CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a pharmacist.
Is becoming a pharmacist right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pharmacists happy?
Pharmacists rank in the 17th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.
After graduating university, community pharmacy is where a large portion of the students find themselves. Recently, however, the supply of pharmacists has exceeded the demand, pay has decreased, and jobs have become a bit scarce. The bottom line is under pressure due to government cutbacks and big box pharmacies losing their discounts from major drug suppliers. Because of this, hours for technician/assistants has dropped dramatically leaving pharmacists with less technical help to keep things running. This combined with the pressure to bill more clinical services and more prescriptions results in an unhappy atmosphere for both staff and customers.
However, working in a rural area will typically be a more laid back experience where pharmacists aren’t just staff members. They are also part of a community. These pharmacists are most likely be asked to participate in non-pharmacy related committees as they are a respected professional and people look to them for advice on all matters, not just health-related ones.
How long does it take to become a Pharmacist?
The avenue one chooses will determine the length of time it takes to complete a Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy). Most Pharm.D. programs take four years to complete. However, if a bachelor’s degree is completed before entering the program, it will take eight years to become a pharmacist. If one enters a program after two or three years of undergraduate study, they can start practicing sooner.
There are some Pharm.D. programs that accept students directly out of high school, and these programs typically take six years to complete.
Steps to becoming a Pharmacist
There are very specific academic requirements involved in becoming a pharmacist. Qualifications and specific training requirements vary from country to country. Generally, an undergraduate bachelor of science degree is required, followed by a postgraduate pharmacy course. In some countries (for example the UK) the courses may be linked and the full qualification MPharm (Master of Pharmacy) may be obtained after five years of studying pharmacy - four undergraduate years plus one masters year.
In other countries (for example, the USA and Australia) undergraduate studies, or an undergraduate degree in a science subject is required for entry into a postgraduate pharmacy course and then at least two years of postgraduate study are required. In the US this results in a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) qualification.
After completion of the academic requirements, most countries then require newly qualified pharmacists to work a "pre-registration" year, or an internship, to gain the experience required for the job. The number of hours required varies by country, and even by state within the USA. After the work experience has been completed, there are usually more exams. These may take the form of a licensing exam, or a registration exam, depending on specific country requirements. Some countries also require that pharmacists participate in continuing professional development (CPD) programmes as they progress through their careers. This ensures that they stay up-to-date on all aspects of the job, including emerging research and new medicines.
Should I become a Pharmacist?
If you are exploring careers and are considering becoming a pharmacist, make sure you gather as much information as possible beforehand in order to make an informed and educated decision. Like any other profession, there are both positives and negatives to this career:
Flexibility - There are a number of different job opportunities available in this profession. Pharmacists can work in a variety of settings, which gives individuals the flexibility to choose the setting that fits them best and is most appealing. Pharmacists can choose from settings such as retail drug stores, schools, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
Salary - The earning potential for pharmacists can range from $81,000.00 to $135,000.00 annually. Pharmacists have the ability to earn a salary that is significantly higher than most careers, including nurses and teachers.
Education and Training - A pharmacist must complete a high level of education and attain a doctorate degree. Clinical work training is also part of the program and can be very demanding. Some pharmacists will have over $100,000 in student loan debt when they graduate.
Job Security - Changes have been sweeping across America’s healthcare system recently. Medicare has cut funding, which has closed hundreds of hospitals. It’s difficult to predict the future, and the job security of a pharmacist is not the same as it used to be.
Repetitive Work This profession does involve a lot of redundancy - each day is fairly similar with many repetitive tasks. However, you can change positions throughout your career. For example, you could work a few years at a hospital pharmacy, then teach a few years at a pharmacy school, then work for a pharmaceutical company etc.
Responsibility Level Responsibility and stress levels vary between the different niches in pharmacy. Overall, however, as a pharmacist your duty is to ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of the medication you are dispensing for the patient, ensure that the medication is suitable for the patient’s condition, advise the patient on how to take the medicine, and answer any questions patients may have. There is also the responsibility of leadership, management, corporate mandates, teamwork, etc. People’s lives are in your hands, and living under this kind of stress on a daily basis isn’t for everybody.
How to become a Pharmacist
If you’re a detail oriented person, love science and medicine, and want a challenging career where you can help others, becoming a pharmacist may be the perfect career match for you. Personal attributes that are useful for being a pharmacist are typical for those working in any area of health and nutrition. These include a caring personality and the genuine desire to help people in need. Other attributes useful for a career in pharmacy would be the ability to take on a lot of responsibility, work under pressure, have great organizational skills and people skills.
Pharmacy is an evolving profession. Over the years, there has been an increase in new types of pharmacy careers that have significantly improved patient care and advanced the pharmacy profession.
The following is a list of the various pharmacy careers available:
Ambulatory Care Pharmacist Direct patient care and management of medications for ambulatory patients; manage ambulatory clinics. Academic Pharmacist Conduct research, publish articles, teach and mentor tomorrow's pharmacist. Some also practice pharmacy in the community, hospital, or ambulatory settings. Community Pharmacist Fill prescriptions, counsel patients, resolve reimbursement issues, manage drug inventory, supervise pharmacy technicians. Compounding Pharmacist Compound drugs for individual prescriptions to meet patient needs. Counsel patients and collaborate with healthcare providers. Hospice Pharmacist Provide compassionate care to hospice patients, work with a health care team of nurses, doctors, social workers, and counselors. Hospital Staff Pharmacist Responsible for drug distribution in a hospital, provide clinical services, educate doctors and nurses, develop policies for drug storage and distribution, create protocols for drug administration, counsel patients. Infectious Disease Pharmacist Assist in the selection, monitoring, and administration of antimicrobials; evaluate antimicrobial drug use and create policies. Long-Term Care or Consultant Pharmacist Provide clinical pharmacy services to the geriatric population. Review drug regimens and provide recommendations to providers. Managed Care Pharmacist Collaborate with physicians, case managers, and caregivers to provide pharmacy services in a managed care setting. Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist (Personal Pharmacist) Review patient medications, monitor treatment, optimize medication use, minimize cost of drug therapy. Nutrition Support Pharmacist Collaborate with health care providers and patients to manage parenteral and enteral nutrition. Nuclear Practice Pharmacist Prepare radiopharmaceuticals and maintain quality standards. Oncology Pharmacist Selection, compounding, administration, and monitoring of chemotherapy agents. Operating Suite (Surgery Unit) Pharmacist Manage availability of medications used for surgery and post-operative care. Pediatric Pharmacist Provide clinical pharmacy services to pediatric patients. Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Manage prescription drug benefit programs; claims processing and related administrative services; and perform drug utilization reviews. Pharmaceutical Industry Pharmacists Usually involves educating healthcare providers, training commercial teams, developing communication tools, and research. Regulatory, sales, and marketing roles are also available. Critical Care Pharmacist Provide clinical pharmacy services in an acute setting, may manage a decentralized pharmacy, teach and mentor students and residents. Drug Information Specialist Research literature and provide responses to drug information questions. Pharmacists in the Military Provide pharmacy services in various branches of the military. Duties may range from dispensing to clinical practice, ambulatory care, and research. May travel to foreign countries with frequent moves. Home Care (Home Infusion) Pharmacist Provide home infusion and nutritional services, visit patients at home and teach them about their medications. Poison Control Pharmacist Provide medical information about poisoning and drug overdoses.