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What can I do in my undergrad to gain experience in the pharmacy industry and understand if it's something I'd like to pursue?

I'm currently a biochemistry major possibly on a pre-medical track but genuinely I have very little idea what career I would like to pursue. Being a pharmacist is a job that piques my interest, but I don't know how to gain the experience I need to understand if it's the right industry for me before committing to a pre-pharm track. #pharmacist #medicine #pharmacy #career


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Dan’s Answer

Ask a pharmacist at your local grocery store or CVS or Walgreens or Rite Aid to shadow them. You could even email your local pharm school if you have one for information and shadowing opportunities. The vast majority of healthcare professional will allow you to shadow them as education is built into the system. When you do shadow them, ask them pros AND cons about the job. This way you'll get an overall picture of what you're getting yourself into.

Thank you, Dan! I appreciate your advice. Divya S.

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Stephanie’s Answer

Hi Divya!

I would definitely agree with the majority of answers that mentioned shadowing. This is a great way to learn about different pharmacy environments and gain some insight from the pharmacists themselves on the profession. I would highly recommend shadowing in both community pharmacy (Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, independent pharmacies, etc.) and hospital pharmacy to see a couple different settings if possible.

Another great way to gain experience would be to apply for pharmacy technician positions in the setting you seem to enjoy most from shadowing. Pharmacy technicians now require licensure, however, many companies provide and cover the cost of the necessary training and testing required. When working as a pharmacy technician, my manager was very flexible with my college schedule and would typically have me work around 2-4 times per month. If this is something you're really interested in pursuing, you can definitely ask more hours for more exposure, but even being in the pharmacy a couple times a month will provide you with a great experience.

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Jeff’s Answer

HI Divya,

Here's a good site that might be worth your time exploring. https://pharmacyforme.org/ This site is sponsored by the accrediting agency for the US pharmacy schools: "Pharmacy is Right for Me is a collaborative effort by American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), a national organization representing pharmacy education in the United States, American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the largest association of pharmacists in the country; and other national pharmacy associations."

I don't think this guide has been updated since 2002 but it still gives a brief overview of many different aspects of pharmacy that is helpful just to appreciate the many varied aspects of the pharmacy profession: https://biology.wustl.edu/files/biology/pfizerpharmacycareerguide.pdf Now to be fair, the majority of the jobs are in retail pharmacies so don't be disillusioned that the majority of pharmacists are practicing in these alternate settings but it's certainly possible. As the profession becomes more competitive, the need to complete a post-graduate residency to gain employment in one of these alternative settings is becoming more of a necessity. There are also a growing number of PharmD/MBA programs if that's something that may be of interest to you as well.

Thank you, Jeff! I just checked out that first website and it's super helpful with some great resources. Thank you for the answer! Divya S.

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Dinah’s Answer

The best way to go around this is to actually apply for a pharmacy technician position. Nothing will help you make that decision unless you are hands on. Many might find that pharmacy seems like the most amazing job to them on the outside looking in, but with hands on experience, they don't like it as a career. Networking is a great idea as well, but actually going in and working will help open your eyes if pharmacy is the right career path for you or not. I know most retail pharmacies in Illinois will not allow shadowing. I was in your position before, because I asked in regards to shadowing and all of the pharmacies I called said no. I applied for a pharmacy technician position and I was able to see that pharmacy was the right career path for me.

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Andrea’s Answer

Hi Divya!

I was also a pre-med with interests in pharmacy! Shadowing is great, however, I took a different route: I started volunteering in a hospital pharmacy, and eventually became a pharmacy technician. As a pharmacy tech, you will be exposed to their entire field, and truly understand what goes into the field (insurance claims, patient care, prescription strengths, and inter-professionalism between physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, etc). If you decide that pharmacy is not for you, then it will still count as a great medically-related experience for medical school! Plus you gain a lot of respect for what pharmacists really do. I added a link for reference on how to become a pharmacy tech if you are interested! Best of luck with everything!!

Andrea recommends the following next steps:

https://www.ptcb.org/credentials/certified-pharmacy-technician
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Thank you Andrea! That's very helpful! Becoming a pharmacy technician is actually something I've been thinking about, but I wasn't sure how viable of an option it would be for me alongside my current college classes. I'm also not entirely sure about pharmacy as my future, so I didn't know how worthwhile that certification would be if I decide on a different path. How long did it take you to become certified as a pharm tech? Did you decide to continue on to become a PharmD afterwards, or have you followed a different path? Thank you! Divya S.

Of course! :-) And I completely understand where you're coming from. When I became a tech, I did not have to do a training program (I just self-studied) so it's a bit more difficult now. There are online programs that you can do, or you can ask local pharmacies if they would be willing to train you (for example, Kroger, or your equivalent food market, doesn't require a certification right away I believe--but check it out just to make sure). After my experience, I still decided to stick to the medical school pathway, but I love and appreciate the pharmacy field much more! I know several people that became pharmacy techs and decided to go to pharmacy school afterward. Just find what you love the most! Let me know if you have any more questions! :-) Andrea Shugar

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Corynne’s Answer

I've found that one of the best ways to learn about the pharmacy industry is through networking. First, see if there's any pharmacist you know who can talk to you about their experiences at their current role/previous roles. From there, you can ask if they know anyone in a specific area of pharmacy that you might be interest in (retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, compounding, etc). There are numerous different career paths for pharmacist, so I'd also recommend doing some research online as to the types of settings a pharmacist can work in, to see if one of those might interest you.

Like mentioned above, shadowing experience is always great, if available. If you're looking for a part-time job, consider working as a pharmacy technician (if you are interested in retail or hospital pharmacy). I was also able to get shadowing experience at a pharmaceutical company as well.

Thank you, Corynne! I'll definitely look into following your advice! Divya S.

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Stephanie’s Answer

Hi Divya!

I would definitely agree with the majority of answers that mentioned shadowing. This is a great way to learn about different pharmacy environments and gain some insight from the pharmacists themselves on the profession. I would highly recommend shadowing in both community pharmacy (Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, independent pharmacies, etc.) and hospital pharmacy to see a couple different settings if possible.

Another great way to gain experience would be to apply for pharmacy technician positions in the setting you seem to enjoy most from shadowing. Pharmacy technicians now require licensure, however, many companies provide and cover the cost of the necessary training and testing required. When working as a pharmacy technician, my manager was very flexible with my college schedule and would typically have me work around 2-4 times per month. If this is something you're really interested in pursuing, you can definitely ask more hours for more exposure, but even being in the pharmacy a couple times a month will provide you with a great experience.

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Daniella’s Answer

Alike other answers, research, networking, and shadowing other professionals in the industry is vital and the first steps. I would then try and research internships to get real hands on learning and through that figure out if it is right for you. Finding a summer internship early on in college will be really helpful.

Thank you Daniella! Divya S.

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McKenzie’s Answer

As the other commenters mentioned, shadowing is a great way to learn about the industry and decide if it's the right place for you. There are a lot of interesting things you can do with a pharmacy degree other than retail pharmacy (which is great as well). Hospital pharmacists have a more fast-paced lifestyle, where as retail is more consistent. Hospital jobs also require 1-2 years of residency post PharmD, where you go through a match process similar to those coming out of medical school. Another career path to explore is working in research and development at a pharmaceutical company. I am not a pharmacy student, but I have interned at a major pharmaceutical company and have met pharmacists doing extremely cool work in R&D. They are truly on the front lines of the drug industry, creating new and better therapies for sick people, and the landscape is constantly changing. If this is something that interests you, I would recommend connecting on LinkedIn with PharmD's at these companies (try searching Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, Novartis, and some of the other big names). Ask if they would be willing to chat with you about their career and a learning opportunity.

Hope this helps!

Thank you! I'll definitely take your advice! Divya S.

I have to respectively disagree that retail pharmacy is more consistent. I've known stores located next to train stations that have lulls between the trains and then 20 minutes of pure frenzy when the trains load and unload. Mondays in nearly all retail pharmacies are very busy due to the backlog from the weekend and the day after a long weekend is busier still. There is an adrenaline and energy that comes from the pace that is just part of the job. Jeff Kreitman

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