Pharmacy School Debt Level Vs. Paying Off In Reasonable Time

Jul 26, 2016
18
4
Hi Everyone,

So I have been calculating my pharmacy school attendance costs and the money that I will have available to put towards my graduate education. 4 years of school while living at home will cost about $100k - using my current funds and working 20 hours a week will allow me to graduate with just under/near 50k in debt. Is this a reasonable amount of debt accrued for a pharmacy education? Yes, I realize the market is not ideal. I have weighed my options however and really enjoy working in pharmacy. I have no previous debt from my bachelors as I received a full academic ride to my undergraduate university.

While it is still an amount of debt to be reckoned with and taken seriously, I do think it can be paid off within a reasonable amount of time (3 years max) and have added in additional cost factors as well. I'd like to pursue clinical pharmacy but understand that I will have to distinguish myself from other candidates in other ways (residency, additional training etc.).

Any reasonable, contributing opinions? Looking for insight based on your experience; not rude comments. Thanks.
 

lord999

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I do not believe 20 hrs/week as an intern is realistic considering the other time demands across all years (it's very possible in P2 and P3 in a P4 sequence, but I don't think P1 or P4 are easily achievable at 20 hrs/week mainly due to load in P1 and unpredictability of schedule during the P4 clerkship experience). Most chains won't schedule their interns for more than 16 hours by mutual agreement with the local pharmacy schools considering the class burden during the school year. However, even if you had double that amount ($100k), that is still very manageable even with unsubsidized Stafford loans.

If you intend to work at something else that doesn't care about/can schedule around the pharmacy school activities (food service, sales, IT), then that would be more realistic.

While it is still an amount of debt to be reckoned with and taken seriously, I do think it can be paid off within a reasonable amount of time (3 years max) and have added in additional cost factors as well. I'd like to pursue clinical pharmacy but understand that I will have to distinguish myself from other candidates in other ways (residency, additional training etc.).
3 years is very realistic without serious sacrifice if you don't count the residency year and mean the first three full-time years of practice ($18k is basically 6-10 pharmacist paychecks a year). Most residencies restrict outside employment to some low level (if at all) since the residency hours are very unpredictable on certain rotations.
 
OP
T
Jul 26, 2016
18
4
I do not believe 20 hrs/week as an intern is realistic considering the other time demands across all years (it's very possible in P2 and P3 in a P4 sequence, but I don't think P1 or P4 are easily achievable at 20 hrs/week mainly due to load in P1 and unpredictability of schedule during the P4 clerkship experience). Most chains won't schedule their interns for more than 16 hours by mutual agreement with the local pharmacy schools considering the class burden during the school year. However, even if you had double that amount ($100k), that is still very manageable even with unsubsidized Stafford loans.

If you intend to work at something else that doesn't care about/can schedule around the pharmacy school activities (food service, sales, IT), then that would be more realistic.



3 years is very realistic without serious sacrifice if you don't count the residency year and mean the first three full-time years of practice ($18k is basically 6-10 pharmacist paychecks a year). Most residencies restrict outside employment to some low level (if at all) since the residency hours are very unpredictable on certain rotations.

I currently work as a Reg. Pharmacy Technician with two fabulous pharmacists in a low-moderate volume store where we know most patients by name. I currently work 30+ hours a week and was offered an intern position for after I matriculate. I will definitely take your advice and refrain from working any extensive hours for P1 year and will most likely not work at all during my P4 year. Luckily, they are flexible and want to see me succeed.

Yes; I think 3 years as a full time working pharmacist after residency is an adequate time frame to pay off loans. Even not working too many hours during those years will keep me below 70k. That'll still put me right at 26-27 (after 3 1/2 years of comfortable payments; 3 if I worked hard) and no loans making a decent paycheck.

Are there any additional tips you can offer me in regards to achieving a hospital setting position in the future as a pharmacist? I do acknowledge that Pharmacy is no longer (was it ever?) an easy path and would like to plan accordingly. Thanks so much!
 
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lord999

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Feb 20, 2002
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No more than what's been said elsewhere, you should look at the postings on this board.

The short answer that I give the first years is that:
Grades do matter to some extent, personal reputation if applying locally can really matter depending on the city (Phoenix, Minneapolis, Madison, Portland, Philadelphia, and the DC cluster does work that way). I don't think frats, APhA, "clubs" really matter at all (judging from the last two classes graduated, I feel ok saying that as the APhA student presidents didn't match in the past two matches due to their infamous diva personalities triggering a reputation issue), but depending on the circumstances, a nominal involvement in ASHP (nominal meaning going to CE events within your city and possibly to your state's meeting annually, and not necessarily the National one outside of match year) and institutional employment (not necessarily hospital, but not chain pharmacy) help. If you are still willing to work in a not metro-area, hospital employment is still straightforward, but in cities, you pretty much have to have a residency or a fellowship to even get basement operational employment in a hospital.

To the fourth-years:
Remember that the one of the points when you interview is to evaluate your interest in institutional pharmacy. It is a huge red flag to most interviewers and me for civil service that the main reason an applicant wants to go into institutional pharmacy is to get away from the outpatient. Turn that motivation positive into I want to use my skills or something to that nature. Certainly, don't lie if asked directly about your feelings toward community pharmacy, but it's kind of assumed as the financials don't make sense to apply for institutional.

As for the reputational matter, you want to present as solid working, willing to learn, without triggering questions of being a fake or having diva personality characteristics. That might have gotten you into UCSF or U of A, but it's far less tolerated in the working environment outside of those immediate working areas.
 
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OP
T
Jul 26, 2016
18
4
No more than what's been said elsewhere, you should look at the postings on this board.

The short answer that I give the first years is that:
Grades do matter to some extent, personal reputation if applying locally can really matter depending on the city (Phoenix, Minneapolis, Madison, Portland, Philadelphia, and the DC cluster does work that way). I don't think frats, APhA, "clubs" really matter at all (judging from the last two classes graduated, I feel ok saying that as the APhA student presidents didn't match in the past two matches due to their infamous diva personalities triggering a reputation issue), but depending on the circumstances, a nominal involvement in ASHP (nominal meaning going to CE events within your city and possibly to your state's meeting annually, and not necessarily the National one outside of match year) and institutional employment (not necessarily hospital, but not chain pharmacy) help. If you are still willing to work in a not metro-area, hospital employment is still straightforward, but in cities, you pretty much have to have a residency or a fellowship to even get basement operational employment in a hospital.

To the fourth-years:
Remember that the one of the points when you interview is to evaluate your interest in institutional pharmacy. It is a huge red flag to most interviewers and me for civil service that the main reason an applicant wants to go into institutional pharmacy is to get away from the outpatient. Turn that motivation positive into I want to use my skills or something to that nature. Certainly, don't lie if asked directly about your feelings toward community pharmacy, but it's kind of assumed as the financials don't make sense to apply for institutional.

As for the reputational matter, you want to present as solid working, willing to learn, without triggering questions of being a fake or having diva personality characteristics. That might have gotten you into UCSF or U of A, but it's far less tolerated in the working environment outside of those immediate working areas.
Hopefully, finding a job in institutional pharmacy will be decent since I'm in central FL with a plethora of large hospitals in the area. I don't live in the city but am within commuting distance if needed. While I'm not currently looking to move across country, I'm not directly tied down to any one location. I would love to work in Pediatric based Pharmacy with severely sick young patients (administering counseling to families in regards to drug therapy etc.) but I'm not sure if that's even a common thing Lol; sort of my "unicorn job" as you all say. I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I don't think the diva personality issue will be too much of an issue with me but I'll be sure to maintain professionalism at all times. Thank you for the opinions - I really appreciate it. :)
 
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radio frequency

5+ Year Member
Dec 18, 2012
1,001
617
Status
Pharmacist
No more than what's been said elsewhere, you should look at the postings on this board.

The short answer that I give the first years is that:
Grades do matter to some extent, personal reputation if applying locally can really matter depending on the city (Phoenix, Minneapolis, Madison, Portland, Philadelphia, and the DC cluster does work that way). I don't think frats, APhA, "clubs" really matter at all (judging from the last two classes graduated, I feel ok saying that as the APhA student presidents didn't match in the past two matches due to their infamous diva personalities triggering a reputation issue), but depending on the circumstances, a nominal involvement in ASHP (nominal meaning going to CE events within your city and possibly to your state's meeting annually, and not necessarily the National one outside of match year) and institutional employment (not necessarily hospital, but not chain pharmacy) help. If you are still willing to work in a not metro-area, hospital employment is still straightforward, but in cities, you pretty much have to have a residency or a fellowship to even get basement operational employment in a hospital.

To the fourth-years:
Remember that the one of the points when you interview is to evaluate your interest in institutional pharmacy. It is a huge red flag to most interviewers and me for civil service that the main reason an applicant wants to go into institutional pharmacy is to get away from the outpatient. Turn that motivation positive into I want to use my skills or something to that nature. Certainly, don't lie if asked directly about your feelings toward community pharmacy, but it's kind of assumed as the financials don't make sense to apply for institutional.

As for the reputational matter, you want to present as solid working, willing to learn, without triggering questions of being a fake or having diva personality characteristics. That might have gotten you into UCSF or U of A, but it's far less tolerated in the working environment outside of those immediate working areas.
Yes, yes, and yes. This is all true.
 
Mar 20, 2014
4
1
Status
Pharmacist
Hopefully, finding a job in institutional pharmacy will be decent since I'm in central FL with a plethora of large hospitals in the area. I don't live in the city but am within commuting distance if needed. While I'm not currently looking to move across country, I'm not directly tied down to any one location. I would love to work in Pediatric based Pharmacy with severely sick young patients (administering counseling to families in regards to drug therapy etc.) but I'm not sure if that's even a common thing Lol; sort of my "unicorn job" as you all say. I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I don't think the diva personality issue will be too much of an issue with me but I'll be sure to maintain professionalism at all times. Thank you for the opinions - I really appreciate it. :)
There are definitely positions in pediatrics where you will have the opportunity to counsel patients and families and be involved in a multi-disciplinary team. I've worked in pediatrics the last 4 years, currently as the emergency medicine pharmacist in a free-standing children's hospital. My position in particular gives me a unique mix of an ambulatory care/critical care environment, where the spectrum of patients can range from colds/flus to severe trauma and code blue situations. I'm responsible for drawing up medications in emergent situations, making recommendations, fielding questions from nurses and physicians, medication reconciliation, order verification for the ED, discharge medication counseling, asthma education, etc. I've also worked as the PICU clinical pharmacist which was a great experience, but with a little less face time with patients and families compared to the ED. This is basically my unicorn job, and I love every minute of it. I cannot imagine working in any other environment other than a children's hospital. It gives you an incredible perspective in life, and I find it to be very rewarding.

I would strongly recommend you become involved in ASHP, specifically your school and state chapter - go to meetings, network like a crazy person, find a leadership position if possible. Find ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of your classmates. You could have a perfect GPA, but if the rest of your CV is boring, empty, or filled with fluff, you can easily be passed over for a residency or a job. Do meaningful volunteer work, preferably in something that you are passionate about, not just the occasional health fair with 10 other students (but still a good experience for you to attend). Find an intern position at a children's hospital if possible. While not a necessity, it could be helpful. Fight for a pediatric based rotation in your 4th year. Treat every rotation like it is a six week long job interview. Let your professors and professional network know that you have a passion for pediatrics and they can help steer you in the right direction and meet the right people. Good luck!
 
OP
T
Jul 26, 2016
18
4
There are definitely positions in pediatrics where you will have the opportunity to counsel patients and families and be involved in a multi-disciplinary team. I've worked in pediatrics the last 4 years, currently as the emergency medicine pharmacist in a free-standing children's hospital. My position in particular gives me a unique mix of an ambulatory care/critical care environment, where the spectrum of patients can range from colds/flus to severe trauma and code blue situations. I'm responsible for drawing up medications in emergent situations, making recommendations, fielding questions from nurses and physicians, medication reconciliation, order verification for the ED, discharge medication counseling, asthma education, etc. I've also worked as the PICU clinical pharmacist which was a great experience, but with a little less face time with patients and families compared to the ED. This is basically my unicorn job, and I love every minute of it. I cannot imagine working in any other environment other than a children's hospital. It gives you an incredible perspective in life, and I find it to be very rewarding.

I would strongly recommend you become involved in ASHP, specifically your school and state chapter - go to meetings, network like a crazy person, find a leadership position if possible. Find ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of your classmates. You could have a perfect GPA, but if the rest of your CV is boring, empty, or filled with fluff, you can easily be passed over for a residency or a job. Do meaningful volunteer work, preferably in something that you are passionate about, not just the occasional health fair with 10 other students (but still a good experience for you to attend). Find an intern position at a children's hospital if possible. While not a necessity, it could be helpful. Fight for a pediatric based rotation in your 4th year. Treat every rotation like it is a six week long job interview. Let your professors and professional network know that you have a passion for pediatrics and they can help steer you in the right direction and meet the right people. Good luck!
Thank you so much for the insight! I really like your description of the position and hope to pursue something of that sort in the future. I am a very positive person and enjoy interacting with children as well (have volunteered at an elementary school for 4+years weekly now). Projecting that passion and doing my best to assist in getting those patients better is something that I think would be very rewarding. I have a variety of fantastic children's hospitals within commuting distance and will definitely look at an internship within those locations.