Pharmacist VS Doctor (Salary, Schooling & Other Facts)

Pharmacist and Doctor

Are you confused about whether to become a pharmacist or become a doctor? We are sure this article is going to help you. In this article, we will compare both fields and give you an idea of which one could be right for you.

Whether it’s the pharmacy, doctor’s degree, or any other, every career field has different educational, skillset, experience, etc. requirements. Both pharmacists and doctors are healthcare professionals, but the duties & responsibilities of both are totally different.

Although pharmacists are required to hold a doctoral degree in pharmacy, they are not doctors.

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Should I become a doctor or pharmacist?

For students who see their careers in the healthcare field, this question is common. First of all, pharmacists and doctors both work in a different field, so we can’t say that one career field is better than the other.

Whether you should become a pharmacist or a doctor is solely based on the interests, skills, and knowledge. For some students, the pharmacy may seem a better career option than becoming a doctor and vice versa.

To give you a better idea about whether you should become a doctor or pharmacist, here are differences between both fields.

Difference between pharmacist and doctor

As we have already talked, though pharmacists and doctors both are healthcare professionals, but day to day responsibilities of both are varied.

Pharmacist VS Doctor: Education

Pharmacists need to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program to get the pharmacist degree. First, they need to complete at least two years of the pre-professional (undergraduate) degree, and then four academic years of PharmD program coursework. Once you complete your undergraduate studies and complete a 4-year PharmD program, you can apply for licensure. To get the pharmacist license, you need to take and pass NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam) licensure examination.

In pharmacy, you will learn about medications, drug research & information, pharmacy operations, drug information, information technology applications for pharmacy, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, biochemistry, and more. Many pharmacists also pursue a residency in a special pharmacy practice area, like pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, nuclear pharmacy, etc.

Now, let’s talk about the doctor. To become a doctor in the United States, it will take you around 11 to 14 years. First of all, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree. After that, you need to attend four years of medical school. After completing medical schooling, you need to complete 3 to 7 years of the residency program. Once you complete your medical school and residency, you can apply for a state license to practice medicine.

In medical school, you will learn about different topics. In the first two years of the program, you will learn about topics like medical laws & ethics, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology. In the final two years, it will require you to practice clinical rotations. The rotations will be performed under doctors’ supervision, and students will learn more about surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, gynecology, obstetrics, etc.

Pharmacist VS Doctor: Responsibilities

Your duties after becoming a pharmacist would be different than the doctor. People often think pharmacists just count pills, but this isn’t true. Their duties are more than that. As we know, pharmacists work in different pharmacies. The responsibilities may slightly differ based on the type of pharmacy you are working in.

As a pharmacist, you will be responsible for:

  • the quality of medicines supplied to patients.
  • ensuring that the supply of medicines is within the law.
  • ensuring that the medicines prescribed to patients are suitable.
  • advising patients about medicines, including how to take them, what reactions may occur, and answering patients’ questions.

Pharmacists need to make sure the dispensed medications are suitable, and it will be safe for use. To fit for the pharmacist role, you need to have skills like accuracy, integrity, science & maths, communication, and management skills.

As a doctor, you will be responsible for:

  • undertaking patient consultations and physical examinations.
  • organizing workloads.
  • performing surgical procedures.
  • providing general pre- and post-operative care.
  • monitoring and administering medication.
  • assessing and planning treatment requirements.
  • engage with colleagues to maintain and improve the safety and quality of patient care.

Doctors play a crucial role in the healthcare field. It is essential for doctors to enhance teamwork and leadership. As a doctor, your duty will be to ensure your patient’s safety.

Pharmacist VS Doctor: Salary

Salary is the most vital aspect to consider before pursuing any career. Here are the salary stats of pharmacist and doctor job position:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists’ median annual salary is $128,090, while the median annual salary of doctors is $213,270.

Talking about job growth, the demand for pharmacists has been decreased over time. The job growth of pharmacist position is expected to be 0% from 2018 to 2028. The job growth of the doctor position is expected to be 10% from the years 2018 to 2028.

Why become a pharmacist and not a doctor?

There are various reasons why many students prefer pharmacy over medical. As both fields’ duties & responsibilities are different, some people may find being a pharmacist interesting, while for others, being a doctor may seem interesting.

The educational requirements and duration of both career fields are different. One of the main reasons you should become a pharmacist and not a doctor is that the time it takes to become a doctor is more than the time it will take to become a pharmacist. If you choose a pharmacy, it will take a minimum of 6 years to become a pharmacist. On the other hand, it will take around 11 to 14 years to become a doctor.

Another reason to become a pharmacist and not a doctor is training time. The training time for becoming a doctor is more than that of the pharmacist.

Pharmacist VS Doctor According To Real Pharmacists and Doctors

We didn’t want you to take our word for it when it comes to whether a Pharmacist or Doctor is better. We curated this information from several different sites and forums. The only thing we changed was the spelling and grammar where needed.

1. Therapist4Chnge “Depends on what your goals are” –

There are a few things to consider:

1. The work environment. Most pharmacists seem to be in retail, which can be a detractor for some people. With pharmacies consolidating, it is a bit harder to hop jobs and collect bonuses, and most likely the average salaries have gone down because of consolidation. One of my good friends is a pharmacist, and most of her complaints were about non-pharmacy issues (scheduling changes because retailers wanted to cut down on hours and use more techs, etc). There are obviously non-retail positions, but they have their own challenges too. I work with some great clinical pharmacists in a hospital setting, and their jobs seem much more interesting to me than retail work.

2. There is a great deal more autonomy for physicians, though it will take more years and arguably longer hours to attain. Autonomy isn’t always great though, because that also opens up the professional to more liability. Certain areas of medicine are REALLY expensive to practice in because of malpractice insurance and related costs.

3. I’d venture a guess that your typical applicant for pharmacy school and medical school will have different objectives and goals. It isn’t a knock to one side or the other, but I think they are drawing from 2 different pools of applicants.

4. The entry level for a pharmacist coming out today is the PharmD, which takes between 6-7 years to complete. I believe combined programs have a 3+3 setup, with a more traditional route being 4+3. There are similiar programs for BS/MD that are 4+4, and some people can go 3+4 with enough transfer credits going into college….so years of schoolingisn’t that much different, until internship/residency.

5. If there is a big shift in how we handle insurance in the US, that could really impact both pathes, as salaries are already going down.

2. MBM54 “2 completely different careers” – physicians and pharmacists are 2 completely different careers. when deciding what path of medicine to pursure, one should think more about what your interests are and less about the money earned. for example, i want to be a pediatrician and although pharmacists can make just as much money and work less hours than a physician, a career in pharmacy is of no interest to me. at the end of the day, it should be more about what makes you happy.

3. Brando989 “If for money Doctor not worth it” – Well if you’re talking about money, then in my opinion it really isn’t worth it to become a doctor.

There’s plenty of careers that average 100k and more and don’t require half the training needed to become an MD, also there’s less stress etc etc.

I definitely wouldn’t consider money to be the primary motivator for becoming a physician if I were you. It’s a long, stressful endeavor and if you are interested in becoming a doctor, you need to decide why you want to do that. Make up a list of the best reasons you can think of to become a doctor, and when you need a little extra motivation refer to that list so you never lose sight of the goal you started out on.

If you do decide to go the MD track, you will be assumed at least a somewhat ‘comfortable lifestyle’ but don’t count on being super rich. Aside from that, to be honest with you, I’ve never met a physician who seemed genuinely unhappy with their career choice so it can’t be all bad. :D

4. MedicalCPA “Many myths about these professions” –

And now for some mythbusting…
MYTH #1:
…pharmacy just doesn’t have as much opportunity for career advancement. The salary of 100k is pretty much even among all pharmacists.
Beware of blanket statements like this one. There is a range of salaries within pharmacy — as with any career — and being a pharmacist does not consign you to the same type of job from the day you graduate until the day you retire. The PharmD is a very versatile degree. This is a slightly dated article about pharmacy careers, and for pharmacist profiles, visit the Association of American Colleges of Pharmacy website and look at pharmacy career options here. What you get out of any career will be proportional to what you put into it, and as a new graduate, you should not expect a salary increase without working for it. Same as any job.

MYTH #2:
The entry level for a pharmacist coming out today is the PharmD, which takes between 6-7 years to complete. I believe combined programs have a 3+3 setup, with a more traditional route being 4+3.
Yes, the PharmD is the entry level degree for pharmacists today, but it can take as little as 6 years, and as many as 9. Professional pharmacy education takes four years. Many programs have prerequisites, which take 2-3 years to complete, and some pharmacy schools (although these are currently in the minority) require bachelor’s degrees. Combined programs take 6 years. Pharmacy school applicants are not required to have a bachelor’s degree, so an applicant can complete 2 years of pre-pharmacy prerequisites, apply to pharmacy school, and graduate 4 years later for a total of 6 years. Combined (or “0-6”) programs are set up in this fashion. Accepted students complete two years of preprofessional education followed by four years of professional education.

Because pharmacy school admissions is growing more competitive every year, it is not uncommon for applicants to have bachelor’s degrees before applying, so for a good number of people, it will take 8 years from the time they begin college until they can practice as pharmacists. The School of Pharmacy at University of Missouri – Kansas City has a 5 year professional program (I believe it is the only such one in the US), so an applicant with a bachelor’s degree accepted there will have spent 9 years before becoming a pharmacist.

MYTH #3:
If you like chemistry and being less social, be a pharmacist. If you like all medical related sciences and people, be a doctor.
Very stereotypical. Ignorant, too, especially the bolded. Last I checked, chemistry, biology, and physics, are required of pharmacy and medical students alike. And last I checked, a lot of premeds (and prepharms) hated one or more of these, especially organic chemistry and physics. You do not have to like your prerequisites in order to become a pharmacist or a physician. You have to pass them. If the pharmacists and pharmacy students on SDN are to be believed, you can hate chemistry and still do fine in pharmacy school, for the simple reason that CHEMISTRY IS NOT THE ONLY THING YOU WILL BE DOING IN PHARMACY SCHOOL.

Much of a pharmacist’s job involves communicating with people, so I do not get the whole “if you like people be a doctor.” There are many antisocial people in both professions, just as there are many “people persons” in both professions. That’s all I will say to avoid a pharmacist vs. doctor flame match.

Bottom line: do your research well, and choose a career you will be happy with.

Final Thoughts

Pharmacist and Doctor both are different career fields. Although pharmacists and doctors both are healthcare professionals, duties, responsibilities, salary, educational requirements, etc. of both are totally different. If you are confused about which profession you should get into, understand both fields’ job roles and choose the one that interests you the most.


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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