Software Engineer Vs Pharmacist

Software engineering and pharmacy are the popular career fields out there. You might be confused about whether to become a software engineer or a pharmacist. If so, this article is going to help you. Before pursuing any career field, it is imperative to have a proper idea for duties, responsibilities, salary, education requirements, etc. Considering these factors would help you decide whether to get into software engineering or pharmacy.

Here we have talked about duties, responsibilities, education requirements, qualifications, required skills, and salary to become a software engineer and pharmacist.

Software engineer employye

Software Engineer

Software engineers are responsible for writing, debugging, maintaining, and testing software. They develop software solutions by studying information needs, conferring with users, and studying systems flow. Software engineers instruct computers to accomplish certain tasks like saving information and performing calculations. As a software engineer, you need to be good at various programming languages like Python, Java, C++, etc.

Becoming a software engineer doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a degree. There are many self taught software engineers out there. Depending on the company, some prefer candidates with the degree, while many give more importance to the skills & knowledge of the candidates.

Duties & responsibilities

Duties and responsibilities of software engineers include:

  • Execute full software development life cycle (SDLC)
  • Write well-designed and tested code
  • Analyze, design, and develop tests & test-automation suites
  • Test software development methodology in an agile environment
  • Document and maintain software functionality
  • Comply with project plans and industry standards

Education requirements & qualifications

Education requirements and qualifications for a software engineer job position will vary from one company to another. As we have seen, some companies give priority to the degree, while some companies just focus on the knowledge and skills of the candidates.

To become a software engineer, first you need to have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science, or related field. Having a degree is not enough. You need to have sufficient knowledge and experience of various programming languages like Python, C++, Ruby on Rails, Java, or there’s. Some other requirements include excellent written skills, excellent verbal communication, experience with test-driven development, and excellent knowledge of databases.

Required skills

Here are some required skills:

  • Analyzing information
  • Programming skills
  • Software designing
  • Software debugging
  • Software testing
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Software development processes


The salary of a software engineer varies based on various factors like education, experience, knowledge, skills, etc. The average salary of software engineers in the United States is about $86,730 per year.


We have seen that software engineers carry technical knowledge and experience in the field of programming. Talking about pharmacists, they are professionals who dispense drugs and review them before dispensing. Pharmacists are of different types – retail pharmacists, hospital pharmacists, ambulatory care pharmacists, consulting pharmacists, and compounding pharmacists.

As a pharmacist, your main responsibility will be to ensure the safety of the patients. If any prescription is unclear, the pharmacist may need to communicate with the prescriber. Apart from this, pharmacists also counsel patients regarding the usage of medications.

Duties & responsibilities

Some important duties and responsibilities of pharmacists include:

  • Prepare medicines after reviewing and interpreting patients’ orders
  • Dispense prescriptions
  • Counsel patients
  • Communicate with prescribers
  • Ensure patients’ safety
  • Work with patients on general health
  • Manage staff
  • Perform administrative tasks

Education requirements & qualifications

We have seen that to become a software engineer, having a degree is not necessarily important. You will find many self taught software engineers. Talking about pharmacist job position, degree is significant. To become a pharmacist, first you need to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from a pharmacy program accredited by the Accreditation Council for the Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Once you have the degree, you need to work on obtaining the licensure. Pharmacist license requirements vary based on the state. You must pass NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination) by the North Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Apart from this, most states also require candidates to pass MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam).

Required skills

Here are the skills required to become a pharmacist:

  • Attention to detail
  • Administering medications
  • Analyzing information
  • Focus on quality
  • Productivity
  • FDA health regulations
  • Communication skills


Salary is the crucial aspect to consider when selecting any career field. On an average, pharmacists make more money than software engineers. Your salary as a pharmacist will differ based on factors like experience, skills, education, pharmacy type, and more. The average salary of pharmacists in the United States is about $128,090 per year.

pharmacist and engineer

Software Engineer OR Pharmacist

We didn’t want you to only take our word for it so we went out and scoured the internet for real Software Engineers and Pharmacist to get their responses. This information was curated from forums, websites and sub reddits. Nothing has been changed except any spelling or grammar where needed.

Real Professional Opinions

1. PharmToCS “Software Engineer” – I will discuss the difference between pharmacy and computer science from a financial viewpoint, as that seems to be one of your main concerns.

As a pharmacist, you would probably start out at $105-120k after graduating with $200k+ in student loans which will easily reduce your yearly salary to $75-90k for 10 years. The job market is saturated after a near doubling in the number of pharmacy school slots within the last 15 years. New schools continue to open up in a market which there are already 3-4 new graduates for each job opening. Despite the surplus of pharmacists, workload for individuals has skyrocketed as employers have become bolder at extorting labor from employees, threatening to replace them with the said surplus of pharmacists who are willing to work for less.

$100k starting salaries for computer science graduates are quite common. Job growth is much faster than in pharmacy. CS grads are in very high demand right now with many of them getting multiple offers from different companies. After 4-5 years of experience (time which you would have spent in pharmacy school), it wouldn’t be unsurprising to increase your salary to $125-150k with experience. Most importantly of all, you will be stuck with $200k+ less in loans.

We cannot predict the circumstances 5-10 years from now, but for the foreseeable future, job prospects will get worse as more schools open and student loans eat up more take-home pay as tuition rises. That being said, [return on investment of a CS degree] >>>>> [return on investment of a PharmD] right now. This is something that you and your parents should know from a financial standpoint.

Good luck.

2. PHarmeGirl611 “Software Engineer” – I would say go for the CS degree. Even if you start out earning less, the fact that this is something you have a passion for will drive you to further your knowledge & experience which will probably increase your $$ in the long run.

“I want to further seek knowledge in computer science, so that I may one day get into Virtual Reality or Artificial Intelligence research type of field. This is my dream, and this is what I “*believe*” I want to do.”
You have plans/hopes involving CS. You’ve imagined a future in it. You didn’t say anything like that about pharmacy.

At the end of the day it’s up to you. My advice would be don’t spend your time/money getting a degree to get a job you dread going to.

3. Pharmer1271 “Software Engineer” – The sheer difficulty of CS is a major barrier to entry into the field; you need not only the logic skills but a great deal of patience. If you can handle computer programming, then the sky is the limit in terms of prestige, earnings, and job satisfaction. Even when starting out, you can easily earn a six figure salary without the $200k+ debt required to become a pharmacist, and you don’t even need a CS degree to become a programmer if you learn it on your own. The job market is highly in favor of computer programmers over pharmacists right now.

Meanwhile, anyone with a pulse can get into pharmacy school.

4. Netmag “Shadow both and intern” – CS is not a panacea. You can make more than a Pharmacist, but then again you could make less. It depends on your specialty and what you’re working on. Also, it could be an advantage that you’re not tied to a few employers. However, it can also have a lack a stability when jumping from one employer to the next. This is fine when you’re young and in fact could even be seen as a benefit as you can be flexible. The other side to that is you MUST be flexible. If you’re looking for long term and have a family to provide for, you’ll have to be comfortable with jumping around until you retire. Ok, so you could latch on with a company for a while, but if it’s a corporation then you have to deal with corporate BS, layoffs, age discrimination as you get older, and so on even more so than Pharmacy. With Pharmacy you get some of these things too and you’ll roll with the punches better if you are also flexible, but you may not have to be quite as flexible. For CS, you do have the advantage of not having to sink 4 more years of money into an advanced degree though. So the main thing is there’s good and bad to any profession. Just do what you really want to and you’ll be alright. If you’re making a decision based on an easy pay day, you’re going to get screwed at some point either way.

Go into Pharmacy if you’re familiar with the type of work the various positions entail and would probably like doing something like that even if money wasn’t a factor (i.e. if you got paid 50k and school cost was not a burden would you still do it anyway?). If not or you’re repulsed by the possibility of having to talk to a patient face to face or you’re purely comparing the $ for what you do, then do something else.

Final Summary

From the above explanation, we can see that duties, responsibilities, education, etc. of software engineers and pharmacists are totally different. Software engineers are into programming and technical stuff, while pharmacists are into dispensing medications and counseling patients.

Both are totally different career options. Hence, both will have totally different work environments and job tasks. To figure out whether to choose software engineering or pharmacy as a career field, first, you need to know about your interest and expertise. If you think you are good at biology and chemistry, consider getting into pharmacy. And, if you are good at technical stuff, programming, etc., software engineering is for you.


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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