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Career Summary and Educational Requirements for a Pharmacist

Job Descriptions December 25, 2012

It is a common misconception to view pharmacists as mere drug dispensers. They are dedicated professionals who strive to improve the health of patients, licensed to practice their profession in accomplishing their objective; pharmacists educate patients about prevention illness and use of drugs, monitor the progress of patients, and advise physicians on issues relating to medication. An aspiring pharmacist will need to undergo two years of undergraduate education and spend four years in pharmacy school before satisfying licensure norms.

Education Prerequisites

Undergraduate Degree

Before students can get admitted to pharmacy school, they have to complete at least two years of college education, though prospective pharmacists complete four-year bachelor degree courses. They are not required to select any particular major in order to qualify for pharmacy school. However, coursework including calculus, biology, chemistry and physics will prove good preparation.

Doctoral Degree

Those seeking entry-level positions as pharmacists are required to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program — a bachelor degree was sufficient, earlier. Pharm.D. courses run for four-year durations and students in such programs learn patient-care, scientific and technical components of a pharmacist’s professional competence. Coursework includes medicinal chemistry, patient care, rates of drug absorption, pharmacy law and ethics, biopharmaceuticals, treatment of diseases, toxicology and pathophysiology. Program curricula include clinical training. Students have to participate in clerkships, supervised by licensed pharmacists that are devised to give them hands on experience in pharmacy settings. Clinical practice are aimed at familiarizing prospective pharmacists with the process of interacting with patients, the process allows students to apply their classroom learning in developing professional skills.

Post-Graduate Programs

Pharm.D. graduates may choose to continue their education via fellowships or residencies. The programs usually last for one to two years and pharmacists participating in such training, conducted at healthcare facilities such as hospitals and community pharmacies among other venues, stand to gain hands on experience in patient-care. Training is provided to residents in specialty, clinical or general pharmacy practice; research projects must be completed by participants. Pharmacists can obtain more specialized training from fellowships in specific fields such as geriatrics pharmacology, community pharmacy practice and biomedical research.

Summary of a Pharmacist Career

Licensure Norms

In order to get a license to practice their profession, Pharm. D. graduates are required to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) (www.nabp.net). In a majority of states, aspiring pharmacists will need to take the NABP’s Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination that covers state and federal laws. Apart from satisfying the above licensing norms, candidates will need to have prior clinical experience and must submit to a criminal background check.

Career Choices

After they satisfied licensure norms, pharmacists can seek employment in government, community or consulting pharmacies. Most of these professionals are employed in salary-paying jobs at retail locations (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov)). Alternatively, they may deliver healthcare services at hospices or work in public and private healthcare organizations.

Job and Wage Projections

During the decade from 2008 to 2018, pharmacists are likely to enjoy job growth of seventeen percent (source: BLS). The strong job growth forecast is due to the graying American population and to advancements in drug treatment. With an increasing emphasis on patient care, pharmacists are likely to enjoy a demand for their services in the healthcare industry, in monitoring patient medication. In May 2009, pharmacists earned an average annual salary of $106,630 (source: BLS). The industry and location of employment influenced their wages with the highest earning of $116,710 recorded in consulting services. With respect to location-wise variance, the highest average wage of $117,080 earned by pharmacists was recorded in California.

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