Pharmacist Career Information
What a Pharmacist does
Before we go any further let's enlighten you about the difference between Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Pharmacy is an applied science dealing with the chemistry/action of drugs and its preparation in medicines. It also includes the study of diseases and choices of treatments used to cure it.
Pharmacology is a pure and experimental science, which studies the action of drugs on living beings. It is possible for a pharmacist to shift career from pharmacy to pharmacology.
As a pharmacist, you'll be engaged in formulating and testing different drugs. You have to test it for its effectiveness as well as its side effects. "In this industry it's important to keep oneself updated about the prevailing diseases and its treatment. This is the only industry where the seller does not meet the end consumer. The only connecting factor between the drug seller and the patient is the doctor," says Shakil Nazim Kureshi, who has been the National Marketing Manager at Elder Pharmaceuticals for the past 12 years.
A pharmacist is generally employed as an industrial pharmacist, research pharmacist, retail pharmacist, medical representatives, and hospital pharmacist or in the government sector. There is also scope for teaching pharmacy in colleges and universities.
Now let's take a closer look at each one of these options:
Industrial Pharmacists: This is the most sought-after field in pharmacy. Here, as a pharmacist you'll work with a drug manufacturing company, developing new drugs, formulations and health care products.
As a pharmacy graduate, you could find work in production, research, logistics, testing or sales and marketing. With the development of newer and better drugs, pharmacists are constantly engaged in testing these new drugs and formulations, conducting clinical trials and quality assurance programmes to ensure safety and effective use of the drug in treating the disease.
Maintaining a detailed record of the side effects of the medicine on different people is also your job as a pharmacist.
Research Pharmacists: If you like the smell of laboratories and the sight of test tubes of all shapes and sizes, this is for you. Research pharmacists play a pivotal role in the discovery and development of new drug molecules and processes used in manufacturing them. This area has seen a flurry of activities with the introduction of 'Intellectual Property Rights'.
According to this latest law, it is illegal for companies to manufacture drugs developed by other companies. So Indian companies are now on the path to developing newer drug molecules on their own. Accordingly, the budget for research and development has gone up significantly in order to pay more attention to in house research.
Ranbaxy, Dr.Reddy's Labs and Orchid Chemicals are some of the prominent Indian companies that are very active in the field of R&D. Some of the prominent government organisations engaged in drug research include Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, National Chemical Lab, Pune and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad.
Retail Pharmacists: Here as a pharmacist, you could own or manage a chemist shop or a drug store and dispense drugs and medicines prescribed by doctors. Medical knowledge is necessary to inform your customers about the use, hazards, interactions and side effects of the drugs you dispense.
Pharmacists also monitor the sale of drugs based on prescriptions and dosage. As a pharmacist, you also often offer advice on over the counter medicines (which do not need a prescription) and other health care products. Referring patients to doctors, when required, for treatment is also your job.
However, as a pharmacist you would be doing much more than just handing out medicines for the ill. You'll also dish out everyday items from baby-care products to food products. All this means additional work in terms of accounting, marketing and stock control for our already worn out pharmacists.
Hospital Pharmacists: These semi doctors deal with legal, professional and administrative requirements for the preparation, storage and supply of medicines in hospitals and clinics. A pharmacist is responsible for the procurement, storage and dispensation of various medicines and other healthcare products in a hospital.
Besides, pharmacists have to keep an account of the daily requirements and stock and ensure a constant supply of life saving drugs and medicinal products. A pharmacist also makes sterile solutions for use in the hospital and in surgical procedures and performs administrative duties as well.
Hospital pharmacists also get to be a part of hospital research projects and impart knowledge to pharmacy students and other health service personnel.
Medical Representatives: If you don't like the idea of an indoor job this could be a good option. As a pharmacist, you'll be employed in a drug manufacturing pharmaceutical company as a medical representative. Your job as a pharmacist will involve visiting doctors, retail pharmacies and hospitals and providing credible information on new drugs to them.
Explaining the advantages of your product over the competitors' will be your job. Stamina and excellent conversational skills will prove handy. As a pharmacist, you will be allotted many areas and it will be your responsibility to visit the various doctors, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and health care centers in that area to spread product awareness.
Government Jobs: The government also employs pharmacists mostly in government owned hospitals and health centers. Job openings also exist in the Food and Drug Administration department of the various state governments.
A pharmacy graduate can pursue a career in different functional areas:
Production: As a supervisor in any of the various departments like tablets, capsules, syrup, injectibles, etc.
Quality Assurance Department: As a Q & A chemist in a pharmaceutical company.
Research & Development: This is the most sought after field within pharmacy. You got to be having an M.Pharma or PhD to work as an R&D chemist.
Sales & Marketing: A pharmacy graduate with a flair for selling can excel as a medical representative and subsequently rise up.
Brand Manager: A B.Pharma degree along with a PG qualification in management gains you an entry in brand/product management.
Entrepreneurship: As a Pharmacist you could set up your drug-dispensing store (a chemist store). It requires both professional ability as well as management and marketing skills. A Pharmacist can also consider your own distribution firm for analytical laboratories. Better still set up your own drug farm for producing raw materials and growing herbs and plants.
Government: You can join government regulatory agencies like the FDA as a drug inspector and over a period of time rise to the position of Drug Controller. A degree in law will be helpful.
Hospitals, clinics and nursing homes: As a hospital pharmacist you will be involved in the preparation, storage and supply of medicines.
Consultancy: A pharmacy degree combined with a legal qualification is a lethal combination for those wanting to work as consultants or patent lawyers for pharmaceutical products.
The Indian pharmaceutical sector, post 2005, under the product patent scenario, various multinational drug companies are expected to introduce top of the line research products.
The need for qualified individuals will increase since Indian companies like Ranbaxy will have to compete with MNC’s like Pfizer in terms of research and development.
Abilities & Traits Required
The most important thing here as a Pharmacist is a genuine liking for science, particularly life sciences and medicine. A keen sense of responsibility comes next. Bear in mind that you are dealing with lives here. And as such there is no scope for trail and error. Ability to put in hard work and strong logical thinking is a must for a Pharmacist.
As a Pharmacist if you are aiming at a research oriented job you start taking those exams seriously. Strong academic foundations will see you through.
"To make it as a successful medical representative, good communication skills and a flair for convincing people together with the ability to learn quickly will be an added advantage. Travelling and meeting people should be a pleasure," adds Kureshi. Retail pharmacists need to have business skills together with good product knowledge.
As far as the academic qualifications go, a CBSE or equivalent with an aggregate 50 per cent marks in science are required. Apart from this, budding pharmacists have to go through a qualifying examination in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English. In some places, you also have maths as an additional subject.
The Bachelor's course (B Pharma) takes four years to complete. Another two years and you get a Master's (M Pharma) in pharmacy.
Diploma holders are usually offered the position of a pharmacist. Degree holders get jobs either in production or as medical representatives. They can also opt for retail.
Master's and Doctorate degrees lead to employment as research scientists or lecturers/professors in pharmacy colleges.
You can specialise in Clinical Pharmacology (effects of drugs on skin) or Toxicology (effects of poisonous substances on living organisms). If you do well you have a chance to work as researchers.
Another interesting field is pharmaceutical management as there is a dearth of professional marketing and management driven approach in the Indian pharmacy industry.
Graduates can take up a course in pharmaceutical management from recognized universities. Entrance tests and group discussions comprise the filtering process.
In this field your pay will actually depend on the organisation you work for.
Research scientists can expect anything between Rs 25000-60000 per month.
Medical representatives can take home Rs 40000-50000 a month plus incentives.
Hospital pharmacists get Rs 25000-35000 a month, whereas government jobs pay Rs 25000-35000 per month (basic), plus some other allowances and benefits as per government rules.
Experienced nurses with specialisation command a better salary in the private job market, i.e. the clinics, corporate hospitals, etc. Private nurses, who work on 12-hour shifts and devote all attention to one patient, are also paid well.
Most nurses get fringe benefits like paid vacation, sick leave, health and retirement benefits, dental and vision insurance.