Should I Become A Pharmacy Technician Before Becoming A Pharmacist?

"I am considering becoming a pharmacist. It looks like it pays really well. I have a cousin who does it, and she makes a lot of money and lives really well, but I honestly don’t know how interested I am in the field. I mean, all those medications … it just does not sound interesting, if you know what I mean. I was thinking maybe instead of becoming a pharmacist, I should start out as a pharmacy technician. That way I can get my feet wet and decide if this is really something I want to do. Maybe I’ll find it more interesting than it seems. What do you think?"

asked by Rob from Rochester, NY

Pharmacist is a job which does pay very well. That isn’t bad for any job that you can reasonably enjoy-even if you do not find it totally fascinating. And like you said, you may find it more interesting than you think. Pharmacists are in a great position to really help people and make a difference in their lives. And if you have any interest in chemistry or biology, you may very well find all those medications fascinating.

So should you start out as a pharmacy technician to get any idea as to whether you enjoy it or not? Pharmacy technicians do not require a higher degree, as you probably know. Pharmacists do require four-year degrees.

If you were to work as a pharmacy technician, you would be getting work experience in the same type of environment where you might feasibly work as a pharmacist someday. You would be able to observe what the pharmacist was doing each day, and decide whether or not you would be comfortable in such a role. So on first glance, it does look like a good idea.

You may want to consider an alternative, though, which is shadowing. Many healthcare settings allow interested students to call and schedule a day to come in and “shadow” one of their employees. Pharmacies have been known to do this.

When you shadow, you come in and spend time in the pharmacy, watching the pharmacists work. It is generally a very flexible arrangement based on your own schedule.

You cannot expect to actually participate at all (you will only be an observer), but for many students, this is more than enough to decide. Feel free to ask a lot of questions, but make sure that you do it during times when the pharmacist is not particularly busy. Dress professionally and learn as much as you can.

Shadowing looks great on admissions applications, and is a smaller investment of your time. It saves you from having to worry about whether or not you can get placed as a pharmacy technician as well. From there, if you like what you see, you can apply to a pharmacy school and start training right away to become a pharmacist and make a great salary.

Career Spotlight: Pharmacy Technician

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