Transitioning out of bench science . . .

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Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jul 25, 2005 3:33 pm

Here is another great success story posted by another reader of the site, with some excellent detail on why the PharmD is worth consideration for the myriad job opportunities that result.

"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby David » Mon Jul 25, 2005 3:34 pm

"Has anyone here made a similar type of transition? What kinds of criteria did you use to make the decision to leave academic science? What turned out to be easy/difficult about the new situation?"

After earning my Ph.D. in chemistry I spent 4 long years working in industry. I too lost that excitement I once had for research, not to mention the dismal salary/hours worked ratio. I spent one year researching alternative careers, with much of the initial focus being placed on jobs requiring no new education or work experience, but wasn't interested in anything I could find on the web or through the literature. I later began investigating careers in the health care professions and this is where I quickly turned my attention.

For anyone with an advanced degree in a biology or chemistry related field, an interest in communicating your knowledge to "ordinary" people on a daily basis, a job where you utilize your analytical and critical thinking skills to solve problems that affect the health and well being of individuals, a career in pharmacy is one you might want to seriously consider. Current pharmacy programs require 4 years of schooling, culminating in the Pharm.D. degree. Graduates are being offered 3 - 5 jobs each, prior to graduation, with annual starting salaries typically exceeding $100K per year. I made this transition 3 years ago and couldn't be happier. Pharmacy isn't just a career, but a profession with a huge shortage, huge demand, steady rise in starting salaries, and (most importantly) a thoughtful community of professionals limiting enrollment to ensure that the demand is always in excess of the supply of new graduates.

When considering a career change, keep in mind the important issue of job security. I once read in "Chemical and Engineering News" that job security isn't your ability to retain your current position, but the ease at which you can find a new job. Much of the advice posters on this forum have given people with similar interests in changing careers (although useful and valuable) is a quick fix to a bigger problem. Nobody has a clue as to what affect outsourcing will play on the future of science and engineering jobs in this country, but rest assured, future employment opportunities will be great in service oriented professions. Finding a way to utilize your knowledge and skills to accomodate the ever changing job market is key to survival.

I'm not trying to sell Pharmacy as a career, it's certainly not for everyone, but all of your hard work and long hours spent studying science doesn't have to go to waste. It will certainly help get you through any health related professional program, and provides a set of tools to make you a more affective problem solver than the ordinary pharmacist/physician/etc ...

For those still interested in an industrial research career, but aren't having much success finding employment, consider a post doc in one of the high demand pharmaceutical science fields (especially pharmacogenomics or toxicology).

Regards, David

Question for David: Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby Liz » Mon Jul 25, 2005 3:38 pm

David, congratulation on your success. I have some questions?

How difficult was it to get admission at Pharmacy school? Did you have some experience working at pharmacy before application? Who did you ask for recommendation letter? Your PhD advisor? and what was their reaction? on interview what did you tell them on why you want to make a transition from PhD in chemistry to PharmD?

Since you had a PhD, did it take you shorter time to finish the program? or you completed the whole four year program?

Question for David: Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby Kim » Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:34 pm

PharmD requires another 4 years of education and more debts. Big debts. It should not be the decision taken lightly for a PhD seeking a way out.

No, you do not need industry experiences to get an admission. And you do not even need BS to get an admission, though you need to take certain classes, for examples, organic chemistry, biology 101...

When I was a PhD student and a TA at an organic lab class, I once wrote a recommendation letter for one of my students (a college sophmore). She later was admitted to UCSF PharmD program.

David is right. PharmD is not right for everyone, just like PhD is not right for every person. For some people, pharmacist can be a terribly boring job. Standing behind the counter and weighting and counting pills and filling out prescription all day long. It reminds me of preparing buffers in a lab. And there is not much upward mobility, neither. A person can expect to do the same thing everyday until he/she retires. But it is a high paid job.
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Question for David: Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby David » Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:07 pm

Hi Liz, below are my responses to your inquiries.

"How difficult was it to get admission at Pharmacy school?"

The Ph.D. helps, but it's still very competitive. 5 years ago about 1 out of 3 applicants were admitted, this year it was 1 out of 12 at WSU.

"Did you have some experience working at pharmacy before application?"

No, but I shouldered a pharmacist 1 day in a community pharmacy and another in a hospital.

"Who did you ask for recommendation letter?"

My advisor and a close friend. However, from what i've heard from faculty involved on the admissions committee, they don't pay much attention to recommendation letters. Your education, GPA, and PCAT scores are the primary decision making variables.

"Your PhD advisor? and what was their reaction?"

My advisor always wanted me to pursue a faculty position, so he wasn't overly thrilled with my decision, but understanding.

"Since you had a PhD, did it take you shorter time to finish the program?"

No, professional programs are very structured. You may have to repeat the basic science courses they offer during the first year, but after that it's all new material. The four years isn't really that long, and worth it if you're serious about a change. There's plenty of information available on the web for your viewing if you're interested in learning about career opportunities for Pharm.D. graduates and future projections for the roles of Pharm.D.'s in the health care system.

Regards, David

Question for David: Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby David » Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:37 pm

Hi Kim. I don't want to make too much of an issue about pharmacy careers, but you made several statements which aren't entirely accurate.

Historically, and still true today, pharmacist that work in a community pharmacy setting pretty much "pour and lick" as you alluded to. However, recent legislation, and anticipated new legislation, at both the state and federal levels are resulting in dramatic changes within the profession. It is expected that in the future physicians will make a diagnosis and determine the patient to be in need of drug therapy. They then send this "blank prescription" to a pharmacist where he/she will figure out based on the patients disease state, genetic profile, other medications being used, etc ... what medication(s), dose, dosing frequency, and route of administration to give. This is EXACTLY what pharmacist working in clinical (hospital) settings are already doing. And monitoring patients drug therapy is another major role pharmacist play.

Much of the dispensing role is being delegated to pharmacy technicians, freeing up the pharmacist to get more involved in therapeutic decision making. I would like to point out that some states have already passed laws that allow pharmacist to intervene and overide prescriptions by a physician.

As for the link between science and health care for pharmacist, genetic variability in drug metabolising enzymes, signal transduction proteins, dna promoter regions, etc ... will play an increasing role in therapeutic decision making for pharmacist. The future of the profession will be drastically different than the past. This is already apparent from the recent elimination of the BS degree from pharmacy programs, resulting in only Pharm.D. graduates hence forth.

" For some people, pharmacist can be a terribly boring job."

I had the same opinion of working in a lab, seeing the same 8 or 9 faces per day, writing/reviewing papers, preparing/giving talks, applying for SBIR grants, etc ...

Regards, David

Question for David: Transitioning out of bench science . . .

Postby Pete » Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:18 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the valuable feedback. Is it possible to enroll for DPharm as a part time student? If yes, how long would it take? and Is it common to see students pursuing a part time option?
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