Pharmacy: A Broad and Varied Field With Many Opportunities

The most common role within this industry is one that almost everyone is familiar with: the pharmacist. Pharmacists play a big role in supporting medical practitioners and facilities in ensuring that patients have access to and are provided with their correct medications.

Job Description

While at first glance, a pharmacist might seem like a fairly straightforward job, he or she is actually a fountain of knowledge. Along with providing the right dosage and amount of medication, you'll also need to be able to provide patients with correct guidance as to how to take their medications, information about any potential side effects, how drugs interact with other drugs, and what to do if they have any problems.

Pharmacists are also on hand to offer general advice, guidance and support to people at a time when they are usually feeling their most vulnerable. It's takes a lot of empathy and sympathy, but also a clear, level head to be a pharmacist.

It’s a nurturing and people-oriented role, with an added analytical side. The industry offers ongoing regular training and professional development and could make a very good career for parents who want to work.

Education Requirements

To become a pharmacist, you must already have, or be studying for, your undergraduate degree. Many undergraduates complete two or three years of study in related disciplines and prerequisite courses such as chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, human biology and physiology.

To continue on the path to becoming a qualified pharmacist, individuals must complete the Doctor of Pharmacy degree to practice (Pharm.D.). Pharmacy is a highly competitive and sought-after career, and many universities and colleges offer these courses. Make sure you enroll in one that's fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education to ensure you will be eligible to apply for a professional license.

Entry into the Pharm.D course also involves completing the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), which comprises seven sub-tests that measure applicants' writing, verbal and reading abilities, quantitative skills, and their chemistry and biology knowledge.

The doctor of pharmacy course consists of several different disciplines, some of which are compulsory and others that are optional. Along with the expected focus of the course in covering dispensing medications and advising patients, students in this course may also study:

  • Pharmacology―the study of how drugs affect the human body
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry―how chemistry is used in the development of drugs
  • Pharmacognosy―the study of plant- and animal-based drugs

A fully qualified pharmacist can expect to earn a fairly decent salary. Lower-end salaries in this industry tend to be around the $89,000 a year mark; however, top-earning pharmacists may make up to $146,000 yearly. The median salary in the industry is around $116,000.

The Industry

Most pharmacist work in large hospitals or private facilities. They also might work in independent or privately owned drugstores, local community clinics, elder care facilities or small medical practices.

A number of pharmacists also work within the research sector of the industry, such as pharmaceutical warehouses or laboratories, involving anything from developing and designing new drugs to carrying out testing and research.

Experienced pharmacists may also choose to open their own pharmacies at later stages in their career.

Years of Experience

As part of the course, students are expected to complete practical training that takes places in a variety of clinical settings, such as hospitals, pharmacies and community clinics. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to work closely with a wide range of professionals who can help them shape their studies and make decisions as to the focus of their pharmaceutical work, which could be in hospitals or the research sector.

Once you complete the doctor of pharmacy program, you will need to obtain a license to practice in the state in which you reside. Two licensing tests must be completed:

  • North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX)
  • Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)

Further advice and guidance about these exams is usually provided toward the end of your doctor of pharmacy program. Coupled with the extensive clinical practice students have to undertake, this is usually sufficient experience to secure an entry-level role as a pharmacist.

Job Growth Trend

Job prospects in the industry are on par with other sectors, with an expected increase in opportunities of 14 percent by 2022. However, as the demand on the entire health care industry increases, more universities are offering the doctor of pharmacy program, and it has become an increasingly popular program of study to pursue.

Although the world of pharmacy is competitive, it's also very rewarding. It's a community-based industry, with many professional networking, training and conference options throughout the year across the U.S.

Flexible work hours are often available, especially within the private health care sector. Flexibility and good salaries make pharmacy a viable career choice for working mothers.

While the pursuit of pharmacy requires a large upfront commitment, it could ultimately pay off as a long-term career.

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