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Q&A: How can I pursue a career in management without neglecting the development of my clinical and research skills?

Written by: Debbie C. Byrd, Pharm.D., MBA
Published on: May 30, 2022

How can I pursue a career in management without neglecting the development of my clinical and research skills?

Yujing Steenwyk, Pharm.D.

PGY2 in Health-System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership

Moses Cone Hospital


A successful management career requires a strong foundation in leadership and management skills as well as effective clinical, research, and teaching abilities, depending on the position. Immediately after residency and fellowship training, pharmacists typically launch a new career by establishing a practice or research program. Entry-level management opportunities often come to those with a proven track record in areas such as practice and research. Therefore, developing these skills and demonstrating success in these areas should be pharmacists’ first priority.

However, it is never too early to develop an aptitude for leadership and management. These skills can be applied to clinical practice, research, teaching, and service, such as committee work, to enhance effectiveness in all areas of the pharmacist’s professional responsibility, even their personal life. It is important to master management of self before focusing on managing and leading others. Professional pharmacy organizations offer many management and leadership development programs, each with an emphasis on particular pharmacy careers, from academia to institutional management. From home study to live programming, opportunities for management and leadership development abound:

  • The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) Academy Leadership and Management Certificate Program is an educational program aimed at developing leadership and management abilities through 26 hours of courses delivered at the ACCP Annual Meetings and Updates in Therapeutics®ACCP Leadership and Management Academy.
  • The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Academic Leadership Fellows Program is a yearlong, four-session offering dedicated to developing leaders in academic pharmacy and higher education: AACP Academic Leadership Fellows Program.
  • The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Foundation provides several Leadership Development programs for leaders and potential leaders in the institutional setting.

In addition to these formal programs, professional organizations provide online leadership resource centers, management tool kits, and subgroups devoted to administrative and leadership issues. The examples mentioned here are from national organizations; however, state and local organizations offer programs and resources as well. Even closer to home, many employers provide management and leadership development opportunities through human resources or other departments. Beyond the pharmacy profession, the options are countless, from online resources to formal degree programs such as a master’s degree in higher education or business administration.

As pharmacists gain management and leadership knowledge and skills, they should further develop their proficiency through application. Of note, a formal administrative position is not required to manage and lead. Opportunities exist to practice and refine these skills everyday. By chairing committees, organizing events, building relationships, influencing patients and health care practitioners, or managing a flourishing practice or research program, pharmacists will find that occasions to manage and lead are never in short supply. In addition, pharmacists will learn through observation and reflection. Studying others’ management and leadership styles, they will learn what is most effective. By examining their own successes and failures, they will learn what they can do differently.

Perhaps one of the most best ways to develop management and leadership skills is to identify mentors, both inside and outside the institution. The pharmacist should not hesitate to reach out to potential mentors; the mentee’s initiative often ensures a productive and ongoing relationship. Mentors can offer advice, share their experiences, and introduce a network of colleagues to accelerate the pharmacist’s career in management and leadership.

Finally, a guiding principle to keep in mind when starting a career and continuing the journey in life is to “begin with the end in mind.”

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

–Stephen Covey


Debbie C. Byrd, Pharm.D., MBA

Dean and Professor

Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee