1. It’s Test Prep Week! Visit the Test Prep Forums to learn about test prep products and services, ask questions in test-related AMA threads, take advantage of exclusive SDN member discounts, and enter to win free stuff!
Whether you’re preparing for the USMLE, COMLEX, NBDE or APMLE, Test Prep Week Exhibitors can help you ace your boards!

Pharmacists vs. Physician Assistants

Discussion in 'Pre-Pharmacy' started by BMW5, Dec 27, 2007.

  1. SDN is made possible through member donations, sponsorships, and our volunteers. Learn about SDN's nonprofit mission.
  1. BMW5

    BMW5 2+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    Which is more rewarding, a degree in Pharmacy or Physician assistance? Especially that both programs are about 4-5 years to complete. I recently completed my undergraduate courses; I am debating on whether to apply to a pharm school or Physician assistant.

    What are some or the advantage of becoming a pharmacist? Physician Assistant
    What are the down sides of both careers?

    What do you think? I appreciate all answers :)
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. babetrang

    babetrang Accepted Pharmacy Student 5+ Year Member

    May 23, 2007
    Fairfax, VA
    I believe that entering the PA program is less competitive than admission to the pharmacy program. PA is a tough job and it involves more work than what a pharmacist has to do.
  4. JerryPharmD

    JerryPharmD Salt Miner 5+ Year Member

    May 6, 2006
    It's possible to make more money as a PA, but pharmacists currently make more on average. There will be need for both professions for the foreseeable future. Finally, it varies on state law, but pharmacists generally have more autonomy.
  5. NewRx

    NewRx 2+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    Which source told you PA schools take 4-5 years to complete?

    A co-worker passed PA boards perhaps four months ago and is still waiting for job offers. He is frustrated with the process and length of time it takes to find a job and the system, according to him, makes it tougher to practice as an assistant. I'm not sure why the long wait and I imagine the frustration. Having gone to school for ~2yrs, and to be working for chump change (like high school summer/winter jobs) is not exactly what he had in mind. I'm glad I chose pharmacy. I really am. I'll find a job wherever I go right after graduation. The incentive: the pay. The incentive: Own personal rewards. Let it be, whatever you want it to be. Your rewards won't be defined by what people choose them to be. And pharmacy, it has many career paths. See the Pfizer career guide to pharmacy.
  6. KARM12

    KARM12 Super Member 10+ Year Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    PA's got no respect at MWU from the other programs.
  7. NewRx

    NewRx 2+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    That was not the point of the post. You are in pharmacy school, then act like you've got brains. Don't ruin it for the rest of us hopeful PharmD's. Please, respond accordingly.
  8. NateAZSD

    NateAZSD 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2007
    UW has the only PharmD/PA program in the country. It takes 5 years to complete both degrees. Checkout there website for more info.
  9. BMW5

    BMW5 2+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    I thought the starting salaries were about the same but there is a bigger demand for PAs. The only disadvantage of becoming a PA is possibly working for a 30 year old Doctor when you are in your 40s. I can’t see myself doing it:(
  10. Aznfarmerboi

    Aznfarmerboi Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    May 18, 2005
    The starting salary right now is higher for pharmacists. However in the future, Pa's will be on the same level due to their explosive growth. Their profession growth rate is almost 25 percent.

    The only setback that I can see for them is that their salary peak after a while (specializing), while pharmacists can go on moving up the corporate ladder, opening up more pharmacies, niching, etc.
  11. panbabylon

    panbabylon 2+ Year Member

    Jul 29, 2007
    The only disadvantage of becoming a PA is possibly working for a 30 year old Doctor when you are in your 40s. I can’t see myself doing it:(

    you just answered your own question.

    pharmacist = independent practitioner with doctorate degree and support staff (techs, clerks). the managers in the department are pharmacists themselves, so everyone has an equal chance to advance.

    pa = support staff with a bachelor's. no matter how experienced and smart you are, there will always be a gap between you and the doctors you answer to.

    in my hospital pharmacists start with about 90-95K, while pa's start with 70-75K. there are hospitals where the difference is not as dramatic, but in general pharmacists still make more.

    as for the future, clinical pharmacists may evolve into even more advanced practitioners, essencially becoming doctors specializing in medications. that would be pretty cool.

    for me, its a no brainer.
    Dr. Bob Doe likes this.
  12. BMW5

    BMW5 2+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    what is the difference between a PA and an NP? who make more? which one is less competitive?
  13. panbabylon

    panbabylon 2+ Year Member

    Jul 29, 2007
    NPs make more, they make more than pharmacists. i believe the average figure is around 125K for NYC, but some specialties top that. its a master's degree and a very good route. they can prescribe and be in charge of their own office, for example at a college. that's what i've been hearing, please correct me if i'm wrong...
  14. Pharmcdc

    Pharmcdc Troches & lollipops 7+ Year Member

    Aug 18, 2005
    San Antonio, Tx
    Yeah, well I wote argue what NPs make in NYC. However look at earning potential anywhere in the US for both professions and I believe you'll see that pharmacists, again speaking on a national scale earn more. My wife is working on her MSN, she had to decide if she would become an NP or CNS(clinical nurse specialist) and she chose the later. Yes she will have prescribing authority, really im not sure what her upside will be, but looking at jobs in this area for both NPs and CNS, making 80-85k will be good. I could graduate today and get 110-115 easy. THat is in San Antonio. We were considering moving to Louisiana and a few other areas and the case was similar.
  15. qtnatty

    qtnatty PharmD, RPh and currently working on my MPH 7+ Year Member

    Jan 2, 2008
    I was in PA school and quit to apply to Pharmacy school.
  16. BacardiGirl

    BacardiGirl Go Gophers! 2+ Year Member

    Dec 26, 2007
    I see a PA as my regular physician for routine checkups, physical, etc...wow, I thought they made more money since they do everything a Dr. does. And they do carry the title of 'Dr' don't they?
  17. Aznfarmerboi

    Aznfarmerboi Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    May 18, 2005
    actually, in nyc. . . pharmacists on average make more than NP. You can check that by going to salary.com
  18. labrat024

    labrat024 Accepted Pharmacy Student 2+ Year Member

    Nov 20, 2007
    I am pretty sure most PA programs are masters degrees.
  19. glowinglimabean

    glowinglimabean 2+ Year Member

    Feb 6, 2008
    Last year I was looking at University of Washington's pharmacy program and it was very interesting that they offer that option. I was a bit confused because I can understand why there are MBA and M.A. in public health, but P.A or a J.D.. I just don't know how that would work. That would be two separate careers not one you can combine. Example, can you be a P.A. prescribe a patient medication and then dispense it to them? Can anyone shed some light on this option.
  20. Happy Hounds

    Happy Hounds snorfles = happiness 5+ Year Member

    Sep 29, 2007
    I noticed most people replying here are emphasizing differences in pay and authority when it comes to the RPh vs. PA question. While those things are somewhat important (and depend on your personality and preferences in your work environment,) I think the more important aspect of choosing between the two fields relates to the nature of the work performed in each.

    As a PA, you will work DIRECTLY with patients. Because your focus will be on diagnosis, it can be a more intensive field as far as critical thinking and problem solving. That's not to say that Pharmacists don't need or use critical thinking/problem solving--they just do so in a different way for a different purpose. The sole purpose of your decisions as a PA will be to accurately diagnose the patient and prescribe the correct medicine. If you wish to interact more directly and personally with people (as in the doctor/patient relationship,) then studying to be a PA (or MD or DO) may be the right path.

    As a Pharmacist, you will essentially have a "degree of separation" from the patient (with the exception of some hospital settings.) You will act as the final checkpoint for treating the patient with medicine and can provide counsel to patients with questions, but you won't be required to diagnose a patient's specific condition in any shape or form. This made sense for me, because I actually do want that degree of separation from a patient and only want to be a source of information and control for the meds, not a direct caretaker--(I could NEVER be a nurse!:))

    As far as work life, I've read many a time that retail pharmacists are miserable, mistreated, only pill-counters/dispensers, don't get time to counsel patients, yadda yadda yadda. (In my experience, most of it has been true, but I think it really has more to do with the corporate setup for individual pharmacies and how much support staff they allot for their pharmacists. This will obviously vary from store to store, and there are other fields beyond retail you can further explore that are not incorporated, but retail is the fastest growing and most in-demand at the moment.)

    As a PA, your worklife will be dictated by the doctor you work for--in that sense, you may have some control over the situation, as in choosing your direct employer (Dr. X who makes his own hours, has his own practice, etc. as opposed to being RPh Z who [if in retail] answers to a corporate honcho.) Again, these are all just hypotheticals--many stores/offices are different depending on location and policy. At this point, I really don't know anything about the long term outlook of growth for RPhs vs PAs, but I do know in the next 5 years, both will be in relatively high demand.

    So my point in all this is: if you're considering both fields equally, take a look at all aspects of the worklife, not just money, power, prestige, etc. but also how the work itself will satisfy you, allow for family, professional and personal growth, having a life beyond work, day-to-day activities, and so on.

    Hope this helps! :D
  21. rxlynn

    rxlynn Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Nov 16, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    A couple of things that haven't been mentioned yet - I expect that the job prospects for the PA will go up rapidly in the next few years because of the advent of the Minute Clinic model nationwide. Not only CVS, but many of the other major players such as Wal-Mart, grocery chains, etc. have already announced that they in the process of MAJOR expansion plans for these clinics. So, in this situation the PA does practice under the protocol developed by a specific doctor, but is typically in the pharmacy/grocery store/etc. on their own to see patients. My understanding is that these clinics will also hire NPs, but given the shortage of nurses currently, it seems to me that at some point there will be enough of these clinics around to increase demand for PA and NP.

    Also, I'm not at all sure that it's easier to get into a PA program - I go to Mercer (their first PA class started in Jan.) and their prereqs were more extensive (in particular more science) than for the pharmacy school. They are also required to have so many hours (forget exactly how much) in patient contact job BEFORE they can enter the program). I personally could not have met the PA prereqs without a lot more coursework.
  22. angioletto

    angioletto 2+ Year Member

    Oct 15, 2007
    I agree. None of the questions in the original post have a "correct" answer. They are all based on opinion and preferences so you really need to decide what you want to pursue. I know that it's not easy.... it took me years to decide what I wanted to do.

    Another thing.... asking those questions in a forum full of PharmD hopefuls may get a biased response. I am guessing that most of the people here have intentionally chosen pharmacy over PA (or any other profession) so the answers will probably lean that way.

    Good luck deciding what you want to do. It is worth it to take an extra year to decide if it means spending the rest of your lfie with a job you love.
  23. Fost

    Fost Future PharmD 2+ Year Member

    Nov 1, 2007
    Its all about the title. I don't want assistant anywhere near my name.
  24. mastif1


    Jan 26, 2008
    This is probably a really dumb question but do NPs and PAs have to take gross anatomy and deal with cadavers in school as they do in med school. I was just wondering because that's what lead me to want to pursue pharmacy was the lack of those types of things.
  25. Idesiretosling

    Idesiretosling 2+ Year Member

    Oct 20, 2006
    I dealt with cadavers in anatomy for pharmacy. You are screwed...lol
  26. bananaface

    bananaface Pharmacy Supernerd Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor 10+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2004
    gone to seed
    Yeah. There is no point in doing both though. There's no dual niche. They will even tell you that there if you ask them, "What am i supposed to do with this degree?"
  27. UTplease

    UTplease 5+ Year Member

    Oct 19, 2007
    This is a joke right??? I chose pharmacy because of my squemishness.
  28. parabolic

    parabolic One of many 2+ Year Member

    Jan 30, 2007
    Not a joke. At least at the school where I applied, there is a cadaver lab. You should probably check with the schools you're interested in. That said, unlike medicine/surgery/whatever, that class will probably be the last time you have to work directly on or in the human body.

    You're not going to give up a dream of pharmacy because of a couple semesters' worth of discomfort, right? ;)
  29. qtnatty

    qtnatty PharmD, RPh and currently working on my MPH 7+ Year Member

    Jan 2, 2008
    When I was in PA school we did a cadaver lab 1st semester.
  30. RXist

    RXist 10+ Year Member

    Mar 30, 2007
    If some1 already posted this, I apologize. PA programs are only 2 years, not 4-5. Western, Touro, Drew College in LA, and several other schools have a 2 year PA program. My friend just completed her 2 yrs at Western and she is doing residency or rotations in surgery right now. Every month it's a different field. Anyway, it depends on your personal preference...would you rather do surgeries, give shots, remove moles, treat fungus, and diagnose patients under a physician's supervision, OR would you rather fill prescriptions, consult, recommend drugs, and other things without being an assistant? As a pharmacist, you can work in retail, hospitals, research, whatever you'd like and they do make a higher salary than PA's. The top-notch PA's make good money, but pharmacists still make more.
  31. AntiviralsRule

    AntiviralsRule Student Pharmacist 7+ Year Member

    May 9, 2007
    Bay Area, Calif.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe many (if not most) pharmacy schools require students to take gross anatomy. It makes sense -- you need to have an implicit understanding of the body.

    I'm pretty squeamish too, but I'm willing to put up with a semester of gross anatomy to pursue my career in pharmacy. If it's what you want to do, stick with it.

    Good luck! :D
  32. bwsalvas

    bwsalvas Pharmacy Management Specialist 5+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2007
    Nueva York
    Strange idea to compare them as equals....

    Pharmacists are doctors and physicians assistants are...not.
  33. LoKoTe

    LoKoTe 10+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Those who have a BS in Pharmaceutical Science or similar ARE Pharmacists. Those who have a PharmD ARE Doctors in Pharmacy.
  34. boxdesker

    boxdesker 5+ Year Member

    Feb 13, 2008
    Is there any law against one person prescribing and dispensing medication--even if they are qualified to do both? If there isn't--and I don't think there would be since too few people are qualified to do both of these for a law to be made against--this would be a great business set up. Additionally, people would come to you as an expert because they know you are trained in both diagnosis and drugs. They'll feel more confident that you won't prescribe them drugs that they're allergic to, and they'll like the convenience/accuracy of getting treated and getting their drugs from the same professional.

    Plus, isn't cool to know everything about drugs and diagnosis? That would make you the smartest person in the world.
  35. LoKoTe

    LoKoTe 10+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    The problem is that PAs are not allowed to prescribe by themselves in many states if not all of them, they work under direct supervision of a physician. I think the max ratio under Florida law is 5 PAs under 1 MD. We recently had some district managers from Walgreens come to our school and talk about the future of Walgreens, the plans they're implementing now etc etc ... and they did mention they had in some stores already an ARNP for quick things, since they are able to prescribe by themselves. PAs on the other hand, weren't considered at all at this point for these positions because of the law. Again, they are assistants, they cannot prescribed by themselves if there is no MD supervising their work.
  36. retiredrph

    retiredrph 2+ Year Member

    Jan 21, 2008

    Well it depends on what you like. The PA will definately let you practice one on one with people. There will be a lot of variety in things you will do. Pharmacy is pretty much production line oriented work. If you want income and security with little responsibility outside of the pharmacy then pharmacy may be better for you. If you like direct contact with people, and many pharmacists I know actually didn't want that level of contact then the PA is the way to go. No if you're asking an old guy what he would do if he did it over and stayed in healthcare I would be a MD first PA second RPh third. My concern with the future of healthcare is even in medicine MD and PA there is ever increasing pressure for production or patient through put. As more and more people can't pay for healthcare the result will be more pressure on the providors. This will be felt more on the GP's and IM and PA's. Specialists and surgeons will feel it much less. You need to work in a pharmacy to get a feel of what it is. Difficult to do the same in the PA role. Down side is for pharmacy standing on your feet dealing with irate customers and high production levels. Down side of PA is direct interaction with sick crabby people some production pressure dealing with arrogant MD's not all but many can be.
  37. MossPoh

    MossPoh Textures intrigue me 7+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2006
    Tally/Willkillya County
    One person mentioned something about PA having a tough time finding a job...no idea where their friend is looking. They really are different fields in nearly every aspect. I personally never saw any real appeal in pharmacy school. I'm not knocking it by any means, it just isn't my thing.

    People keep mentioning how little autonomy you have as a PA, which while it is true on paper....in real life you are pretty free. The physician essentially trusts most all of the PAs calls and will sign off like any of his other charts...which if you haven't watched doesn't entail much. You are capable of a very very wide variety of practice as a PA, which is the major appeal to me. You can do surgery, ER, family practice, urology, obgyn...whatever. If you are working with a general surgeon you are essentially a fancy camera driver with lap procedures, do basic hernias (doctor present), remove catheters,close incisions and help with the overall leg work of the surgeon until the clock strikes 5 or 6 usually. You will also be part of the hierachy, just like every other speciality. Not at the bottom and not at the top. Doctors and Pharmacists aren't the top of the pyramid by any means. The US method of prescribing drugs (which I disagree with) even subdues the pharmacists abilities a bit. Most other countries you go to, the pharmacist is actually the person who decides on the drugs for the most part. Pharmacology is tough to keep up with in addition to the doc's 15 other journals he has to read at any given time.

    With regards to salary, I predict the PA salary to go up overall, but only enough that it is still efficient to choose them over other staff. A wise practice would treat them as an employee and offer incentive based bonuses and what not. You aren't going to be living in a shanty with either salary. To me it breaks down to procedures and clinical contact versus pharmacology and having a fairly vast knowledge of physiology. (I know there are other things)

    I know this thread is really old, but I don't want to look at mcat stuff right now.
  38. MiamiHeat87

    MiamiHeat87 Palm Tree Beach Goer 2+ Year Member

    Mar 11, 2010
    No on is comparing them as equals salvas. Also, just because one grants a Doctorate degree over the other and one has "Assistant" in the title does not make one better than the other.

    Both careers have similar pay and for the amount of money that both professions make, the length of education isn't bad.
  39. Passion4Sci

    Passion4Sci LML Moderator Emeritus 2+ Year Member

    Mar 18, 2009
    Palo Alto, CA
    Nice necro post...
  40. lauradiddle

    lauradiddle OU's Token Longhorn 2+ Year Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    Though ultimately they all work under a physician, some states and physicians allow more autonomy than others. Back when I was thinking about PA school, I shadowed two PAs (one in an ER in WI and one at a family clinic in TX). Both saw their patients just like the physician would, and even were able to prescribe medications. I'm sure not all PAs have such independence, but I was surprised to see how much some are allowed to do if the physician trusts them enough.

    One cool thing that appealed to me about PA over MD is their freedom to switch specialties without having to do a residency.
  41. adr22367


    Mar 24, 2010
    not 5. My son is trying to decide on which profession he wants and I am trying to convince him to go with pharmacist. They definitely do make more money and you can one day own your own pharmacy. As a PA you work under doctors orders and if the doctor doesn't want you one day, you are gone. Also, if the doctor retires you are gone. University of AZ, Rutgers, University of Rhode Island and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia have terrific pharmacy programs.
  42. Mansi123


    Mar 13, 2010
    I am hearing that the demand for pharmacists is going down. and I know people who just graduate from Pharmacy school this yr. and are having trouble getting 40 hrs.. Im confused!
  43. kimberlinka xo

    kimberlinka xo

    Sep 12, 2009
    i am leaving pharmacy school to pursue some other area of healthcare or maybe even do something else completely different . do you see how many pre pharm and pharmacy students responded to your post? i used to be one of the people that was very optimistic about the future of pharmacy and all the opportunities we wil have in the future but the truth is there are just not enough jobs out there to support the influx of graduates being produced right now. in the near future robotics will mak eit possible for 1 pharmacist to fill over 500 scripts a day. go work in cvs for 1 day and see how many rejections you get from insurance companies refusing to fill someones maintenence medication and requiring them to do it through mail order. check out drugstore.com. right now schools are producing approximately 12,000 graduates each year. this will probably only increase. thats 120,000 in the next 10 years. the ONLY reason pharmacists have been paid well in the past is because they were in high demand. by 2021 if you can even get a job you will be lucky to make 50k. that is my honest opinion. i've already seen saturation in my area and it has absolutely nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with zero regualtion of colleges of pharmacy and greedy schools promising students them professional careers and $100,000 paychecks in exchange for a classroom filled with over $250,000 ( do the math ) . i have no idea where all the new grads are going to work. i'm being sincere, i'm not trying to talk you out of it to lower the competiton . first of all becuase i'm out of the race and second of all because leaving school was emabrassing and i am so annoyed i wasted so much time and money i don't wish my experience on anyone
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2010
  44. fullmetalphrm

    fullmetalphrm 2+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2010
    Just another reason why I plan on carrying out a few years of residencies. Robots can never replace a highly specialized pharmacist who applies their expertise to design drug therapies for individual patients. I plan on working in a hospital setting regardless of what demand is like, since that's where I feel I'll be the most challenged and can truly apply my expertise. Retail can be anyone's guess, though.
  45. mandydp6

    mandydp6 2+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    blahhh blahhh blahhhh.
  46. erin0522

    erin0522 2+ Year Member

    Aug 19, 2010
    Chapel Hill, NC

    All I know is that at my store (CVS), incoming graduates are still getting higher salaries than the veteran pharmacists (even my PIC). The field won't come crashing down in the next 4 years, and I'll be able to keep my salary and maybe retire early.

    The end.
  47. delano2000

    delano2000 D-Mod likes to parTAY Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jul 26, 2009
    Why was this thread brought back from the dead?:confused:
  48. owlegrad

    owlegrad Uncontrollable Sarcasm Machine Staff Member SDN Administrator 7+ Year Member

    Some people see <dead threads> and ask why. I dream of <old, dead threads> and say why not.
  49. mandydp6

    mandydp6 2+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Seriously...3 years later...and what a silly thread in the first place, right? PA vs. Pharmacist? Really? SMH
  50. Ava999

    Ava999 7+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    I approve of this message. :)
    and plus, I like old threads. It shows you how some ppl here matured and grew by reading their old post, and the ones they post. Plus you see the mentality of pharmacists and pharmacy students back in the day, compared to how people think now. :thumbup:
  51. delano2000

    delano2000 D-Mod likes to parTAY Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jul 26, 2009

    I guess to each his own. Nothing wrong in having an old thread but to start commenting on it again 3 yrs later?:confused::laugh::thumbdown:

Share This Page