clinical laboratory scientist vs pharmacy - HELP!

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Confused in Sun Valley, California

34 months ago

Hi all,

Would like to get some advice on this forum - I'm a student debating to go into pharmacy or CLS (Clinical Laboratory Scientist - the guys who work in hospitals or reference labs and analyze blood, body fluid, microbiology, etc), could anyone with experience in the health field provide me with their insight? I'll share my thinking process:

FYI, I'm currently a senior pursuing a BS in Biology, might stay an extra year in school, have most of my pre-reqs done for pharmacy school and CLS, for pharmacy I'm missing Calc 2 and Speech and for CLS I'm missing Medical Micro, Hematology, and Chemical Analysis which I can take in the Fall semester if I choose to do so.

Pros of CLS:
-I recently discovered I really like microbiology.
-Would take less time than pharmacy school and cost less.
-Great job demand in CA (starting salary of $30-35/hr, can go up to $50/hr if you're a supervisor)

Cons of CLS:
-seems like little opportunity to advance/specialize
-seems like it's not super mentally challenging after a while?
-seems like can get boring after a while? can't know this until I'm actually in the career
-your boss is an MD (the pathologist)

Pros of Pharmacy:
-Academically speaking, I prefer pharmacy/drug interactions more than topics in CLS
-Good pay
-great opportunity to grow/advance into niche fields, especially if you do residency
-with a PharmD, you're independent and considered the expert in the field which I like

Cons of Pharmacy:
-job market seems to be really saturated, esp. with new schools opening up
-would take an additional 4 years + about 200K in debt for loans =O
-can also get boring like CLS

I've volunteered in a pharmacy and I've also shadowed a CLS. Still confused. In summary, I *think* I would prefer pharmacy but I don't want to make a stupid decision going into a saturated field in huge debt in bad economic time, or should I pursue my dream yadda yadda? Would appreciate advice =)

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anon in Sunland, California

34 months ago


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lol in Washington, District of Columbia

34 months ago

i thought i already told you to do pharmacy lol

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anon in Sunland, California

34 months ago

Yeah u did lol but someone from the CLS forum suggested I post my question in the pharmacy forum too to get opinions from both groups. I dunno i'm leaning towards CLS right now even though I got into pharmacy school. I don't wanna be 200k in debt with no job

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anon in Sunland, California

34 months ago

I have to say though I'm getting the impression that pharmacists are jerks/selfish and reluctant to help each other or potential students, that has been my experience both in person and online whereas CLS's seem to be more friendly and willing to give advice to a student

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Anon in Washington, District of Columbia

33 months ago

you're going to find jerks in every field. CLS included. trust me i used to work in a reference lab. it's going to be equally difficult finding jobs in both fields right now. for the CLS, especially in california, a lot are foreign grads from the philippines. sure $30/hr starting might sound good, but for the mt programs, they will cut out the bottom and only like top 70 students will go on to clinical. starts with like 100+ students. <-csudh

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Robin in Los Angeles, California

29 months ago

In my opinion,I would choose the CLS program. Well thats I'm pursueing. I was pre-pharm throughout my undergrad but I decided recently to persue CLS for three reasons: 1) less cost 2) less tuition and 3) no residency (which is "prefered" for any pharmacy job. I know a few pharmacists that hate their jobs but I also know a lot of pharmacists for love their jobs but their students are killing them (a few of them are paying up to $1600 a month which seems right with today's private school tuition fees).

One question though, where did you shadow? I'm working in a research lab but I want to get more clinical experience or at least shawdow someone in a clinical setting.

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Confused in Sunland, California

29 months ago

Well I kind of shadowed indirectly, I volunteer at a hospital in the pharmacy department and I called up the Lab Manager and explained I'm interested in microbiology and if I could come in for a quick tour. She spent about an hour or two with me and took me around the stations, showed me some slides, etc etc. Technically you're not allowed to volunteer in a hospital lab because of the risk of disease.

If you want to shadow someone I recommend you find someone who works in a lab who would be willing to give you a tour.

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fluffypenguin in Forest Hills, New York

27 months ago

did you make a decision yet as to be a cls or pharmacist? I'm curious since I'm also considering both careers.

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Confused in Tujunga, California

27 months ago

Yes, I did make a decision. I decided to stick with pharmacy school. My turning point was when I visited a large health system's central clinical lab. Basically this health system has many hospitals all over the state and they send their non-STAT specimens to be processed at this giant central location. It was a great shadowing experience and I was able to tour the different departments. I decided this career was not for me. Way too much automation and there is not much opportunity to move up or do something else with your license. I just couldn't see myself doing what the employees were doing day in and day out. There is also crazy new technology coming in, one machine particularly stuck out to me - it basically takes the tiniest drop of sample of micro-organisms and vaporizes it basically and by measuring the protein levels or something it tells you what bug you have (kind of like how HPLC works for chemistry). This is exactly how the clinical chemistry lab works - you feed something into a machine and the machine pops out the result, now it is being applied to microbiology which is traditionally more hands on. I recommend you SERIOUSLY check out both careers by shadowing or getting a job and deciding. If I did not have this experience, I would have gone into CLS and would have been unhappy.

On another note, I actually got a weekend job working at a clinical microbiology lab. I'm just doing it for the money while I'm in school. I'm just a lab tech so I do all the b*tch work but I'm hoping to learn more about antibiotics and resistance with this job b/c I am really interested in pharmacy + infectious disease and MAYBE pursuing a residency. I do fear finding a job in the future though and the tuition is crazy expensive at my school but I just have to work hard, do my best and hope for the best.

If you like healthcare I suggest maybe looking into PA programs. I was kind of thinking about that too at an earlier time but eventually decided against it. Good luck!

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Shadwa in New York, New York

20 months ago

Hello, I'm actually in your same shoes. I'm a clinical lab scientist at a hospital but I'm currently seeking graduate school. I'm interested in going into pharmacy, as opposed to graduate school. How do you like ur pharm programs and wht job prospects r u interested in pursuing?

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