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Joju: From Pharmacist to Apotheker

In 2015, Joju completed his studies in Pharmacy at the University of Dr. MGR Medical University in Chennai, India. After graduation, he gained valuable experience by working as a clinical pharmacist in hospitals located in Coimbatore and Kerala.

Currently, Joju resides in Germany where he works as an Apotheker, which is the German term for a pharmacist or a pharmacy. His education, work experience and his sheer hard work have prepared him well for this role. Let’s look deeper into his journey to Germany at the time of Covid. In this interview he shares his experience, challenges and strategies for making it in Germany as a pharmacist.

Why Germany though?

ProRecognition: What made you decide that you want to have a life in Germany?

Joju: After completing my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s, but I was uncertain about where to study. A simulated test recommended Germany, yet the lack of information about studying there left me confused.

Fortunately, a friend informed me about a ‘ProRecognition’ seminar, which I decided to attend despite the short notice. The seminar and subsequent one-on-one consultation provided the clarity I needed, making me realize that achieving my dream of living and working in Germany was possible.

The seminar motivated me to start learning German. I’ve always been intrigued by different countries and cultures, and my passion for languages has made learning them enjoyable rather than burdensome. With ProRecognition’s guidance, I gained a better understanding of language requirements and the available opportunities. This gave me the confidence to pursue my dream, even though I initially believed studying was the only way to enter the country.

Planning for the great debut.

ProRecognition: So, how did you plan your journey after the consultation with ProRecognition?

Joju: In my pursuit of working as a pharmacist in Germany, I undertook essential steps to achieve my goal. I dedicated myself to learning German, enrolling in classes and obtaining a B2 certification by November 2019. Through thorough research, I familiarized myself with the requirements for becoming a pharmacist. I found that all the information I needed was available on the website, but it required patience and careful reading to understand the requirements.

Through ProRecognition, I learned that professional networking was an effective way to find job opportunities in Germany. I started by messaging pharmacists on LinkedIn, introducing myself as a pharmacist from India with B2 language certification and two years of experience. I requested any help or networking opportunities to train myself and obtain a license in Germany.

While many people accepted my invitations, only three responded to my message. One of them was opening a new branch and asked me to send my resume. After reviewing my CV, the pharmacist was interested and invited me for an online interview which eventually led to a job offer. With the job offer in hand, I began the recognition process and submitted my documents in Baden-Württemberg

How many months did it take till you were ready to travel to Germany?

Joju: I began the recognition process in November 2019. However, due to extra vigilance and the pandemic, the process was slower than usual, taking about 9 months to complete.Once I received the necessary paperwork in September 2020, I applied for my visa which was issued in November 2020.After receiving the visa, I was finally able to fly to Germany and begin the new job.

If you also want to submit your qualifications as a pharmacist for recognition in Germany, please book a consultation with ProRecognition.

First time in a foreign land.

ProRecognition: I know that this is the first time for you outside India. Was is difficult to find a place to live in?

Joju: When I first arrived in Germany, it was my first time leaving India and was faced with several challenges, particularly due to the ongoing pandemic. The country was on a strict lockdown and most businesses were closed, except for supermarkets and pharmacies. Finding an apartment to rent was also difficult during this time. Fortunately, my boss was able to help me arrange initial accommodation in a vacation home,.

ProRecognition : What is the main difference between working in India and Germany according to you?

Joju: The working process of a pharmacy in India and Germany is quite different from each other. In India, the entire process of a pharmacy is carried out by the pharmacist alone. They are responsible for dispensing medications, providing clinical advice to patients, managing inventory, and carrying out other necessary tasks.

On the other hand, in Germany, the pharmacy involves three different professions.The pharmacist is at the top of the pyramid, responsible for mostly supervising everything that goes on in the pharmacy. The pharmacist holds a position of authority in the Apotheke, overseeing all aspects of the pharmacy’s operation. The stringent laws and regulations governing the practice of pharmacy in Germany require close attention to detail, and the pharmacist ensures that everything is in order in the Apotheke.

Pharmaceutical technical assistants (PTAs) are responsible for a variety of tasks in pharmacies in Germany. They work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and perform duties such as preparing medications, checking prescriptions, and providing advice to patients on the use of medications. For instance, pediatric patients may require a more diluted or lower dosage of a particular drug, and the pharmacy tech assistants will use the pharmacy lab to compound the medication or dosage as per the prescription written by the doctor.

In addition to the pharmacist, tech assistants, the pharmacy business staff is responsible for managing the business end of the pharmacy, including billing and ordering of medicines. They handle administrative tasks such as managing finances and maintaining customer relations.

Life in Germany.

ProRecognition: It is rather interesting. How’s the experience been so far in Germany for you personally and professionally?

Joju: Having spent the last 2 years in Germany, I have had a beautiful and rewarding experience so far. Though language has been a challenge. Nevertheless, I found the locals to be extremely helpful and patient with my language struggles, and always willing to offer their assistance.

The German approach to work-life balance differs significantly from what I was accustomed to in India. With work hours from 8 AM to 6:30 PM, a one-hour lunch break, and only four working days per week, the schedule allows for a balanced lifestyle. Additionally, working on Saturdays until 1 PM on alternate weeks ensures evenly distributed intervals and holidays. This arrangement has enabled me to make the most of my vacation days and enjoy a satisfying work-life balance. The experience overall has been positive, and I have successfully adapted to the new environment with the assistance of friendly and supportive locals.

ProRecognition: This is very encouraging. So, if I were to understand a day in the life of a pharmacist in Germany, what would that look like?

Joju: During the first two months in Germany, I primarily worked in a supporting role to gain a deeper understanding of German culture. I also provided patient counseling when required to keep them informed about their medication. During this time, my work was primarily focused on the back end of the pharmacy, rather than the front desk. However, from April onwards, I began to immerse myself more in the work and started observing the conversations between the pharmacist and the patients to gain a better understanding of the common topics and language used

Pathway to permanent license in Germany.

ProReconition: Tell us more about the permanent license for Pharmacist in Germany and your experience with it.

Joju: The first exam is known as the Fachsprachprüfung, which is a medical language test in German. It is aimed at evaluating an individual’s proficiency in the German language and their ability to communicate effectively with patients and medical professionals in a clinical setting.The Fachsprachprüfung exam in German for pharmacy was unique compared to other language exams I had taken. It did not follow a set pattern or modules but simulated real-life conversations in a pharmacy setting.

Next steps for Certification.

ProRecognition: What are the next steps for you?

Joju: My current plan is to systematically prepare for the knowledge test on the technological and managerial aspects of pharmacy in Germany. The Kenntnisprüfung exam tests the candidate’s medical knowledge, including their understanding of medical terminology and procedures, as well as their ability to address the patients health issues in accordance with German medical standards.

Tips for anyone looking for a career in Germany.

ProRecognition: What made your path to Germany a little bit easier? Any suggestions?

Joju: To begin with, prioritize language learning, especially in a profession like mine where you are in constant touch with the people. Once someone has completed the B1 level, they can expect to have around 4 months left to prepare for the B2 level certification. During this time, it is advisable to start researching and building a network to gain a better understanding of the country’s culture, customs, and work environment. This can be done by reaching out to people who have already made the transition or by joining online groups related to the profession or industry. It’s important to keep in mind that building a network takes time and requires patience.

Post Interview Update:

ProRecognition: Joju has now successfully cleared the KP exam, and is working as a fully licensed Pharmacist in the region of Baden-Württemberg since November 2022.