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Hi I am thinking of pursuing Pharmacy at NUS. I have ruled out medicine as a profession because of its demanding schedule but I have a few questions about Singapore’s healthcare landscape. What do doctors think of pharmacists? Do pharmacists know more about medicine than doctors? And how much do pharmacists earn as a fresh grad and what happens when they cross over to the pharmaceutical industry? Thank you!
How much do pharmacists earn as a fresh grad?
This information is from my pharmacist colleagues. The starting salary of pharmacists in Singapore is $2400 (about $1900 take home after CPF) during the pre-registration period, until you get your license. It takes about 6 – 9 months to get your license.
After which, your pay is based on your academic grades; this varies between hospitals. Eg. NUS 1st Class Honours: $3600, 2nd Upper $3500 etc.
Further progress is dependant on experience and performance, assessed via an appraisal system.
I have ruled out medicine as a profession because of its demanding schedule.
Pharmacists have a pretty demanding schedule too, especially within the hospital.
I’ve seem my ward pharmacist leave at 7 pm plus at times. Pharmacists also do half days on Sat/Sun (probably less weekends than doctors on the whole, however).
What do doctors think of pharmacists?
Doctors feel the same towards pharmacists as any other health care professional (nurse, physiotherapist, ward clerk etc) – an essential and symbiotic part of the team. Because there’s usually only one regular pharmacist per ward, we have a very good working relationship.
I think the question you should be asking instead is what the Singaporean public thinks of pharmacists.
Local pharmacists are probably not as well regarded as they are overseas (unfortunately), for 2 main reasons:
- The average Singaporean doesn’t know the true range of work and expertise it takes to be a pharmacist.
- The scope of practise for pharmacists in Singapore is more limited, as compared to their overseas counterparts. Pharmacists cannot prescribe any drugs in private practise. In many Western countries, pharmacists function almost like the neighbourhood’s GP – they are able to prescribe common symptomatic medication for your cough, cold, etc. Consequently, this lends greater recognition.
Do pharmacists know more about medicine than doctors?
Yes, barring some specialist doctors (eg. Infectious Disease and Oncology) whose knowledge of particular drugs has to be very in-depth.
Otherwise, within a hospital setting, pharmacists are the experts of the healthcare team when it comes to drugs. It’s not uncommon for the consultant to rely on the pharmacist to provide advise on dosing and drug interactions.
A recent exciting development in Singapore which may interest you is the creation of the specialist pharmacist register (I believe the first batch of specialist pharmacists was only registered in 2017!)
What’s the role of specialist pharmacists?
Specialist pharmacists will enable cost-effective drug prescribing, optimal dosing of drugs, reduction in medication errors and fewer drug therapy related complications.
Within the hospital, the intention is for these pharmacists to run special clinics, as well as prescribe certain medication. The establishment of the specialists register will also create more opportunities and career pathways for pharmacists to contribute to patient care.”
What happens when pharmacists cross over to the pharmaceutical industry?
As of 2016, there were 2,875 registered pharmacists in Singapore. A significant number (up to half of each graduating class) end up in the pharmaceutical industry.
In a nutshell, when you cross over to the pharmaceutical industry you get paid a lot better, but miss out on patient care.
Work in the pharmaceutical industry can be quite varied, depending on where your knowledge is deemed useful. Examples include:
- Drug/sales representative
- Clinical trials for new drugs
You can check out what Sarah (the site’s pharmacist editor) wrote about pharmacist job opportunities in this previous post to get a better idea.
I’d strongly suggest reading the NUS pharmacy course FAQ as well, before making your decision.