Can A Pharmacist Go To Medical School? (PHarmD to MD Pathway)

pharmacist and doctor

So, you are a pharmacist planning to switch your career from pharmacy to medical or maybe about to graduate and want to change professions. Whatever the situation may be it is never too late to switch careers to do what you love.

Doctors and pharmacists both work in the healthcare field; however, the educational qualifications, skills, experiences, etc. are different.

So, if you are someone who is completing his/her pharmacy education or completed the pharmacy education, then you should note that if you want to become a physician and not a pharmacist, then you have to back to the school. Whatever you have learned at the pharmacy school will not count toward the medical school at least not entirely.

When you are pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program, you may have education debt. By switching from pharmacy school to medical school, you will be increasing the debt amount so keep that in mind.

Can A Pharmacist Become A Doctor?

It depends. After completing your pharmacy studies and becoming an certified pharmacist, you cannot perform duties and responsibilities of a doctor. As educational requirements, skills, experience, etc. of pharmacists and doctors are different, if you want to become a doctor, you have to get into medical school. So, if you are a pharmacist who wants to become a doctor, you will need to go back to school, complete the MD program, residency, and get certified. A lot of your credits will probably account towards your MD degree program.

Getting into a medical school after being a pharmacist is not advisable. After the completion of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program, you might already have a educational loan debt. In this case, getting into medical school will not just increase the debt; it will also require time. So please keep this in mind as having that high of a loan debt to repay can be very stressful. We know this just from paying towards our PharmD loans.

If money is not the issue for you and you feel that you will be happier being a doctor than the pharmacist, then you should consider switching from pharmacist to doctor. Also, note that whatever you have learned in your pharmacy school may not count officially in the medical school. You will need to go back to school again, complete four years of education, residency, and get a medical degree. The four years can be shortened if your credits transfer and this will be on a school by school basis.

If you want to switch from pharmacist to doctor just because everyone’s saying pharmacist job role is saturating, then don’t switch. The role of pharmacists is still growing in the United States. As a pharmacist, you can work in variety of fields, such as community pharmacy, clinical pharmacy, ambulatory pharmacy, academic pharmacy, etc. Your skills and experiences make a significant impact as a pharmacist. With proper skills and experiences, you can easily hunt a well-paying job in the pharmacy field. If you are willing to relocate there are even more jobs at your disposal. Pharmacists are still in need in certain areas.

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Is Pharmacy School Harder Than Medical School?

Pharmacy school and medical school both are quite challenging career fields. When it comes to choosing between pharmacy and medical, you should choose the one that interests you the most and career field you are passionate about. Completing medical education takes a bit longer than the pharmacy, which makes medical school harder than pharmacy school because the graduation rate is less due to term span.

To become a pharmacist, first, you need to complete two years of an undergraduate degree. After that, you need to complete four years of Doctor of Pharmacy program. Some pharmacy schools also offer six years program where students can complete all the pharmacy education and get the Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

After completing all the classes, you will also need to take 3½ years of advanced pharmacy programs and then, rotations. During pharmacy rotations, you will be doing the job and gaining experience. Before you become a pharmacist, you will need to pass licensure exams, which is mainly NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination).

Medical school requires 4 years of education. After completing medical school, it will take another 3 to 7 years to complete the residency. Once you complete the medical school studies and residency, you can become a doctor.

Why Become A Pharmacist And Not A Doctor?

If you are interested in getting into healthcare field, there are some reasons why you should choose pharmacy over any other healthcare field. Here are several reasons why you should become a pharmacist and not a doctor:

1. Build relationships

As a pharmacist, you will be playing a significant role in making patients feel better. If you want to get into a career field where you can build relationships with patients directly, pharmacy is for you. Apart from building relationships with patients, pharmacists also work with colleagues and collaborate with doctors.

2. Career opportunities

Pharmacy is also amazing career option because it is vast and has so many opportunities. Depending on your interest and expertise, you can choose from different pharmacy specialties. You can become a retail pharmacist, academic pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, etc. Most pharmacists work in an independent or retail chain community pharmacy. Pharmacists work in hospitals, nursing homes, managed care organizations, or colleges.

3. A bit easier than medical

Pharmacy school and medical school both are very hard and challenging. However, becoming a pharmacist is a bit easier than becoming a doctor. Although salary of a pharmacist is less than a doctor, the time it will take to become a doctor is more than the time it will take to become a pharmacist. Apart from this, medical includes more physical involvement and more stress as compared to the pharmacy.

Pharmacists Going To Medical School (Real Students Opinions)

We have gone out and gathered information and opinions from current or past students that either have gone through this situation or have thought about it. So this way you don’t have to take our word for it.

This information was curated from different forums and the only thing changed was any spelling/grammar too make it more readable.

Real Student Feedback

1. Avocadoc1214 “Think about it” – 25 years old pharmacist working for a large retail chain here. I started thinking about med school last year of pharmacy school but never actually acted on the thought until I became licensed later on. I’m applying this upcoming cycle and hopefully will matriculate when I turn 27. I would recommend give it lots of thought before making the decision to switch. Things like student loan, relocation, family, etc. Med school application process is also way more competitive than pharm. MCAT is a beast on its own (and it’s nothing like PCAT unfortunately).

2. Jazzcigar “Do It” – Med student here. I started med school at 26. There are others in my class who are my age and older. Some are married with kids or already have advanced degrees (3 PhDs in the class). I imagine having a PharmD would greatly enhance your knowledge base as a physician, and it would certainly make part of your studying easier. I wish I knew more pharm.

3. TripleAlpha “I did it” – I got my PharmD, worked for a few years in hospital, then got my MD. It will only give you a leg up in admissions if your GPA is outstanding – as your major competition coming out of university will surely have. Professionally it will give you a serious advantage during 2nd year pharmacology (most failed class in medical school), and during your rotations where you’ll be asked to cite random studies/guidelines that you’ve already been exposed to (CHEST, ATPIII/IV, JNC8, etc…) when dealing with patient care.

Plus the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and patient skills you’ll have already been exposed to will give you a head start.

4. VanoCopime “If you have the desire do it” – Thought about it after pharmacy school, matched with pharmacy residency, completed. Now I’m a community hospital stewardship pharmacist working with hospitalists. I think if you really have such a desire and passion for it do it. I think everyone answer would be different. I value my life too much to dedicate literally another 8-10 years to it. The debt is also something to think about. I came out of resdidency with 180k loan. By the time I pay it off I’d bought a house. If you are young, family paid pharmacy school,truly have a inner passion, no family obligation or kids, then I’d say go for it.

5. UserNaut “Go For it” – I am a third year pharmacy student going for med school as well.

I am on the same page- I dont think that pharmacy would make me happy since I only deal with the medication aspect, and with health, there is more to patient care then just taking care of the medication side. As you said, I just wouldnt have the autonomy as a pharmacist to provide all the care/help that I am capable of.

With a pharmay degree, atleast where I live, it is much easier to get into medicine. The health-related knowledge they teach, and professional/communication skills is optimal for medicine.

At my schools medical degree, there is 6 pharmacists in the class (2 being pharmacists that graduated and worked for a few years, 3 that just graduated, and 1 that finnished 1st year). They seem to be enjoying it.

The only thing I can say is that I understand your thought process, ive been through it. I would say go for it, as long as you are sure that you will be ready for the hard work- The 6-8 years of extra school, the residency, and the time crunch. Itll be a life investment, and the pharmacists I do know that considered medicine and decided to stay as a pharmacist, they did so because medicine is more of a lifestyle. Where as myself, I have enough passion to invest my life into it.

Work towards it, do alot of shadowing, and if you feel like its your thing, rock it…. and most of all, good luck!

6. Tushar Madaan “Certain degrees” – A pharmacist can do a PharmD degree (which is the only pharmacist’s degree in some countries and an optional degree in addition to BPharm in others) and be a doctor. However, if you are talking about if a pharmacist can become a physician or surgeon, then no. You need to go through med school for it.

7. Jen Gronroos “Same as others” – A pharmacist can become a doctor exactly same way as everyone else becomes a doctor – by going to medical school. There are no shortcuts or special tracts for pharmacists who want to become doctors thought many of the courses are quite a bit easier for them considering they have spent years studying drugs.

8. Alan Koenigsberg “Experience will definitely help” – To become a medical doctor, a physician, everyone must complete traditional medical school, and then is a physician. You must then complete a one year internship, get licensed by your state medical board, and then complete a residency in a specific specialty.

The pharmacy background and experience will undoubtedly be a big help with those courses.

9. Robert “Certainly” – Certainly. That “working experience” is known as internship and residency, is usually focused on practice related to a specific area of medicine, ad may last between one year (the minimum required for medical license eligibility in the United States) and ten years, depending on degree of specialization.

Here’s the catch: To be eligible for a legitimate residency position, a person must be a graduate of an accredited U.S. school of medicine or osteopathy or a foreign graduate who’s passed a standardized examination. While pharmacy training might include some degree of overlap with pre-medical education (chemistry, for example), I don’t know if medical schools would accept the pharmacology experience as equivalent.

Final Thoughts

Whether you should become a pharmacist or a doctor is mainly based on your interests, skills, and expertise. If you are a student, confused between medical and pharmacy, do your research and select the one that interests you the most.

However, if you have compared your pharmacy education and want to switch to medical, it may not be a good idea. The transition from pharmacy to the doctor will not just cost you monetarily. It will also take your time.

Danielle Winner

Hello my name is Danielle Winner. Welcome to my site on Pharmacy School and tips and tricks to hopefully help you get in. It's not easy but hopefully you can learn to not make mistakes that students (myself included) make. Good luck on your journey. I graduated from Albany School of Pharmacy in May 2010 and have had a few different jobs across the east coast of the U.S.

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