Beyond the pharmacy: The potential of a pharmacy degree

20170313060000, Noormalini Saparen
Pharmacists in Singapore have several job options after obtaining their pharmacy degree, however, unemployment within the sector is prevalent as well.
A large number of those who pursue a pharmacy degree aim to become a pharmacist after they graduated. These healthcare professionals have a great responsibility to ensure safe pharmacological practices, such as knowing the drug dosage and allergies when dispensing medicines to the patients.

In Singapore, pharmacists have a wide range of opportunities and avenues to work in, from retail drug stores and private pharmacies to hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Realistically, there is a huge competition in the market, so how do fresh graduates with a pharmacy degree stand compared to the more experienced pharmacists?

The national demand for pharmacists

The latest annual report of the Singapore Pharmacy Council noted an increasing number of pharmacy students intake in the National University of Singapore (NUS). Given that a larger pharmacists workforce is increasingly important to address the needs of Singapore's growing population sufficiently, more students taking up the pharmacy degree is a good development.

Figure 1: Employment status of registered pharmacists
employment status sg
Figure 1 shows the employment status of registered pharmacists. Despite the increasing number of students taking up a pharmacy degree, some the graduates remain unemployed. Still, given that 85.4% of the pharmacists are employed full-time as opposed to the 8.3% who remained unemployed, it is clear that there is still a demand in the pharmaceutical industry for pharmacists.

Table 2: Age distribution of unemployed registered pharmacists
age distribution
Table 2 shows the age distribution of the registered pharmacists who were unemployed as at December 2015. Looking deeper into the distribution of unemployed pharmacists, those who aged 30 and above are the ones that are having difficulties getting a job as a pharmacist as compared to the undergraduates and fresh graduates younger than 30 years old.

Job options for pharmacy degree holders

It is not the end of the rope for pharmacists who are registered but unemployed. Other than becoming a pharmacist, there are many other job options for a pharmacy degree holder. These job options come in two types. The first type is jobs directly related to the pharmacy degree, while the second type is jobs where a degree in pharmacy would be helpful.

For jobs that are directly related to the pharmacy degree, the job scope would have a direct link to what was being taught in the pharmacy degree. As such, these jobs are usually the different kinds of pharmacists, to name a few:

• Community Pharmacist
• Hospital Pharmacist
• Research Pharmacist
• Retail Pharmacist

On the other hand, for jobs where a degree in pharmacy would be helpful, the job scope could be very different. Though the work environment is still within the pharmaceutical or medical industry, the job scope usually has little direct link to what was being taught, and could range from sales to quality assurance and more:

• Regulatory Affairs Officer (Pharmaceutical)
• Medical Sales Representative
• Quality Assurance Associate (Medical)
• Clinical Research Coordinator
• National Pharmacy Programme Office (Executive Level to Managerial Level)
• Research Assistant (Nephrology)
• Pharmacist Lecturer (Academic)
• Science/Medical Writer

While the prospects of a becoming a pharmacist in Singapore still looks good, the competition in the market remains fierce. For those students who intend or have embarked on earning a degree in pharmacy, they should know that there are many more job options available to them with this degree. Even if they may not be able to achieve their dreams, they could look out for other employment opportunities that have no direct relevance to the degree and may eventually grow to love their job. MIMS

Read more:
Prospects of a degree in pharmacy
What are some of the challenges Singapore pharmacists are facing?
Research in pharmacy: an alternative pharmacist career path