6 Most Common Questions About Transitioning From Pharmacy to Medicine

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Amassed from a large collection of pharmacy student/graduates from all different walks of life! I have have compiled the 6 most common questions and provided my short answers for direction. No lengthy introduction needed, let's dig in!

6 Most Common Questions About Transitioning from Pharmacy to Medicine

1. "Why did you want to go to medical school after pharmacy school?"

This is by far the most commonly asked interview question any pharmacy applicant will receive. You certainly need to have a compelling answer! For myself personally, I had always been fascinated with diagnostic/hands-on medicine. Unfortunately, these are features that are relatively uncommon in the pharmacy profession. I began my journey in pharmacy because I loved pharmaceutical science and was fascinated with the medication management. Additionally, a pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare professional in the country and I was exposed to the profession from an early age! More so, I was amazed with how a single pill could dramatically improve a patient's quality of life! As I progressed through pharmacy school we shifted to more clinical topics and I wanted to learn about differential diagnosis. Particularly the hands-on components related to the physical exam. I was passionate about working with labs, clinical symptoms, and imaging studies to piece together the correct diagnosis! This ultimately led to my transition into medicine!

2. "How important is the MCAT and when should I take it?"

For any pharmacist/pharmacy student interested in going to medical school, the biggest barrier you will likely face is taking the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). This is a massive test that requires hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of preparation to perform well! It is also the most important objective metric associated with your personal application. Grade Point Average (GPA) is a close second! High performance on the test is often required to be considered for interviews and attaining these high scores comes with unique challenges. The most significant factor for graduated pharmacists is not intelligence, but rather time limitations. Most undergraduates taking the MCAT will have an entire summer to prepare, while most practicing pharmacists will have to study outside of work! This is not to say that it can't be done, because it certainly can! I just want you to be aware that if you want to go to medical school, you need to take this test very seriously, and ideally treat your preparation like a second job!

For more details about the MCAT, check out "The Art of Applying to Medical School"

3. "How did you handle the added school debt?"

There are several financial features that each pharmacy student/graduate must consider before deciding to make the switch into medicine. On average, pharmacy graduates will accumulate approximately $160,000 in college debt during their 6-8 years of training. While a six-figure debt is less than ideal, most pharmacy graduates will pay this off within 10-15 years. If you are considering medical school, you will need to rationalize adding on an additional $200,000 of medical school tuition! For simplicity sake, I have excluded the added cost of loan-interest, but recognize that you may owe even more down the road. This is not to dissuade anyone from going to medical school, but I want you to be aware that following your dreams has costs! However, you can proactively limit your financial burden and overcome these limitations by maintaining a frugal lifestyle, consulting a financial advisor, and selecting a high paying medical specialty! Please note that I am not a financial advisor and specific financial questions and decisions should be made after consulting a licensed professional.

4. "Can you work as a pharmacist while in medical school?"

Absolutely! However, I would recommend you take your first semester of medical school off to get adjusted to the workload. I am currently working as a pharmacist and am averaging approximately 10-15 hours a week during school! It can be challenging during busy exam weeks, but most pharmacy professionals have excellent time-management skills and can overcome these scheduling conflicts!

5. "Does my pharmacy residency make me more competitive?"

The answer is 100% yes! While medical schools are still looking for objectively qualified applicants with high MCAT scores and GPAs, they are simultaneously looking for individuals with extensive life experience. A qualifying MCAT/GPA metric will get an applicant to the interview stage, but the qualities of the person are what secures the acceptance! Medical schools are looking for applicants with diversity of perspective, healthcare experience, and the ability to effectively collaborate with a multidisciplinary team. Past/current pharmacy residents fulfill all of these components and so much more!

For more details, check out the article "Should I Apply to a Pharmacy Residency or Medical School?"

6. "Can I still apply to medical school even after being out of school for many years?"

Yes, of course! It's never too late to make the transition, especially if you truly believe that doing so will make a difference in your life or others! There are a few additional factors that you may need to consider. For instance, you may need to re-take undergraduate level prerequisites because the course is outdated, not qualified, or was never taken in the first place! Physics I & II (with lab) are common classes that pharmacy students need to take prior to submitting a medical school application!

For More information about the Costs of Applying to Medical School, check out our article "How Expensive is Applying to Medical School? A Pharmacists Insight."

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