There aren't many industries that have flourished under COVID-19, but pharmaceuticals are one. During the height of COVID layoffs, pharmaceutical jobs held steady. They cut NO jobs in April while we hit record-breaking unemployment.
In fact, pharmaceutical jobs' layoff rate has been a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, and in some positions, they're actively hiring. If you're looking for a career change, it's worth considering an entry-level pharmaceutical job.
Let's look at the possibilities.
Pharmaceutical Sales Jobs
What's it like to be a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative?
Becoming a pharmaceutical sales representative can involve high risk and high reward. Job security depends on your ability to move product. Some people don't do so well under this kind of pressure, but those that thrive can earn a lot. According to the 2020 MedReps salary report, the average total compensation for pharmaceutical sales jobs is $151,217.
Even entry-level sales reps (with 2 years of experience or less) make bank with an average of $86,817. Earnings only increase after that. The lifestyle isn't for everyone. The MedReps survey reveals that successful individuals spend 50 to 75% of their time on the road. You also need a head for science, since your success depends on how well you can explain a pharmaceutical product to medical professionals.
What has the COVID-19 pandemic changed for Pharmaceutical Sales Jobs?
So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has spared pharmaceutical sales from the major layoffs seen in other industries. Some speculate that the pharma sales job market may actually have gotten stronger, even for companies that don't have a hand in COVID-related product development.
A recent Accenture study found that by May and June, 61% of healthcare providers reported interacting with pharma reps more than before. It turns out with fewer in-person appointments, doctors have more time to talk to sales reps and research new treatments.
That's why 88% said they want to hear about new treatments and therapies during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, sales reps were often lucky to score five minutes of facetime. That meant using canned talking points.
Now, doctors are more available, but they don't want to just be "spammed" with marketing materials. They want substantive and personalized answers to important questions. That requires a different kind of sales technique, but if it's up your alley, you could do very well.
How Do You Land a Pharmaceutical Sales Job?
The preferred candidates for pharmaceutical sales jobs have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field like chemistry. Some of the pharmaceutical giants will hire reps right out of college, but all pharmaceutical sales jobs are easier to land if you can prove previous success in a sales job. Look to spend one or two years at a sales company with a structured sales training program – it doesn't have to be related to the medical field at all.
Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technician Careers
What Has the COVID-19 pandemic Changed for Pharmacy Retail?
Before the pandemic, the future of pharmacy retail stores (and therefore, jobs) was pretty uncertain. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was predicting average job growth for pharmacy technicians (4%), but the job outlook for pharmacists was pretty grim – the BLS predicted a 3% decline. As with many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic turned these expectations on their head.
CVS went on a hiring spree while most industries were on firing sprees. Pharmacy students had their graduations fast-tracked to get them into the workforce. Part of the surge in demand is that pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians have been drafted for additional duties like testing and vaccination. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began to allow COVID-19 testing at pharmacies in April.
In a survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), 61% of pharmacy owners/managers predicted that non-invasive testing would become a permanent duty in their pharmacies – not just for COVID-19, but for other illnesses as well.
That's a big change when you consider that roughly 75% of respondents said that pre-pandemic, they'd never provided this type of testing. It also looks like vaccination services in pharmacies are going to expand. In the NCPA survey, 73% reported offering immunizations, but in most cases, that was influenza alone.
Only one in four pharmacies carried other vaccines. When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, pharmacies will almost certainly be part of the distribution effort. The HHS has already issued guidance declaring that vaccines can be administered by qualified pharmacy technicians and interns, not just pharmacists. In the meantime, we're seeing a sharp drop in childhood vaccinations by parents wary of taking kids into crowded waiting rooms.
Pharmacies could be the answer there, as well.
What is the Role of a Pharmacist vs Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians assist the pharmacist in filling prescriptions, while pharmacists are responsible to ensure the safe, legal, and accurate dispensing of medication. They're ultimately responsible for the professionalism of their pharmacy.
Pharmacy techs learn practical skills that make them employable in 2 years or less. Pharmacists need practical knowledge, too, but they also learn how drugs work and interact. It takes at least 6 years to become a licensed pharmacist.
In recent years, many tasks have shifted from pharmacists to pharmacy technicians, like managing inventory of medication and communicating with prescribing physicians. This is one of the reasons why pharmacist job growth has slowed while pharmacy technician job growth is high.
The role of a pharmacist is still an important one. They give immunizations, perform health screenings, review and approve prescriptions, educate patients on medications, and supervise the work of pharmacy technicians. Their education gives them the knowledge to catch dosage errors or potential drug interactions. You probably won't be surprised to hear that a pharmacist's salary reflects their educational investment and higher level of responsibility.
In 2019, their median pay was $128,090 per year according to the BLS. Pharmacy technician salaries are a lot more modest, but they require less up-front investment so you can start earning sooner. Plus, with growing demand, finding a job as a pharmacy tech is not a difficult task.
How Do You Become a Pharmacist?
To become a pharmacist, you have to complete an accredited Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. In general, it takes 6 years of higher education to earn a PharmD. The structure varies a little from program to program, but in most cases, you need 2 years of undergraduate then 4 years to earn your doctorate.
For community pharmacy (like working at CVS or a local drug store), you usually don't need to complete an internship. You do need to pass 2 exams: the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and a state-specific test on pharmacy law.
How Do You Become a Pharmacy Technician?
There's no national standard, so the requirements vary according to jurisdiction and employer. Some places allow pharmacy techs to get on-the-job training, while others require technicians to pass a certification exam first.
In any case, you'll have an easier time finding a job if you complete a widely recognized and well-respected certification program. Popular certifications include the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).
Become a Pharmacy Tech Online From Home
What better use can you make of pandemic time than training for a new career from the comfort and safety of your own home? Our Certified Pharmacy Technician program will get you ready for either the PTCB or ExCPT
We've been providing vocational distance learning for over 40 years, about 20 of them online. You'll graduate career-ready and our course fees won't break the bank. Plus, if you’re a military spouse, our programs are eligible for MyCAA scholarships and other DOD financial assistance.
You'll earn your certification on the government's dime, and your new career will be "portable" next time you PCS.