As you are probably aware, pharmacists don’t write prescriptions like a doctor but rather dispense prescription medications as well as advise patients on their proper use and potential risks. Pharmacists are in demand and the expected job growth rate is around 25 percent by the year 2020.
You might be wondering how long it takes to become a pharmacist. Well, you generally need an undergraduate degree that can run any where from 2 to 4 years. Then you go 4 years in pharmacy school at the graduate level that provides you with a doctorate degree in pharmacy. Some students can complete their degree in 6 years with an associate’s degree. However, most students take 8 years because they take a 4 year bachelor’s program and then 4 years in a graduate pharmacy program.
You’ll need to have a high school diploma or GED and good grades. It’s best if you concentrate on science coursework when in high school such as chemistry, biology and physiology to see if you’re made of the right stuff for a career in a medical field.
You’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree in science (BS) before you can apply to graduate pharmacy program. You’ll be expected to take two years of pre-pharmacy coursework in your bachelor’s coursework that will include, biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and calculus. It helps if you can find a college that has pre-pharmacy coursework built in. Make sure to check with the graduate pharmacy school you plan on attending to find out what it requires from your undergraduate degree.
Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) as it is required for your admission to pharmacy school. Practice with the PCAT before you take it. You need to make as high a score as possible. Previous tests are available online. You might want to take a course in PCAT to ensure success.
Make sure that you obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from a properly accredited pharmacy school. While your working on your pharmacy degree, you’ll take courses such as biology, therapeutics, immunology, medical ethics, genetics, pharmaceutics, public health and epidemiology, nutrition, disease states, drug abuse and much more. You’ll also work in pharmacies and hospitals to gain hands-on experience. It’s best if you complete an internship not only for the experience of it but it looks great on your resume.
Once you complete your coursework and graduate you’ll need to get a license. The U.S. requires that all pharmacists be licensed to dispense medications. You’ll need to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) to get your license and many states also require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). Check with your state to find out what you need.
Jobs are available in a number of venues including, hospitals, grocery stores, discount stores, drug stores, government agencies, public health care agencies and schools. Determine where you feel most comfortable and apply to those jobs. Most pharmacists work a 40 hours week but they spend most of that time on their feet so you need to consider that. If you’re thinking about working in a hospital, consider the fact that you may work odd hours.
Beyond your expertise in medicine, you’ll need good communication skills and patience as you will be helping customers everyday that may be very ill or injured in some way. You’ll also need good managerial skills because chances are you’ll be managing a retail pharmacy, overseeing staff and conducting inventory. You’ll have to be prepared to run a business. Pharmacy schools generally offer coursework in mangement.
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Susan has studied at the University of Texas Medical Branch Marine Biomedical Institute in Galveston, Texas and the University of South Florida in Tampa and received a Ph.D. in Biology with a major in Neuroscience and minors in physics and mathematics. Area of research is in brain transplantation and behavior testing with twenty years of teaching experience. Fields of interest include the physical basis of memory and learning, brain repair and regeneration as well as neuro-development. As an educator, has taught thousands of students at the college level in anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology, marinebiology, nutrition, communications, radiography, ultrasound, mathematics and physics. She enjoys reading current scientific literature and simplifying the material making it readily available to the public.