Can you work while in Medical School? The Physician Pharmacist Do's and Don'ts

Whether you've finished the medical school application cycle or are just curious about the economics of medical school, the answer to our question is obviously yes! You undoubtedly worked as a pharmacy intern during school, so I am confident that you can easily work as a higher paying pharmacist. It's apparent that your role in the pharmacy will change and you will have expanded responsibilities, but you have been training for this moment for 4 years. You'd be surprise how prepared you are for this new undertaking. Keep in mind that just because you can work, doesn't necessarily mean that everyone should. The amount you work should be based on how well you are doing in medical school. Matching into the residency specialty of your dreams should still be the primary focus!

Can you work while in medical school?
From Pharmacy Intern to Physician Pharmacist

NAPLEX/MPJE Timing:

Before you can even consider working as a pharmacist during medical school, you need to get your licensure affairs in order. For those who are already graduated, you can skip this section, as you have already obtained your pharmacy license. However, if you are graduating pharmacy school and matriculating soon thereafter, you have a difficult decision to make. That being "Should I get licensed?" What was once such an obviously simple question is no longer quite as easy for a Pharmacy Student turned Medical Student. The biggest challenge is the added time required for preparation, along with the fear of underutilization of the license (especially considering the financial burden of obtainment).


What I mean by this, is that most pharmacy students who elect to matriculate immediately after finishing pharmacy school have only 3-4 months of time to prepare and take national boards. These include the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). Some unfortunate souls will have to take additional examinations on top of these including California's Specialty Exam (CSP) or the Infamous New York State Compounding Exam! Managing all these responsibilities in such a short period of time can drive a student off the deep end. I personally took my last licensure exam the first day of medical school. Talk about needing a break!


Please note that the exams and licensing requirements you are responsible for are highly specific to your state of practice. This can be an additional challenge for pharmacy students who plan to attend a medical school outside of their home/pharmacy school state. Learning new pharmacy laws and fulfilling experience hours can be a yet another task to tackle!


While gearing up to study for these difficult exams is far from ideal, I would still recommend that you get licensed to practice! You have worked so hard over the years to get that first doctorate and I think it would be a disservice to yourself if you passed up on the opportunity to use your degree.


Working In Medical School:

Now that you are a licensed pharmacist, your next step is figuring out When you should work, along with Where you should seek employment. You should ideally start looking for work after your first semester of medical school. Like everything, you need to give yourself an adjustment period and see how well you handle the rigors of medical school. No sense in stressing yourself out over Pharmacist Position Interviews or handling technician scheduling when you just started a new graduate program!


Once you get the hang of things, typically after a successful first semester, you should begin your hunt for a pharmacist job. The real challenge is finding a position that understands your workload and respects that you have an extremely variable schedule! Exam dates change frequently and mandatory sessions seem to pop-up every week which makes holding down a professional pharmacist position difficult.


The COVID-19 Pandemic has created plenty of part-time pharmacist positions involving vaccination clinic assistance. This is how I personally started my pharmacy career during medical school! The hours are flexible and the work is relatively straight forward (in comparison to running a community pharmacy). I would recommend interested graduates seek out these opportunities first because these positions are very compatible with the medical school curriculum. Alternatively, a part-time checking pharmacist position can be just as lucrative. Do some research to see if there are any local Long-Term Care Pharmacies hiring. In my opinion, these positions are perfect for a PharmD/Medical Student because they tend to be "closed-door" practice sites and are locally owned. Finding one of these gems will allow you to start working relatively quickly while avoiding a complicated bureaucratic onboarding process seen with mainstream chains like CVS, Rite Aid, and so on. As a checking pharmacist you get to utilize your pharmaceutical knowledge while minimizing some of the less than enjoyable encounters you may experience at a standard community pharmacy. Don't get me wrong, working with patients is an extremely fulfilling part of a pharmacist's job, however when you are busy stressing about your exam schedule, the last thing you want to deal with is an unruly customer or dealing with a difficulty insurance company.


These are just two particular examples that I can recommend from personal experience, but I am confident that there are plenty of other fortuitous positions available in other pharmacy industries. Look into specialty pharmacy sites, a position as a hospital checker, or even something related to managed care. Some of you may be able to continue practicing with the same employer you served as a pharmacy intern!


Common Questions:

1. How many hours can you work a week?

I work approximately 10-15 hours a week. Keep in mind that this rough value is highly variable depending on my test schedule. For instance, if I know I have an exam coming up, I will work extra shifts during the off-week in order to free up my exam week. The amount of hours you work will be highly dependent on your programs curriculum, along with how well you are performing in school. Your grades/class rank are far more important than picking up a few extra dollars! For more information about choosing the right specialty, check out "How to Choose A Medical Specialty: A Pharmacist Perspective."


2. How did you find a pharmacy job?

Your first approach may involve visiting 3rd-party job posting sites like Indeed.com or Glassdoor.com, but it will be difficulty to find a position that suits your limited schedule. Most of the postings advertised on these sites are full-time offers or extremely competitive roles. I found my positions by directly emailing/calling community and long-term care sites in my region. Sometimes it's best to have a good old fashioned conversation with another pharmacist and explain what you are specifically looking for. I have found that this approach allows you to lay out your goals, establish clear lines of communication, and ultimately secure the position you need. They may even create a position for you if they need a few extra hands around! It never hurts to ask!


In Summary:

After getting accepted to medical school, I was transiently concerned that I would never get to utilize my pharmacy training. Of course the medical knowledge sticks with you, but to actually practice in a pharmacy setting is far different. This article's purpose is to disarm that feeling and shed some light on a complex (and borderline crazy) idea that you can in fact work during medical school. Fortunately, I was able to find employers who are willing to accept my erratic schedule, and I am confident that you will as well! Everyone is going to have a different experience during medical school but once you fully adjust to your new schedule, you will be surprised just how far you can push the limits!


_______________________________________________________________________________

If you haven't even started your journey into medical school, check out our other Blog Articles here.


For more questions, review our article "6 Most Common Questions About Transitioning From Pharmacy to Medicine."


For more information consider signing up for a Membership with The Physician Pharmacist for complete access to our comprehensive guide. Additionally, check out "Pharm.D. to M.D." on Amazon.


Thank you for the support!

179 views0 comments