Prospects of a degree in pharmacy

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A pharmacist is a team member in the healthcare system whose responsibilities have a lot of implications in the treatment and recovery of patients. Their role is not merely confined to retailing medicine or filling doctor’s prescriptions. One skill that pharmacists must develop is counseling, as it is a critical part of their job to guide patients with regard to what they are taking and how they should be administered.

There are many paths for pharmacists to take if they want to grow in this career. What is most important is they are committed to the profession and want to contribute in the area of healthcare service.

Singapore, with its ageing population, will continue to need more pharmacists in the future to provide support for this sector of society. Now is a good time to consider if a pharmacy career is for you.

Nature of work

Pharmacists are mainly concerned with medicinal products – their safety, efficacy, quality, and rational use. They dispense drugs according to physician prescriptions and instruct users on the correct and safe consumption of their medication.

Kim Tan Lay Khim of the National Healthcare Group Pharmacy shares, “A good pharmacist must have good clinical knowledge, good listening and communication skills, and public relation skills as well, because we need to build rapport with our patients and other healthcare providers to win their trust in the service we provide.”

Career options

People with pharmacy degrees can work in hospitals, where they may be tasked to manage the pharmacy, train pharmacy technicians, prepare medications or parenteral solutions, advise the other healthcare staff on drug side effects and interactions, and go on rounds with doctors.

You could join pharmaceutical companies as part of the medical affairs department, the regulatory compliance department, or even the sales team.

Take it from Parry Zhang, of NTUC Health Unity, who worked as pharmacist for a year then moved on to become a senior pharmacist, a post he held for 2 to 3 years, before progressing to his present position of area manager.

You can be involved in the conduction of clinical trials. You could also be a medical writer, writing up not just the results of research but also covering medical conferences, meetings, workshops, and symposia.

Salary and employment conditions

It can be easy finding a job with a pharmacy degree because the demand is higher than the supply. On the downside, you may be required to work extra hours if you are at a hospital to cover for the shortage.

According to PayScale , the median salary of a pharmacist in Singapore is around SGD 47,000 per year. The minimum for entry-level work is SGD 29,000 per year, while experienced workers get a maximum of just below SGD 86,000.

Studying pharmacy

It can be difficult to get into a pharmacy course in Singapore, due to limited slots in universities.

Should you succeed in getting in, the course itself is not easy either. There is a lot to memorise, and if your interest is not in the field, it can be tedious and boring.

Conversely, if you are quite interested in medicinal chemistry, you can look forward to a lot of reading and discussions on various drugs and organic compounds, and also a fair amount of experiments and lab work.

Incidentally, another option for people interested in medicinal chemistry is applied chemistry. This course will also allow you to do drug research. However, you cannot be licensed to dispense medicines as a registered pharmacist. MIMS