Pharmacist vs. Physician Assistant: Which Career Should I Choose?

You already know you don’t want to become a doctor. You just don’t have the desire to work long hours and spend thousands on malpractice insurance. But, you’re gifted in science and want to help others. Two great career choices to choose from are pharmacist and physician assistant. Both are in the medical field and are in high demand. Here are some key points to consider when comparing these career paths.

Pharmacists have the opportunity to become their own boss.

Do you not like being supervised by someone else? Would you prefer to be your own boss? Do you not want to have to deal with personality conflicts with a supervising physician? If you choose to become a pharmacist, you could own and manage your own pharmacy. However, if you become a Physician Assistant you will be supervised by a doctor. Now, this doesn’t mean he/she will be hovering over you, but you will have a boss to report to. This could mean that in your forties, you will be supervised by a doctor in his/her early 30’s.

Physician Assistants might have more variety on a typical day.

As a physician assistant, you will fulfill many of the same roles that a doctor does. You will treat patients, diagnose illnesses, counsel, and more. In most states physician assistants can prescribe medication as well. No two days will be the same. You could even assist in surgery, see patients in the hospital and more.

However, a typical day in the life of a pharmacist might be a little more monotonous. Sure they have some variety in the medications you dispense and check, but you won’t have as much variety as a PA. If you get bored of repetitive tasks, it is probably better to choose the career path as a physician assistant. Read “What is a Physician Assistant?” for more insight. You might also check out “Physician Assistant Is a Top Healthcare Career.” It is also helpful to read ‘A Day in the Life of a Pharmacist: What to Consider When Choosing This Career.”

Physician Assistants spend more time with people.

While pharmacists will interact with patients some, physician assistants spend much more time with people. If you are more of an introvert, a pharmacy career might suit you better. Both jobs require you to have excellent social skills, however physician assistants spend a significant more time talking with the patients. In many cases, a pharmacist will not even see the patient.

Pharmacists have a higher starting salary.

According to, the starting salary for a pharmacist is about $70,000 a year, usually much higher. Pharmacists can make up to $125,000/year or more. The starting salary for Physician Assistants can be as low as $63,000 a year in some areas, and they don’t usually make much more than $110,000/year. Both careers have very comfortable salaries, but pharmacists tend to earn more.

Pharmacists can choose flexible hours.

Do you think you’d enjoy working the graveyard shift? If so, you could become a pharmacist and work for a 24-hour pharmacy such as Walgreen’s. Pharmacists are also more likely to find part-time positions. They could also do relief work. If you owned your own pharmacy, you could choose to work only 8-5, if you wished.

Physician Assistants have more work settings to choose from.

Pharmacists can choose to work in a hospital, retail drug store, nursing home or even for a pharmaceutical company. All types of jobs, of course, will be working with medicine. Physician Assistants can work in clinics specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and even psychiatric care. They can also choose to work in surgery or surgical specialties. While pharmacists do have some choices, physician assistants have more variety to select from. They can work with people in different types of situations, where as pharmacists generally will only counsel people on medication.

Pharmacists do not have to deal with bodily fluids,

If you can’t stand the sight of blood, a career as a pharmacy might be your better pick. While you will have to study anatomy in pharmacy school, you will pretty much never have to see a patient’s blood, urine or other bodily fluid.

These are just a few key points to consider when comparing these careers. The best action to take, however, before you finalize your decision, is do a job shadow experience. Read “How to Find a Job Shadow Experience” for advice.

Another article to read is “Should I Become a Physician Assistant?”. This is especially helpful to read if you are trying to decide between becoming a doctor or a PA. You might also take a look at “Pharmacist Career Information: Tips for Future Pharmacy Students.” Another great article to take a look at is “Why Should I Become a Pharmacist?”

If you are in high school, and still trying to decide on a college major, read “How to Decide on a College Major: Tips for Choosing a Career Path.”

Both of these career choices are fantastic paths to choose. They key is to choose the one that you think you’d enjoy the most. Good luck as you make decisions for your future!


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