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In your opinion, who has the upper hand: PharmDs or Engineers?

  1. Dec 26, 2011 #1
    Hi. I'm a freshmen student in the Biochemical Engineering major. I like doing math and physics a lot, because I find the topics very intriguing, stimulating, interesting, and fun. I love that it is all logic and it learn them will allow me to learn how our world works. However, I do not feel that I have the creativity and communication skills to be a Engineer. I also don't see myself being an Engineer for the rest of my life. Also, Engineers have a hard time finding jobs, and are always worried about job security, especially in times of economic hardships- job security is my # 1 priority.

    So my question is: Do pharmacists (pharm D.) or Engineers have the upper hand, in terms of job security, likeliness and easiness of finding employment, less stress,etc? And according to my interests in the math courses required for Engineering majors, but lack of interest for the Engineering career itself, am I unfit to be an Engineer? What major and job position would you recommend me? Thanks so much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2011 #2


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    There will always be an elderly population, and that elderly population will always need medication.
  4. Dec 26, 2011 #3


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    I have an old friend who is a pharmacist. He is also an attorney (though he hates law) and ran a pretty darned successful jewelry-import business until the economy crashed and burned. Pretty sweet gig because his frequent trips to Nepal were all deductible as business expenses.

    Anyway, his fall-back is always pharmacy jobs. He can get jobs in hospitals, drug stores, big-box stores with in-house pharmacies, etc. If he is willing to juggle a few of those, he can take part-time jobs providing weekend/evening/vacation-replacement coverage.
  5. Dec 26, 2011 #4
    I can tell you statistically what is right now. However, that's not a guarantee of what you will see when your career is 20 years old. If I knew things like that, I would be an investor and I'd be very rich.

    That said, if you can stand being a pharmacist, I think it will be likely you can find work. But I have rarely ever seen someone pick a profession based upon perceived job security.
  6. Dec 26, 2011 #5
    Thanks for your help, guys (and girls) :)

    Anyone else? I really need to make a decision soon because I taking the engineering math courses will lower my GPA and make me less competitive for Pharmacy school. :\
  7. Dec 27, 2011 #6
    Let me dispel a myth here: Engineers are not mathematicians. They use mathematics to apply the scientific discoveries to their projects. Higher level math is not commonly used outside of academia. The math you will encounter in an engineering degree program may seem difficult to an outsider, but it is comprehensible and it is something you can get good at if you choose to do so.

    You may not like the way mathematics courses are taught. I didn't think much of it either some 20 years ago. Everyone used slightly different notation without introducing it or explaining why they used it. I have also had teachers who would transform from equation A to Equation B and explain that "it's intuitive." Uhh, No. It's Not. What you will discover when you scratch the surface is that there are many idiot savants out there who can not explain what they're doing or why. THAT is why math is hard. Imagine some goofy kid who dances really well, but can't explain the moves. It's the same problem.

    I'm not sure why women have a harder time with mathematics courses than men. I have seen research that suggests this is a cultural thing. My suggestion: practice raising your hand and asking questions, even for seemingly stupid things. If you don't understand the answer, discuss it after class.

    But above all, do not assume that Math is hard for girls. I say this as a father of two daughters and a son. I will not let my daughters slide through school without a reasonable appreciation of the beauty of mathematics.
  8. Dec 27, 2011 #7
    You could always look at the engineering courses as a plus for pharmacy school because they will make you different than most of the people that apply.

    Having said that, I would talk to an advisor at your school about what engineers actually do and what you think you are interested in...there is a glut of pharmacists in the market (in the USA). Google student doctor forums and read the pharmacy section on their site. You'll see the opposite of what people are telling you here about PharmD.

    You can do a lot with an engineering degree, even if you aren't actually working in an area that's normally thought of as engineering.
  9. Dec 27, 2011 #8
    Have you thought about being an actuary?
  10. Dec 30, 2011 #9
    There is other stuff too like an actuary. Like high frequency trading/computational finance - though that is really specialized.
  11. Dec 31, 2011 #10
    PharmDs are starting to go the way of JDs---complete oversaturation of the labor market due to the fact that too many new schools opening up and too many schools are pumping out degrees like candy for not enough jobs in a field that is increasingly becoming consolidated and automated. There is no organization (like how the AMA limits the number of MD degrees) that limits the number of PharmDs that can graduate every year.

    Due yourself a favor and carefully research job prospects before deciding to take out $150k in student loan debt. Don't buy the hype that schools like to preach about high salaries and employment statistics of their graduates. Schools only care about your tuition money and not you and your debt burden. Many schools massage the stats to paint very obtuse pictures of the employment and salary situations of their recent grads.
  12. Jan 3, 2012 #11
    Thanks. I'll keep that in mind. "Massage" - interesting choice of word.
  13. Jan 3, 2012 #12
    I've never thought of me being an actuary before. i haven't ever heard about the profession until a classmate in high school told me that he wanted to be one. He is very good at math, so compared to him, i didn't think i was smart enough. Do you think Actuary degrees/courses are easier than those of Engineers? And I always thought that Actuaries would hold more responsibility than Engineers = more stress and more likely to get legally sued? I mean, isn't there like usually only one actuary per company, but multiple groups of Engineers per company? I'm not sure on that, I need to research more about actuaries. But there really isn't much info about actuaries, since there are only about 19,000 of them in the whole nation :\

    And who has the upper hand: PharmDs, Actuaries, or Engineers?

    I know, i know, it's so bad to choose a profession on employment rate/prediction alone, but I actually have interest in all three professions. I just don't feel good, sleep well ,or remain motivated in school if I can't constantly remind myself that I'm pursuing a profession that i will be likely to get a job in.
  14. Jan 3, 2012 #13
    Actuarial work is ultimately a business job where you do some math. You do need to be able to pass the actuarial exams, which are very difficult, but passing them is a little different than traditional notions of “smart”. Many very smart people fail to get through them.

    It probably depends more on the teacher and department than it does on the material. In the US the majority of actuaries do not have a degree (masters or otherwise) in actuarial science, so it doesn’t even apply. In other parts of the world it is different.

    I don’t think this is typically true. I’d bet a dollar that if you did some sort of study, you’d find the two very similar as far as work related stress is concerned. My limited experience (a few years in engineering firm, a few years in actuarial work) suggests to me that the variance is so high that differences in the mean don’t mean much.

    Most actuarial departments in medium to larger size insurance companies have a few dozen actuaries working there. Those individuals with less responsibility have lower stress levels, while the few near the top have higher. Consulting firms tend to be more stressful, but more lucrative. All of this is probably similar in engineering companies, but again it's going to differ tremendously between one company and another.

    In a knife fight I’d go with the engineers. In a gunfight I’d think it would be pretty even.

    Recognizing your decision is ultimately rather arbitrary can be helpful. You don’t need a degree in actuarial science to become an actuary in the US, so hedge your bets. Go with one of the others and pass a couple of actuarial exams while you’re in school.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  15. Jan 3, 2012 #14
    My opinion: Your ability to get a job in any one of those three fields will probably depend more on how awesome you are and less upon which you pick.
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