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Which is the better career--doctor or pharmacist?

OoovooOOoovooO Registered User Posts: 420 Member
edited November 2010 in Parents Forum
As a high school student I'm entertaining both options right now for my future, but both have their pros and cons that make it hard to choose between the two, so I need some wise input from others based on these pros/cons.

-better pay
-chance for growth in job opportunities and in salary
-perhaps a more exciting job than pharmacist
-MUCH more time/money spent in school
-perhaps more stress than pharmacist

-shorter time in school
-can earn license and start working in late 20's
-pretty good salary
-safe & less stressful working environment
-less opportunities for growth than doctor
-perhaps not as exciting as doctor
Post edited by OoovooO on

Replies to: Which is the better career--doctor or pharmacist?

  • johny1johny1 Registered User Posts: 117 Junior Member
    This as you probably already know depends a lot on yourself. If you think you have a passion for direct patient care and you believe that you have the ability to strive in medical school and even get into medical school and the capacity to work through stressful hours and waste away your youth for the prospects of abundant wealth then I suggest being a doctor.

    If you feel that you have mediocre abilities in medicine and you have very poor learning stamina and are unable to deal with a lot of stress you might choose pharmacy. You will find solace in the regular life-style and comfort in the well-paying salary. However, you will miss the intensity and adventure of being a doctor.
  • BillyMcBillyMc . Posts: 7,753 Senior Member
    Which is the better career--doctor or pharmacist?
    Varies by the person. Society needs both.

    It really depends on how you want to live, and the type of schooling you want to go through. You need to examine those things yourself, no one here can answer for you.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,421 Senior Member
    You have a good list of pros and cons, OoovooO. If you have "very poor learning stamina" (post #2), pharmacy would be no more feasible as a career choice than medicine. I have recommended students for pharmacy programs at the graduate level. Most of them have had college GPAs of 3.9 and up. These were not students who had "mediocre abilities in medicine."

    I do think that pharmacy might be less stressful as a career--at least in the sense that you rarely have to make rapid-fire choices that will have a great influence on the patient's health outcome--although the quality of your more deliberate work will certainly influence health outcomes. Also, as a pharmacist, you would not have to work in an emergency room setting, or perform surgery.
  • OlymomOlymom Registered User Posts: 1,689 Senior Member
    I have a friend who is a pharmacist and she says that you have to be extremely detail oriented -- and fanatical about not making a mistake. These characteristics come naturally to her and she enjoys the difference she can make in other people's lives (informing folks of cheaper options, stopping dangerous combinations, providing information so the right choice is made, etc).

    That said, pharmacy is no easy path. It is extremely challenging, both as a program to study and as a career.

    Any chance you can find a way to job shadow some of your interests? Many professionals will allow a teen to spend a day shadowing and that experience might really open your eyes (after one colonoscopy or eight hours on your feet in a Walgreen's pharmacy, you might find your self looking at yoga instructor instead . . .). Good luck!
  • OoovooOOoovooO Registered User Posts: 420 Member
    Thank you for all the answers. I'm still torn between the two mainly because the path to becoming a doctor is SO much longer than being a pharmacist (12+ years for doctor as opposed to 6-8 yrs for pharmacist). Yet a pharmacist's future seems so limited, whereas a doctor has potential and chance to grow in their field as the years accumulate.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,359 Senior Member
    Since you are still in high school, why are you limiting yourself to these two choices? There are countless fields in which to "grow...as the years accumulate." Also, not to be too idealistic, but you have not indicated a desire to help people as a reason to pursue either field. I don't say that to be critical, only to say that sometimes there is more satisfaction in jobs that are useful or helpful to others. So, in which career would your own personal skills be most useful?

    You are still young and it is still early for you to limiting your choices in this way, most likely, so give yourself some time...and enjoy high school...things will become clearer with time.
  • lake42kslake42ks Registered User Posts: 1,171 Member
    If they make half the money, are you still interested?
  • ModadunnModadunn Registered User Posts: 6,263 Senior Member
    There is so much room between those two choices. S has no idea if he will absolutely want to go to Medical School, but he is taking classes as if he will. He figures this will give him the most flexible benefit to his eventual options. And here's another thing to think about, it wasn't even until nearing the end of his senior year that he even thought about majoring in any of the sciences. While he had always done well, there was no love there. So that you even know you want to go in that direction is probably all you need to know at this point. And even then, you should keep yourself open to the possibilities out there because who knows what your options of a career might be.
  • sk8rmomsk8rmom Registered User Posts: 5,746 Senior Member
    Yet a pharmacist's future seems so limited, whereas a doctor has potential and chance to grow in their field as the years accumulate.

    Not as limited as you might think...there are many opportunities for pharmacists outside of the retail setting most people think of. Many pharmacists do residencies and become specialists, quite a few teach, some earn a JD (lots of money, opportunities there) or go into administration or research (also on a different, and often higher, payscale). And remember that retail pharmacists often earn significantly more than their stated salaries by picking up extra shifts.

    Many of the pre-reqs you'll take apply to both pre-pharm and pre-med and some people do take both the PCAT and the MCAT. Meanwhile, see how you like the chem/bio sequences, as well as A&P, and do some shadowing or get a part-time job in a pharmacy.
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,724 Senior Member
    My best friend from college is a doctor. She managed to have 4 children in the process of attending a top medical school and becoming a specialist in a highly paid field. She and her husband, also a doctor, managed to buy a house in an expensive area while still in training. Subsequently they bought/built a series of multi-million dollar houses and vacation houses. Neither of them had any family money behind them. Dont forget that during a number of years of that training doctors are being paid and actually practicing medicine. It is not as if they spend the entire time in a classroom!

    I think that the difficulties of medical training and the supposed life of drudgery and penury are GROSSLY overstated. You would be hard pressed to find a woman who in a corporate career who was able to have four children during her working life and not be severely impacted in terms of climbing the corporate ladder. An extraordinary number of women at the top in business are single or childless. The major exceptions seem to be those who made big $$ as entrepreneurs. Few people have what it takes to be entrepreneurs on that level.
  • MizzBeeMizzBee Registered User Posts: 4,576 Senior Member
    The reality of pharmacy is also drastically changing, and the landscape may look very different in a few years. I highly recommend that you shadow multiple pharmacists to get an idea of the work environment. Retail is more profitable, but the working conditions are less than ideal (12 hour shifts, no bathroom or food breaks, disrespectful customers, clueless managers) Hospital pharmacy, long-term care pharmacy, etc. all have their pros and cons. The potential for decreased salary over the next few years, since the number of schools opening is not being regulated. On the other hand, the need for primary care physicians is drastically increasing. While the pay may not be that of a surgeon, the trade off can be more stable hours, increased faily life, etc.

    Both jobs are critical to client care, and, luckily, you have many years to decide. Job shadow as many healthcare positions as possible (including physicians assistant) in order to find the right plan for you.
  • YaleGradandDadYaleGradandDad Registered User Posts: 1,046 Senior Member
    If you think you would like to be a medical doctor but are turned off by the lengthy training you might consider a career as a Physician Assistant. That requires six years of training (inclusive of college) and can be lower stress than a physician since you should have physician back-up. Lots of room for growth and pay is excellent. As health care evolves in our country to a lower cost model, the demand for mid-level providers will continue to soar.
  • tx5athometx5athome Registered User Posts: 3,488 Senior Member
    I have been a pharmacist for 21 years. As someone else said, there are a lot of different options for pharmacists (hospital, retail, longterm care, teaching, etc...) and you can live anywhere (mountains, beach, desert) and be a pharmacist. There is a lot of flexibility and it is quite common for pharmacists to be able to work part-time. The problem is, like most health-care jobs, a lot of pharmacist jobs require you to work evenings, weekends, holidays and/or nights which once you have a family isn't as appealing. The other problem is that a pharmacist who has worked for 20 years often makes the same as a new grad. I have a lot of friends who are doctors. For most doctors, working 40 hours a week is considered part-time. Also, what I didn't know, is that doctors have to "buy in" to a practice. Most of the doctors I know are not making the money that doctors used to make and all say that it is a huge mistake to go into medicine for the money.
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,724 Senior Member
    Frankly, my entire exposure to pharmacists is people filling routine prescriptions at Rite-Aids and the like. All they appear to do is shovel pills into bottles. It is hard to comprehend why they need all this training, and how they actually USE any of it.

    I do not say this to be insulting: I would genuinely like to be enlightened about what pharmacists actually DO that isn't on the level of a responsible clerk now that they aren't formulating pills themselves anymore. I assume that there must be something that does not meet the eye of the typical customer.
  • juba2jivejuba2jive Registered User Posts: 1,001 Member
    I am in a PA program right now and we regularly have lectures from the PharmDs for our pharmacology course. They work at the teaching hospital that is affiliated with my school on the different services (cardiology, neurology, oncology, etc), basically helping to optimize medicine use and maximize patient safety. It seems pretty interesting to me - if I was a pharmacist, I would definitely want to work more on the clinical side, even though I'm sure that's not where the money is. Pharmacology is pretty darn complicated, so I respect them a lot.

    Not all of them just work at Walgreens and push pills (and those that do work at in a retail setting can do patient counseling, check drug interactions, and a lot more.)
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