Stay away from retail pharmacy if you want a successful career

Anna Durbin (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;293:599
) asks: “how low are you prepared to go?” with regard to pay for community pharmacists. If you have a family to feed, then you will work for whatever salary is offered. Big chain pharmacies will now take advantage of the saturated market and reduce pay to as low as they can so that their profits can increase. 

In the past, salaries were competitive because companies had to offer the best salary to attract pharmacists since there was a shortage. Not anymore. The uncapped pharmacy student numbers has created a surplus and the big chains are loving it. The suggestion that the surplus will create competition and the “best” pharmacists will get employed is absurd. Employment will be for those who are prepared to work for the lowest pay on offer. In the retail setting, the “best” pharmacist is the pharmacist who will do the most services and check prescriptions like a robot.

Retail pharmacy is not like, for example, the law profession. The best lawyers will find jobs in the best firms because wealthy clients will pay top dollar for the best lawyer. Those wealthy clients will not choose to go to a particular pharmacy to fill their prescription because that pharmacy employs the “best and smartest” pharmacist. They will go to their nearest local pharmacy. That unfortunately is the reality of retail.

My advice for graduates is to try to secure jobs in hospitals or the pharmaceutical industry. At least there is a chance to progress up the ranks. There is no future in retail pharmacy unless you plan to open your own business or attempt to progress up the cut-throat corporate ladder in the big chain environment.

Those who are still in university should plan to pursue another profession on graduation (e.g. medicine or dentistry). Those who expect pharmacy to improve with the “new exciting roles” being promised, be warned. These “new roles” will be the detritus discarded by nurses. Roles like giving injections are not going to advance our profession. They are technical roles which can be performed by anyone, hence nurses will be thrilled to have us do them so they can perform more advanced roles such as prescribing.

Finally, those who are academically gifted should look at pharmacy as a second degree or plan to pursue a second degree on top of pharmacy.

The profession is no longer financially rewarding and will not be for a long time to come because universities will continue to increase pharmacy places since this generates more revenue for them.


Fayaz Ahmedali

Waterloo, Ontario,


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 24 January 2015, Vol 294, No 7846;294(7846):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067527

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