PharmCas to the various schools that you choose, and then do the interview process. There are some that are able to get in after two years without an undergraduate degree. I got in after three years but I do not have an undergrad. I do however have a doctorate. Pharmacy is weird like that and I suspect that soon in the future, it will change and you will need an undergrad.
How long is pharmacy school?
It was a 7 year path for me. 3 years undergrad, 4 years pharmacy school. All pharmacy school is 4 years however. 3 years didactic (classroom) and then 1 year on rotations/clinicals where you are able to "try out" different areas of pharmacy and see what you like. Tanner did one year residency after pharmacy school which is called a PGY-1 and is general. If you want to become more specialized, you would do a PGY-2. Specializations opens up doors just like in anything, and it's almost impossible to get a pharmacy job in the hospital setting with a residency at this point. Some get lucky but that's rare. Tanner got a more specialized position in oncology without that second year residency mostly because when we went to NYC, he worked at Sloan Kettering which is one of the top cancer centers in the US, but he still feels he could benefit from a PGY-2, soooo we will see what happens. haha!
Is pharmacy school worth it?
Yes and no. It just depends on you as a person. I hated school. But I look back now and that was so immature. I was such a drama queen and needed to chill the crap out. But I was young. My biggest thing is just that they give WAY TOO MUCH MONEY to you when you are so young and don't even know the gravity of the debt that you are incurring and that it could potentially follow you for the rest of your life. Because there is only one public school in NC (and I'm pretty sure it's the #1 school in the nation - Chapel Hill), the odds of getting in there are small. Kudos if you did. But private was what we did. And private is HELLA EXPENSIVE, so both Tanner and I both came out with crippling debt, so while it is a secure, great career and we both have found niches that we have great hours, it NEEDSSSS to be talked about more than it is because the salary we make does not offset the debt from private institutions.
Also, the world of pharmacy is shifting and changing, but I do think that it's stable. There is always a bubble and a bust with anything, but right now it is so saturated and therefore it's hard for graduates to find jobs. There was a need and a demand therefore tons of places opened up pharmacy schools (plus $$$$ is made) and now there are way more pharmacists than there are jobs. So, then it just gets more and more competitive and everyone is going to have to have a residency, etc etc. When I was in high school, there was talk of sign on bonuses and cars given. HAAAA NEGATIVE.
Speaking of debt and the income made - the amount that pharmacists make because of the supply/demand situation is less than it was 10 years ago but the world has definitely had inflation, so that's not to say that the salary is not still great, I just think it's something that needs to be considered. Will this salary stay the same for 20 more years? I don't know.
What are the different paths you can take?
So, I will get to my job in a moment, but I wanted to explain the different paths you can take in pharmacy. There are TONS but I'm going to address the major ones
#1- RETAIL - this is just your typical walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid
Retail pharmacists make the most (and these salaries are legit googleable so I mean whatever I'm just going to be frank here) ; Salary: approximately $115-130K - this varies state to state. Retail pharmacist also "work the hardest" if you will. Honestly, it can be a very toxic work environment, pushing pills to make money from the corporation, etc etc. I'm sure some love it and get a great job but it's HARD HARD work so they are compensated for that.
(I know that you're thinking about the statement above about the debt versus the income and I'm sounding like a brat here, but I want to point out that Tanner and I combined had $430,000 in debt coming out of school. I just wanted to be open and honest about that here, so that people truly know what it looks like because we had no clue going in).
Hospital "basement pharmacy"- this is much more chill as you are not dealing with the public but it could end up being potentially boring depending on where you work ; Salary: $90-110K (dependent on so many factors)
Hospital specialties - this is someone who has done that second year residency most of the time ; Salary: ~ $115-120K
Industry "big pharma"- SUPER DUPER hard to get into (like 20 years worth of experience type thing) ; Salary : $150-200K (again-it varies so much)
Those are the big ones. My job is very rare. My company is very rare, but it is the "way of the future" with pharmacy if you will. It's focused on outcomes and changes that don't have to do with medicine. It's based on prevention of heart attacks, strokes, etc by managing patient's meds, making sure they are taking them, understand them, they don't interact, and are making adequate lifestyle changes if they so desire and if not, then what do we need to do to prevent an event. This saves money for employers and insurance companies because the meds/lifestyle change is a lot cheaper than insurance for open heart surgery.
How do you get into my job setting?
If you are interested in this area or whatever area that you are interested in, you need to (most of the time) aim your career towards that from the beginning. You need to plan on most likely doing a residency (my path was very different in that I created my own business therefore my company found that to be of extreme value) but you need to set yourself apart in some way.
Do rotations that are geared towards ambulatory care, which is the technical name for the area of pharmacy that I'm in. Do your elective courses in topics related to this: lipids, diabetes management, blood pressure -
Also, get involved with the initiative towards the legislation to make pharmacists providers so that we can bill for these services through insurance because right now, when you go to see a physician, they bill for a visit, but when my patient's come and see me, the insurance companies do not designate us as "providers" therefore the only loop hole is the fact that we have data to show the counties that we work with that it's worth their money. I offer this service at a cash price for people that find me on my blog to do a full medication review along with chronic disease state management and lifestyle counseling, but it's expensive and I would LOVE to be able to offer this service with patient's using their insurance in the future.
With all of that said, I absolutely love my new job. I gave more details about the specifics of my job on my instagram post so if you want to check that HERE, you can do so! :) I am so thankful for the men that own this company to value me. It truly means a lot. I also read the book "Grit" this week, and I'm so inspired to continuing through the years to grow myself in this field of outcomes based ambulatory care pharmacy and marketing. We all don't have to be changing the world overnight, but if we commit to our goals that we will get there no matter how long it takes, and don't let the failures set us back but rather just learning curves, then we can ALL reach those big goals.
So, with all that said, if pharmacy is something that you want to do then I think that you should go for it. The years are going to pass anyway so it's better to be growing and learning and changing versus staying stagnant right? Maybe you applied for pharmacy school and didn't get in? I didn't get in my first year, but here I am in my dream job. Sometimes it just takes time, and relaxing into that. Maybe you applied for a position like mine but didn't get it? Keep honing your skills and know that it is your end goal and that you aren't going to stop until you get there.
Tanner wants to be a highly specialized oncology pharmacist. He would love to be one of the best in the country (he'd kill me for saying this). That doesn't mean he's arrogant about it. Not at all. He just works step by step day by day making little inches of growth towards that. He is working on research and he is working on becoming board certified in oncology at the present moment.
We talk a lot about how expensive pharmacy school was and how we didn't take that serious enough at the time when we were paying big bucks for it. What an incredible opportunity to get to go to school and learn? I wish I could go back through my late 20's (much more mature) perspective vs just wanting to get done. There's so many amazing things to be learned in the world of medicine and I want to fill up my brain with as much as I can! :)
If you're a pharmacist and want to share your thoughts below, feel free to do so! :)