Obtaining a PharmD has such broad value when it comes to career offerings, and those offerings can best align with not only one’s personal strengths, but professional goals. Sure, you can look to practice as a pharmacist in the community setting or within the hospital setting— where the majority of jobs still reside— but there are non-traditional roles that pharmacists play as well.
“Serving in the long-term care market, the specialty pharmacy market, or even the ambulatory care setting, pharmacists can use their clinical expertise to directly impact the patient’s utilization and response to taking medications,” said Jonathan Ogurchak, PharmD, CSP, founder and CEO of STACK, a compliance management software company for pharmacists. “Beyond that, pharmacists can be looked upon as educators, frequently being hired as medical science liaisons within the pharmaceutical industry and tasked with teaching providers about disease processes and the medications used to treat them.”
Pharmacy schools are tasked with a huge responsibility–not only training pharmacists to understand the complexities of disease states and the drugs to manage, but also with educating about career opportunities.
“The experiential education component of the curriculum plays a huge part in understanding what types of roles might be available, since it’s often one of the closest steps to direct practice that student pharmacists would have prior to graduation,” Ogurchak said.
Pharmacy students regularly do rotations during their last year of schooling, which places them in different industries and shows them how different segments of pharmacy operate. But just because they decide to go in one direction initially does not mean they are stuck in that area for their entire career.
Jeannie K Lee, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, FASHP, associate professor for pharmacy practice and science at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, said that often students know about community pharmacy work, but not much more.
“Pharmacy is a broad and interesting field with many possibilities and opportunities in general and specialized practices, managed care, industry, research, academia, etc,” she said.
That’s why, at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, one of the courses students participate in their first semester is Pharmacy Practice, where students take a survey of their interest areas and learn how to explore and pursue those fields through resources that have been gathered for them.
“At the same time, practitioners from various pharmacy careers come into class to present their journey and engage students in a question and answer session,” Lee said. “Our students are surveyed each year to help them explore as many career paths in pharmacy as they wish.”
Tips for the Established Pharmacist
It’s not unusual for someone in the pharmacy field to want to find something new and pivot to a different career path in pharmacy, and it’s not as hard to do as some may think.
Lee noted that the best way to start a possible switch is to first explore the field of pharmacy they are passionate about and identify details—training needed, procedures, types of patients, niche opportunity, collaborators, settings, salary, benefits, etc.
“For each possible position, they may want to create a pro and con list to think about the choice deeply and to help with decision making,” she said. “It will help tremendously to talk with a pharmacist who is currently in the position to learn about their path and others they know of."
Nonye Uddoh, PharmD, BCACP, clinical pharmacist at CHC Health, pivoted from retail to managed care 5 years ago by gaining additional certifications and experience outside of her 9-to-5 schedule, and by networking with other pharmacists. She believes others can make a smooth transition.
“What I’m noticing in the field is the focus on developing yourself with certifications and/or residency, consider gaining more than 1 state license, connect with your colleagues and add value as much as possible,” Uddoh said.
Conrad Dhing, PhD, assistant dean of student academic affairs at Husson University’s School of Pharmacy, noted that many hospitals and pharmacy chains have internal career development programs to help someone learn of other opportunities.
Ogurchak added that demonstrating an understanding of the profession, based on practice experience, carries a huge weight when looking to shift career opportunities.
“Often times, the ability to relate prior situations into more broad terms can highlight your ability to perform in new scenarios—especially if you're looking to move into a new setting for practice,” he said. “Demonstrating a desire to learn is also critical—either through highlighting continuing education that you’ve completed in a particular practice area, additional trainings, or certifications that you may have achieved as well.”