Student Perspectives on Career Opportunities in Pharmacy


A proposal submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy (Honours)



Department of Pharmacy Practice


There were approximately 7000 registered pharmacists registered under the Malaysian Pharmacy Board in December 2009, translating a pharmacist to population ratio of 1:6000 [1]. The Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) targets to achieve a pharmacist to population ratio of 1:2000 by 2020 (approximately 18 000 registered pharmacists), as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) [1]. The number of registered pharmacists have been increasing due to the increase in the number of pharmacy schools, which directly elevates the number of pharmacy students [1]. There was only one pharmacy school in 1996, compared with 16 pharmacy schools in 2009 [1]. This translates to the average increase of 1.2 pharmacy schools per year [1]. These demands lead to the higher requirements for pharmacy lecturers [1]. The purpose of this study is to determine the number of IMU pharmacy students who are interested to become pharmacy lecturers and the factors associated with their rejection or acceptance of this career path.

Literature review

Factors for rejecting academic pharmacy

There are several reasons for rejecting academic pharmacy. According to Eiland et al. [2], the main reason for rejecting academic pharmacy was low patient contact [2]. Therefore, the academia environment would be unfavourable as there are no patients in campuses [1-4]. Another important factor is the concept of ‘publish or perish’ in academic pharmacy which may also occasionally perplex pharmacy students [5]. The requirement to hold a postgraduate degree is also a hindrance to students considering academic pharmacy as more time is required to achieve this career [6]. Hawthorne and Anderson [6] concluded that most pharmacy students are generally not interested in pursuing a postgraduate pharmacy education, which may cause affect the number of pharmacy lecturers [6]. Similarly, location of the academia is another issue as lecturers do not have as much freedom as hospital and community pharmacists [1].

Factors for accepting academic pharmacy

A major factor significantly influencing the acceptance of academic pharmacy was the presence of a pharmacist in the family [7]. Similarly, students’ career choices were also largely determined by the exposure they had had as undergraduates and the curriculum of their undergraduate study [3,6,8,9]. Shakeel et al. [8] observed that the majority of the students in their study were influenced by their internships as well as their hospital and pharmaceutical industry attachments leading to the choice of industrial pharmacy or hospital pharmacy as their career [8].

Greenberg et al. [3] concluded that medical students are more likely to be interested in academic medicine as a career if they developed an interest in research [3]. At the same time, the influence of a mentor was also observed to promote interest in academic medicine, which strongly suggests the need to implement specific teaching electives to promote this career path [3,10]. Based on the study by Greenberg et al. [3], two institutions have included ‘Medical Students as Teachers’ electives to promote careers in academic medicine [3].

Key Words

Pharmacy academia, career choice, demand, student

Research Hypotheses

H0: There are no significant factors that influence students’ decisions to select academic pharmacy

H1: There are significant factors that influence students’ decisions to select academic pharmacy


  1. To explore trends related to IMU pharmacy students’ interest in academic careers
  2. To identify factors influencing the choice of academia as a career and outline practical interventions to nurture this interest

Project status: New

Type of Research: Social/policy research

Expected outputs

  1. Factors influencing students that have an impact on student’s career path decisions
  2. Student’s awareness of the faculty positions in pharmacy schools/colleges
  3. Improve our understanding of why students choose or do not choose to enter academia

Research Methodology

  1. Research design: Cross sectional study
  2. Study Location: International Medical University
  3. Study Duration: July 2014-October 2014 (see Appendix 1)
  4. Subjects: Final year IMU BPharm students
  5. Study Instrument: Questionnaire (see Appendix 2)

The questions asked are as follows:

  1. Background information
  2. Future career and academic plans
  3. Factors that influence career decisions, including family influences
  4. The academic requirements to become a pharmacy lecturer
  5. The current state of the pharmacy faculty

Data Collection

A pilot study will be conducted to validate the questionnaire followed by the actual survey. For both the pilot and actual study, the researchers will briefly explain the aims of the study before distributing the questionnaire to the final year IMU BPharm students who consented to participate.

Data Analysis

The SPSS program will be utilised to perform descriptive analysis and logistic regression models to evaluate the students’ responses.

Project Risks

  • Technical risks: Low
  • Timing risk: Low
  • Budget risk: Low

Table 1: The team for this study.

Name Role Department
Dr. Mari Kannan Maharajan Supervisor/Project leader Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, International Medical University
Dr. Kingston Rajiah Co-supervisor/Researcher Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, International Medical University
Ms Kelly Num Sze Fang Co-supervisor/Researcher Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, International Medical University
Ms Shalini a/p Shanmugavelu Undergraduate student/Researcher Semester 7, BPharm (Hons), School of Pharmacy, International Medical University

Table 2: The costs for this study.

Expenditure category Expenditure (Code) Total (RM)
Research materials and supplies Printouts, photocopies and documents (J700) 500
Special services Publications and presentations (J900) 2500
TOTAL 3000


[1] Hasan SS, Ahmadi K, Wong PS, Hassali MA, Hata EM, Hadi MA et al. Influences on Malaysian Pharmacy Students’ Career Preferences. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010 November 10; 74(9).

[2] Eiland LS, Flowers SK, Andurkar SV, O’Brocta R, Prahbu S, Medon PJ. A Comparative Study of Student and Faculty Perspectives Regarding Career Opportunities in Pharmacy Academia. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning. 2010; 2; 39-51.

[3] Greenberg RB, Ziegler CH, Borges NJ, Elam CL, Stratton TD, Woods S. Medical Student Interest in Academic Medical Careers: A Multi-Institutional Study. Perspect Med Educ. 2013 April 16; 2: 298-316.

[4] Savage LM, Beall JW, Woolley TW. Factors that Influence the Career Goals of Pharmacy Students. Am J Pharm Educ. 2009 April 7; 73(2).

[5] Cobaugh DJ. Academia: A Rewarding and Critically Important Career Path. Am J Health–Syst Pharm. 2005 June 1; 62.

[6] Hawthorne N, Anderson C. The Global Pharmacy Workforce: A Systemic Review of the Literature. Human Resources for Health. 2009 June 19; 7(48).

[7] Willis S, Hassell K, Noyce P. Career Intentions of Pharmacy Students. J Health Serv Res Policy. 2008 April 2; 13(2): 45-51.

[8] Shakeel S, Iffat W, Yasmin R, Ali H. Prospective Career Preferences of Imminent Pharmacist. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy. 2013 September; 3(8): 38-43.

[9] Katerere DR, Matowe L. Effect of Pharmacist Emigration on Pharmaceutical Services in Southern Africa. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2003; 60: 1169-70.

[10] Soriano RP, Blatt B, Coplit L, CichoskiKelly E, Kosowicz L, Newman L et al. Teaching Medical Students How To Teach: A National Survey of Students-As-Teachers Programs in US Medical Schools. Acad Med. 2010; 85: 1725-31.

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