Considering Academia? Guest Post by a PhD student

Considering Academia?

So you’ve worked in community or hospital pharmacy (or both) and fancy a bit of a change. How about a PhD to add to your list of achievements? Why not? Hmm, maybe consider the pros and cons below…

Pro:        You set your own working hours             

Great! You’ve worked 9-6 five days a week in a job where you can’t even leave your place of work during your shift. It doesn’t leave much time for the practicalities like doctor/dentist appointments. Or a lunch break where you get to sit down uninterrupted for more than 10 minutes. With a PhD if you can pop out when you like, turn up when you like and go home when you like. Awesome!

Con:       You set your own working hours

The onus is entirely on you to manage your time. Which means if you spend too much time during the day on Daily Mail/BBC News/Guardian/Facebook/Twitter/Mr Dispenser’s blog/*insert procrastination website of choice* you will go home feeling incredibly guilty so you feel you have to compensate for time lost by doing work in your supposed ‘free’ time. And then feel guilty if you don’t. Which turns into a continuous cycle of guilt that you can’t get out of. Which will eventually drive you mad.


Pro:        Your PhD may make a difference

You could discover that gene that is responsible for a type of cancer. Or you could implement an intervention that improves patient adherence to their medication.  Or find that pharmacoepidemiological link between a common drug and a common condition or side effect. Something you work on during your PhD could potentially save lives or change pharmacy practice in the future. Plus you get the pleasure of calling yourself Dr.

Con:       Your PhD may make a difference…but you couldn’t care less

Your thesis instead can just become a means to an end to get the PhD out of your life. It’s very easy to become disillusioned with your research when you suffer setback after setback, whether it be lab equipment on the blink, agonizingly slow recruitment of patients or the long, ridiculous process of ethical approval just to be allowed to have a chat with some pharmacists. Because when you reach the end of three funded years without having submitted you don’t care about your results and just want the thing out of your life so you can get a proper job and start earning actual money.


Pro:        You get to work closely with lecturers you admired (or were scared of) during your undergrad

I returned to my alma mater to do my PhD in the same department that I did my undergrad pharmacy degree. My supervisors are well respected in their field so I know the skills and knowledge that are rubbing off on me will be invaluable to me. And they really aren’t that scary. Plus you get to call them by their first names.

Con:       You get to work a bit too closely with former lecturers

When both your supervisors are pharmacists they can be a bit matter of fact about health issues. Being quizzed by one of them about my bowel movements when I was ill last year was quite possibly the most cringeworthy meeting I’ve ever had to sit through. Maybe this is too much information in itself. Aaanyway…


Pro:        You get paid quite generously for demonstrating the modules you hated

Taking undergraduate tutorials in the dispensing and OTC practice modules for the past 3 years makes me forever grateful that I have that stage of my pharmacy education long behind me.  You’d almost feel sorry for the poor wee lambs. And breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not you in their place.

Con:       You may get paid generously but the marking is mind numbing…zzzzz

Whether it’s marking the same extemp product 20-30 times for nearly four hours straight or the 35+ tutorials and homeworks every week, being a demonstrator can try the patience of a saint. And I’m no saint.


Pro:        Your PhD can open the door to alternative career paths

Industry, teaching, further research, back to community or hospital. The world is your oyster!

Con:       Your PhD can open the door but might not be enough to let you in

Like any area, academia is a competitive, fickle and slightly ruthless place. You must be prepared to dedicate a large proportion of your life to your job in order to make progress up the ranks. I did this in first year and by the end of second year I was burnt out with a very negative view of everything academia is about. Don’t make the same mistake. Work life balance is something that must not be taken for granted.


Pro:        You get student discount again

Speaks for itself!

Con:       You are a student again in your mid to late twenties

While the friends you went to school with are growing up, getting married, buying houses and being sensible and settling down in general, you’re static or going backwards. Still renting, still single, still living in a student area, stuck in a general rut. (This is just me being bitter though, several of my PhD friends are married and/or own their own home).


So have a good long think before you jump feet first into academia. Might be worth dipping a toe in with a diploma or masters first to get a taste of things to come.


Disclaimer: This was written by a very disillusioned PhD student who really doesn’t like their PhD. It is not intended in any way to be representative of all PhDs. Other (far more positive) PhD views are available. I think.





4 thoughts on “Considering Academia? Guest Post by a PhD student

  1. Doctor of Pharmacy PharmD in USA is usually six-year degree with which pharmacists minimally graduate from pharmacy school in order to practice pharmacy as the end or professional degree. Some schools require a previous degree at the bachelor level before application to the pharmacy program.This was a change since 1990 from five-year Bachelor of Science BS degree pharmacy which was the only one required to apply for pharmacist registration.

    Pharmacists with PharmD can do research, teach, and dispense, as sort-of the ‘all-purpose’ degree nowadays. But, to tell the truth, not all professors in all schools have a PharmD. Some might have BS (or Masters in Science MS or Masters in Business Administration MBA) with advanced accredited experience. Law professors usually have juris doctor JD. Instructors might have a PhD in pharmaceutical science, pharmacology, or in some other science-based field or even psychology or communications, so to speak.

    When I was a pharmacy student in the 70s, ’80s , it was mandatory at my school that instructors all had been registered as pharmacists at one time or another. This was/is not required at all schools, however.

    Also, the PharmD doctorate is not ‘grandfathered’ for those who were licensed to practice pharmacy before the change in degree required to register, just so long as it was a from an accredited American school of pharmacy.

    I graduated BS in 1980s, then did a one-year hospital residency, and started taking courses required for non-traditional PharmD program while working full-time. In the year I took the seven one-month long clinical rotations, I dropped back to part-time to meet the required clinicals for the last year of the PharmD program and am RPh BS Pharm PharmD.

    In USA there is an appellation noted as ‘PD’ which stands for pharmacy doctor for those who’ve graduated any pharmacy school past or present, but it is not conferred by a school of pharmacy and is mainly used as a vanity license.

    Question. What degree is required for pharmacists to register to practice pharmacy in UK, i.e. RPh?

  2. As a fellow PhD student, I applaude the honesty of this person, a lot of what as been said is similar to comments I have made to fellow pharmacists just recently.
    To quote the great philosopher Forest Gump ” Life is like a box of Chocolates” this applies to your PhD. you find a tutor you find a project but do you really know what you have agreed to or what the next 4 years for you life will hold?
    I still work as a community pharmacist and a demonstrator and it is so much fun, not just to get a break from the meaning of the world in the philosophy modules but to actually speak to people.
    Those little lambs may one day be pharmacists and I tell you the other day one really scared me that they would be let out of the building let alone on patients! But I suppose I was there a few years ago I just dont remember being so socially challenged. Why be a pharmacist if you can’t communicate to others?
    Don’t get stuck in the rut, and don’t do a PhD to solve a mid- life crisis. I would jump in a soon as you know you want to do it before you forget how the UNI system works and before you need every penny you earn to support you family or lifestyle. Stypens are tight! Less than a Pre-Reg! So it is not glamorous! other perks include reduced or free council tax! And the acceptability to show up for work about 10 ish when you were ment o be there at 9.

  3. In the Uk you now need an Master of Pharmacy which is 4 years or 5 if you do a sandwich course. Then you do a year in a placement as a Pre-registration pharmacist ( a glorified dispenser) then you do an exam to join the register of the GPhC. Then if you pass you pay a fee and you are let loose on the world. Then you have options to do clinical diploma an MSc or PhD or even the newest one a DPharm. In the UK after your clinical diploma you can continue to study and become an independent prescriber.
    Hope that clears it up for you LDPlaceboeffect.

  4. Thanks, a lot Miss Apotheke. This raises a lot more questions, but it’s eye-opening that not at all how imagined in the rest of the world.

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