Pharmacy or CLS?

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Confused in Glendale, California

49 months ago

Hi all,

Would like to get some advice on this forum - I'm a student debating to go into pharmacy or CLS, 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

Cons of CLS:
-seems like little opportunity to advance
-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

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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anonnnmoyus in Brooklyn, New York

49 months ago

What's the salary difference in California between those two?

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Confused in Sunland, California

49 months ago

Average for my current location for CLS is $70k/yr, for pharmacist it's $109k/yr

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anonnnmoyus in Brooklyn, New York

49 months ago

200k for pharm school is so expensive! any other cheaper alternative? added with market saturation...I think your best bet is CLS for now. How about physician assistant? or pathologist assistant?(more related to CLS field)

It's generally hospital pharmacist that makes the big bucks, and I hear even Walgreens, etc etc , which are generally lower pay, are saturated too.

Good Luck, in whatever decision u make!

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Confused in Sunland, California

49 months ago

I know, it's so expensive in CA :( No alternatives. I don't really like the "assistant" positions, I don't want to work under someone directly which is one reason I like pharmacy - you're considered the expert.

Thanks for your help!

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anonnnmoyus in Brooklyn, New York

49 months ago

RJ in Sacramento, California said: Why not just complete the prerequisites to both CLS and Pharmacy. You can do the one year CLS internship and if you decide you don't like it, apply to pharmacy school for the next year. This way, you will have a back-up plan in case you decide that pharmacy isn't really for you.

This was my plan before I decided to stick with CLS because I find it more interesting than Pharmacy. Now I just need to get accepted to an internship program.

good idea!

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CLS48 in California

49 months ago

Well, I've seen listings for hospital pharmacists at $62 an hour which is about $128K a year. However, your student loans from a pharmD will be quite expensive so for at least 10 years, you'll be paying back maybe $800 a month to pay off those loans, which would greatly eat into your net monthly income.

As a CLS, in terms of advancement, there are opportunities to become Lead, Supervisor, Lab manager, or Lab director. As a supervisor in a large hospital lab, you'd easily be making 6 figures already, and a bit more as a manager or director. If you figure in that you probably didn't get much student loans doing CLS, then you'll be doing well financially.

I always thought that if I hadn't become a CLS, I would have become a pharmacist. Then, when I fill prescriptions sometimes, I look at the pharmacists in CVS and see how they have to deal with angry customers and seemed rushed. In the lab, at least you don't see the patient/customer face to face so you could take your time and relax. Particularly if you're a supervisor, you let your bench techs handle all stat work while you can relax doing administrative work. All in all, I make decent money as a CLS supervisor without any student loans anymore. I think financially and even work wise, I'm more satisfied with my CLS career than I might have been with heavy student loans as a pharmacist at Walgreens.

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Confused in Sunland, California

49 months ago

Thanks to everyone who responded. It's crunch time now because I am having pharmacy school interviews in Feb/March and actually got accepted to one and need to send my deposit within 3 weeks :X I volunteer at Kaiser's pharmacy so I called the director of lab services at my Kaiser and asked if I can get a lab tour or shadow someone. She agreed and I'm going to go this Friday.

If anyone else can put in their two cents I would really appreciate it :)

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Confused in Sunland, California

49 months ago

btw CLS48, how much do you make now as a supervisor? I think I've seen your response to that question somewhere else but can't find it...

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same situation in Washington, District of Columbia

49 months ago

Hey OP

I was also in your shoes about a year ago. I got a free ride to Cal state Dominguez CLS program and I had a job lined up at a children's hospital as well, but I got into two pharmacy schools and ended up going pharmacy. I'm a P1 so I'm not sure yet if I made the right decision, only time will tell. But I think CLS is also a great career, but if you're looking for more variety and opportunities I still think pharmacy is the way to go. Sure the job market is tough, but it's tough in about almost every career these days. When the economy reels back, I didn't want to have any regrets so I chose the profession I wanted to pursue. Don't let the economy dictate your career choice. The recession might last a decade, but your life will last more!

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Confused in Sun Valley, California

49 months ago

Hey same situation....are you in pharmacy school in CA or DC?

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same situation in Washington, District of Columbia

49 months ago

DC the one and only

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Lisa in Sacramento, California

49 months ago

RJ in Sacramento, California said: Why not just complete the prerequisites to both CLS and Pharmacy. You can do the one year CLS internship and if you decide you don't like it, apply to pharmacy school for the next year. This way, you will have a back-up plan in case you decide that pharmacy isn't really for you.

This was my plan before I decided to stick with CLS because I find it more interesting than Pharmacy. Now I just need to get accepted to an internship program.

Have you got into any internship program yet? How long have you applying to Nor Cal schools? I will be applying to UC Davis and SJSU next year and was wondering how competitive it is.

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RJ in Sacramento, California

49 months ago

Lisa:

I applied only once before to UCDMC for Spring 2012 just to see if I would get an interview, but I never did get a call or any acknowledgement that they have received my application at all. I didn't think it would be that competitive that I wouldn't get an interview, but I guess I was wrong.

I plan on applying again to more programs once I have some clinical lab experience, which I am finding that it's really difficult to do. A lab director advised me to get some clinical lab experience to make my application more competitive. Overall GPA: 3.16, last 60 units GPA: 3.0, and Science GPA: 2.9. I don't really have a lot of work experience either. So I'm debating whether I should do a phlebotomy program or apply to an MLT program so I can get some clinical lab experience.

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Troy in Alhambra, California

49 months ago

If I were you, I would definitely go with pharmacy instead of CLS. For CLS there is little room for advancement other than becoming a lab director. For example, CLS work in IVD (medical device/biologic) would always be reporting to a PhD or engineer and room for advancement is almost non-existing. Also many employers like to lowball salary offer by not requiring CLS certificate/license instead making it a prefer qualification, this is commonly done to jobs in QA/QC, informatics, regulatory and research which mean a CLS would take a pay cut if they ever plan to move away from the bench. Yet, I had never see any pharmacy related jobs listing certificate/license as pharmacist as the prefer instead of required qualification. The only way to advance your career or salary in the CLS field would be to go into management in hospital setting. Even for reference labs, many prefer a PhD to be the director as a PhD would be able to serve as technical lab director under CLIA.

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SurfLab in Gainesville, Florida

49 months ago

Go to the pharmacist forum and ask there. It always seen greener on the other side. Specially to all these frustrated people that post here. I'm very happy with my carreer of 20 years as a MT. When everybody in any other career are worried about not finding a job, even pharmacists, I can sleep peacefully knowing that I'm not loosing my job and if I want to move I can find a job with no problem. My pay grade goes up to 72 K ,which I think is a pretty good pay. I'm a Senior Staff Specialist in the Blood Bank at a VA Hospital with no intention of becoming a supervisor (been there done that).

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Confused in Sun Valley, California

49 months ago

Thanks to everyone who responded - all comments are appreciated :) If anyone can contribute I'd love to hear more input. And I will definitely go post this in the pharmacy forum too, good suggestion.

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Where is the promised milk and honey in Chicago, Illinois

38 months ago

Confused in Sunland, California said: I know, it's so expensive in CA :( No alternatives. I don't really like the " assistant " positions, I don't want to work under someone directly which is one reason I like pharmacy - you're considered the expert.

Thanks for your help!

Wrong. You are still under MDs. If they say jump, you say how high.
Your job is dependent on a "Rx" written by a Doctor, whether in retail or hospital.
You are going to take on $150+ in debt, to graduate and end up taking home the same thing you are probably making right now, after taxes and your bloated student loans.
Nursing, NP, PA, PT, and OT are much better option than Pharmacy.

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