What advice would you give to students considering pharmacy as a career?

Words to live by

Words to live by

Our school open house is this morning and I’m joining a faculty panel to answer questions for the potential students.  It is interesting to reflect on my career in pharmacy to this point as I began during the peak of the pharmacist shortage and have watched the market change over the past decade.  In addition to the change in the job market, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wide range of pharmacists in different settings and have a pretty big sample size of different practitioners. Along the way, my views of our profession has evolved but I’m still a believer in the potential pharmacists hold to positively impact patient care.

So what I would like to ask my readers today is to serve as a “reviewer” for the advice I plan to give.  Feel free to rip apart or support my logic and please share the advice you would give.  All I ask is that you keep it clean and professional, like you were talking to a group of eager young undergraduates.

My advice for potential students today:

  • Focus on the intrinsic qualities, not the extrinsic characteristics – A study in 1959 on the motivation to work found that “job satisfaction” comes from things like the quality of the work, achievement, recognition, and responsibility/autonomy.  Extrinsic factors such as salary, work/life balance, schedule, and relationships at work did not have as big of an impact on job satisfaction, but rather a lack of extrinsic factors would more likely result in “dissatisfaction.”  What this means is that you can have a great salary and work schedule and still not be “satisfied” with your job (aka: it will not be fulfilling).  If you believe in what you are doing and have an opportunity to achieve and be recognized, you will more likely find satisfaction and fulfillment.  Being a pharmacist isn’t about getting a six-figure salary and working an easy schedule (those are just potential perks if you find the right gig, but these aren’t reasons to support choosing this career).
  • Drug Expert – Understand the role of the pharmacist in healthcare.  We are the experts in pharmaceutical therapy on the healthcare team.  Our expertise in pharmacology, kinetics, and therapeutics adds value to the clinical decision-making to improve patient care. If that is appealing to you, then you are in the right place.
  • Wealth is not about making money, it is about keeping it – Many potential students look at the high salary many pharmacists make and think that is the key to being rich.  Unfortunately, many highly compensated professionals never become wealthy because of spending and lack of saving.  There are many ways to make money and become wealthy.  While having a high paying job certainly doesn’t hurt, money cannot be the driving force in a career decision.

I’m trying to keep it simple but I think it is important to discuss money and some of the things that attract many people to the profession.  What do you think?


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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

2 Responses to “What advice would you give to students considering pharmacy as a career?

  • Joey – Agree with your advice. While the majority of practicing pharmacists work in a community or institutional setting, the opportunities within the profession are limitless. Current and future pharmacists are often unaware of the non-traditional roles that might offer more satisfaction and ignite passion within the profession. Job dissatisfaction leads to unengaged and apathetic pharmacists – which is a huge risk to our profession. We (current pharmacists) need to encourage prospective pharmacists to explore all of the opportunities instead of going the “obvious” routes. Your point about not using salary and schedules as sole motivators for career selection can’t be overstated.

    • Thanks for your comment Tyler. I did bring up salary during the talk today and tried to reinforce the need to follow intrinsic qualities in a career versus whatever a website ranks as a “top paying job” which is sometimes cited in the media.

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