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Pharmacy vs Chemistry

Discussion in 'Pre-Pharmacy' started by twizzlers713, 04.13.12.


  1. Thanks to Crack the PCAT
  1. twizzlers713

    twizzlers713

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    I'm currently a pre-pharmer in an ID crisis. I work for CVS and have seen the evils of retail, and don't particularly enjoy working there. I know that the job market is fairly saturated and am wondering if going for PhD in either organic chem, medicinal chem, or analytical chem are better options as far as job outlook goes
  2. Garfield3d

    Garfield3d An Orange Cat

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    How much do you like research?

    If you're getting a Ph.D., then you better absolutely love research, and you better be very open-minded and self-directed. PhD's are all about research, and it's very open-ended to the point that if you don't know what you want to research and how to execute the project, then you'll be lost in the wind. Surely, you'll develop some skills during the program, but you need to know that a PhD is not going to be the same thing about showing up to class and doing well on exams. The hard part is the research.

    On the other side, pursuing a career in pharmacy doesn't mean that you have to pigeon-hole yourself into working in a retail setting. Institutional settings such as hospital positions, nuclear pharmacy, and MTM/ambulatory care pharmacy, offer a distinctly different work environment. Whereas retail pharmacy often focuses on speed and your total script count, clinical settings in a hospital focus on delving into the details of individual patients and working with physicians to change and optimize the medications that are being used. So, going into pharmacy doesn't mean that you have to work at CVS, Walgreens, or a grocery store.

    I think your first goal is to determine how much you like research. If you've done work as a research assistant in a lab, then you'll have to weight your options, but if you didn't find working in a lab particularly engaging, then I would avoid a PhD. On the other hand, you shouldn't knock off pharmacy unless you know that you don't like any of the pharmacy settings available (hospital, ambulatory care, etc...).

    --Garfield3d
  3. xtsukiyox

    xtsukiyox Moderator Emeritus

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    Ohhhh boyyy I hope chemguy79 sees this thread. :D You might try searching this forum for how he's answered similar questions - you might find it helpful.

    I've usually heard CVS described as a meat-grinder, especially if the staff members don't work exceptionally well together. So, pharmacy != retail != CVS. Before you ditch the field entirely, I'd suggest trying to get a broader perspective, if you haven't. :)
  4. AlPacino

    AlPacino "We Will!" Moderator

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    I worked for CVS for 4 years and can tell you that not all retail stores are the same. If I were to solely base my experience as a retail pharmacy through CVS, I too would have my doubts.
  5. Rouelle

    Rouelle

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    If you love chemistry and want to do it because you love it, then by all means do so. However, if you are simply looking for a career with a good job outlook, getting a PhD in chemistry (or many of the other hard sciences) is, in my opinion, a bad idea. If you work hard, get reasonably lucky, and are reasonably intelligent you should be able to find a job somewhere doing something as a newly minted PhD. But the odds of that job being where you want and doing what you want are not necessarily very high. The scientific over-supply hit earlier and harder than the pharmacy over-supply.
  6. twizzlers713

    twizzlers713

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    Thank you all for your thoughts. I am aware that there are other options besides retail, I just worry that they'll be hard to come by. What exactly is ambulatory care? The one pharmacist I asked didn't have a good grasp on it
  7. EBT12

    EBT12

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    Although there are different practice models, I can describe the one I have been at for 2 months on rotations. Basically, I am in a doctor's office associated with a hospital that sees about 170 patients/ day. Depending on why a patient presents, I may just complete a med rec interview, or call the pharmacy to verify if medications have been picked up, answer patient questions about medications, or complete education (to the physicians and/or patient). In these cases, I will see the patient before the doctor. I will make recommendations related to lifestyle modifications, medications, referrals, etc. to the physician and/or patient depending on what is appropriate. Often, the physician will ask that patients with many medications or who are poor historians are seen.

    We also have patient that come in just for pharmacist visits (usually hypertension or diabetes visits). In this case, I will see the patient and collect all the information, including taking blood pressures, doing foot exams, etc. The nurses handle the labs. After speaking with the patient, I will create a treatment plan which I confirm with an attending before relaying it to the patient (just like the medical residents do in the clinic). There is a lot of independence and it's really neat to be able to see patients, make recommendations, and then see then come back for follow up and determine how your plan worked. In this particular clinic, many patients do not have insurance and are on a very limited budget, which adds to the complexity of designing treatment plans. Medication adherence is an ongoing battle.
  8. kcwang

    kcwang

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    Job market for PhD is depressing as well (I guess this also depends on the location). Don't go into PhD because you do not know where else to go, you wont last long. You need to really love doing research, this means coming to the lab even during the weekend. I suggest working as a lab assistant or research associate to get a better idea. Several of my friends earn more than post doc as research associate.
  9. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    Scholarship (research) takes up a lot of time...it will be more if you're working in a lab. I'm doing about ten hours a week on Phd stuff and that's not counting my time spent in my phd class. And I'm not working in a lab. When I worked in a drug design lab, I was spending fifteen hours a week doing experiments. I'm now doing more quality improvement, pharmacoeconomics type stuff and it still takes a lot of time.

    Are you sure it's what you want?

    Edit if you do just the phd, you'll basically be doing full time work with lab plus class plus seminar (where faculty and grad students tell you what's wrong with your research lol)
  10. chemguy79

    chemguy79 New Member Moderator Emeritus

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    When I was applying to PhD programs YEARS ago, I was accepted and interviewed with the folks in Tucson. I've actually thought about applying to the PhD/PharmD program and was wondering about your take on the program, rxlea.
  11. rxlea

    rxlea Unicorn in training Moderator Emeritus

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    Which track are you interested in? Pharm/tox, pharmaceutics, clinical research, pharmacoeconomics, etc.? We have some "superstars" in cancer research if that's what you're into. The Phd programs are rigorous but highly regarded. There is plenty of opportunity for collaboration and we have the cancer center here on campus (you'll use some of their equipment to do imaging of your gels and other stuff if that's the route you go). The school has the grant money for doing some awesome things. It depends on your interests.
  12. twizzlers713

    twizzlers713

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    I'll be transferring to a uni this fall with research options, I will certainly look into them to gain some perspective on it. I kind of enjoy organic lab, but something always seems to go wrong and it seems like it is usually out of my control. Should this uncanny knack worry me moving forward?
  13. SpaceHamsterBoo

    SpaceHamsterBoo

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    Yeah bro, I see you messing up labs all the time bro :cool:
  14. Rouelle

    Rouelle

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    Real life organic chem research is VERY different than the undergrad labs. The techniques taught in an undergrad lab become so routine in graduate school that you can do them in your sleep. Consider, for example, a classical extraction performed in a teaching lab. A lot of times students will take hours to complete it. A practicing synthetic chemist who does them multiple times daily will easily be able to do a separatory funnel extraction in a matter of minutes. If you are really interested in learning whether or not research is for you, I strongly suggest getting in a research lab and doing it, rather than basing your decision on experiences from a teaching lab where the basic mentality is typically "herd 'em in and herd 'em out."
  15. chemguy79

    chemguy79 New Member Moderator Emeritus

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    EXACTLY!

    Organic Chemistry lab isn't analogous to working in a research lab ... AT ALL.

    In Orgo lab, you have a set protocol that usually works. You know what you're synthesizing, you're in a controlled environment (aka a 4 hour lab) and you have all of the utensils that you need to perform your experiment.

    Laboratory research is a completely different beast that I've rambled about frequently on SDN. You're typically given a project (not necessarily of your own choosing) and you're forced to become the expert on the topic. Literature searches are common and you're usually searching for something which is akin to finding a needle in a hay stack. Then, you have your advisor ... Your advisor may or may not be helpful, your graduation is dependent on your advisor since you don't have a set curricula that determines your graduation, etc. 4 years for a PhD so RARELY happens that I'm surprised that most people actually expect that as the norm. Most graduate programs have a rather poor retention rate (for American students vs. International Students due to the pesky visa requirement that is analogous to indentured servitude), depending on funding, etc.

    Graduate school can be a positive experience, but at the school that I attended for my PhD, we had 3 out of 24 American PhD students actually finish the program without being Mastered out of the program or quitting because they weren't interested in working 60+ hours per week for approximately 20-25K/year. With respect to International students, their stay in the country was intrinsic on their advisor's pleasure or displeasure with their work, so I had a lab mate who was in the lab 75 hours/week, who sent her child back to China to stay with her grand parents since she wasn't able to take care of her due to her school schedule. (She was eventually Mastered out of the program after 4 years in the program.) This is part of the reason why I find those complaining about Pharmacy to be absolutely foolish ... Your program has a set schedule, you typically make 100K a year after graduation and yet, you complain about working with patients in retail. *smirk* Suck it!

    Therefore, if an undergrad is actually interested in research, they should work in a lab prior to even thinking about starting the program. Of course, pursuing a PhD while in a PharmD program is a different beast, but I don't know HOW different the beast is, if it is different at all.
  16. SpaceHamsterBoo

    SpaceHamsterBoo

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    Thanks for taking the time to post a reply as concise as this one.
    I'm a colleague of the OP and we are both in the same boat, however I am leaning towards a DO or practicing Pharmacy in a clinical/hospital setting. Like OP, I have only had the experience of organic chemistry lab and my opinions are based off of that. I like lab and when problems arise I like doing the research to find out what went wrong. However, clumsiness and laziness are a major problem in my class. Accidents occur frequently..."springy" weighing papers spreading crystals everywhere, sep funnel tops popping off, tipping over glassware, incorrect procedures in refluxing, etc. Mistakes like these are what make me despise lab because after a long lab session or two, one simple mistake ruins all the work done.

    I don't think the experience I've had is indicative of the true research experience. Hopefully if I transfer to Uni, I can become a research assistant for a prof.
    Last edited: 04.22.12
  17. kcwang

    kcwang

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    I can guarantee that won't be your reason of hating research lab if you ever attend graduate school.

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