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The Real Poop

We're sure you've heard of "gateway drugs." Well, pharmacists are the gateway...to drugs.

Not the bad kind, of course. It is a pharmacist's job to distribute drugs—drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor—to individuals. (It is important to note that any drug taken in excess or when not legally prescribed can be "the bad kind." So please don’t take 36 muscle relaxers. You're not going to want your muscles that relaxed for another 60 or 70 years yet.)

However, passing out medication is only one aspect of what a pharmacist does. They are also medical advisors, answering patients' questions and monitoring their health and progress. Some pharmacists don't even work in a pharmacy (you would think that would be a requirement), but rather work in drug laboratories, hospitals or nursing homes. Pharmacists are everywhere. In fact, don’t look now, but there's one behind you right now. We said don’t look! Oy!.

It's a great living in a usually comfortable atmosphere. You have to deal every so often with hostile patients who come in complaining about this or that—my skin is coming off, my eyeballs just started dripping blood, blah blah blah. But you are also helping parents who are out at 2 in the morning trying to give some comfort to their child.

Many of the personality traits that lend themselves to making good physicians are the same ones that make good pharmacists. While the money is good, it's not your motivation for getting into this line of work. Your motivation is to help people. To follow in the grand tradition of healers whose sole purpose is to make us live longer and live better. You should have a big heart, a kind soul, and a sizable brain; come to think of it, it might be good if you are something of a hulk, as there are a lot of parts you're going to need to find room for.

Someone does not like cloudy days.

Although you are not on call and do not have to respond to many unexpected emergencies as a physician or surgeon might, you do need to be incredibly dedicated to your job and to the individuals who visit your pharmacy relying on your knowledge and advice. Not everyone drops in just to have a prescription filled. You really have to know your stuff, because if you make one misinformed drug endorsement or incorrectly explain how someone's prescription medication is to be used, it could be disastrous. You have the chance to take part in making the sick feel better, but you also have the chance to make them even sicker, so don't take the responsibilities you are assuming lightly. Until scientists figure out a way to create matzo ball soup in pill form, there is no one magical cure-all, and you will need to be able to correctly analyze a patient's symptoms and advise them accordingly.

Pharmacists play an important role, but they do not get paid as much as physicians, do not get to have enough one-on-one time with patients to feel the satisfaction of helping someone they have personally connected with, and have to attend just as much school in order to achieve their goal. Despite the downsides, you can make a more-than-comfortable living as a member of the medical community without having to dip your hands into open chest cavities or have patients dying in your arms. For some of the more squeamish among us, it may be worth the trade-off.