You’ve decided that you want to pursue a career as a pharmacist. What education do you need to follow your career path, do you need licensing, and how much will you make in your new job? We’ll answer all these questions and more in this informative guide.
What Skills Do You Need to Have?
To be a successful pharmacist, you’ll need to be passionate about delivering medical solutions that help patients live better lives. Since you won’t be interacting with patients directly to any significant degree, however, you’ll need to be even more passionate about the benefits that pharmaceutical drugs can offer to patients in need.
As you pursue your undergraduate degree, focus on disciplines like biology, chemistry, human anatomy, calculus, and statistics. These skills will directly translate into long-term success as a pharmacist. Specifically, you’ll need to be skilled in three different sub-disciplines related to pharmaceuticals:
Pharmacology is the study of how drugs affect the human body. As a pharmacist, you’ll need to have a thorough grasp of exactly how popular pharmaceutical drugs interact with the various highly-tuned systems that affect human biology and psychology.
While many aspects of pharmacology focus specifically on synthetic drugs, pharmacognosy is the study of natural drugs derived from plant or animal sources.
3. Pharmaceutical Chemistry
You’ll need to know a lot about chemistry to be a successful pharmacist. Pharmaceutical chemistry is the practice of using chemistry to make new drugs and evaluate how they interact with the human body.
What Degree Do You Need?
To get a job as a pharmacist, you’ll need to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. It’s sometimes possible to get started on your Pharm.D. before you finish your undergraduate degree, but many students complete all four years of their undergraduate coursework before they set their sights on becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy.
Pharm.D. degrees generally take four years to complete. As part of your Pharm.D. coursework, you’ll dive into the intricacies of pharmacology, pharmacognosy, and pharmaceutical chemistry. Upon the completion of your studies, you’ll be an expert in how to formulate drugs and how these drugs affect the human body.
Your Pharm.D. coursework won’t only focus on the chemical aspect of being a pharmacist. You’ll also learn how to interact with patients and run your own pharmacy. As part of your Pharm.D. degree, you’ll spend hundreds of hours working in clinical settings to gain hands-on expertise if your chosen field.
Do You Need Any Certifications or Licenses?
To operate as a pharmacist in the United States, you’ll need to obtain licensing. To do so, you’ll need to submit proof that you completed an accredited Pharm.D. program and pass both the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) and the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX). Once you have received licensing, you’ll be able to work as a pharmacist anywhere in the United States.
How Long Does Pharmacist Training Take?
From start to finish, most aspiring pharmacists spend between six and eight years studying their chosen discipline. There are a variety of different Pharm.D. programs out there, and some of them take longer to complete than others.
For instance, some Pharm.D. programs accept students right out of high school. These types of programs are usually quite intensive, and they take six years to complete. When you pursue this kind of Pharm.D. program, you might miss out on some of the social and developmental experiences that you’d enjoy going to a traditional four-year undergraduate institution.
Other Pharm.D. programs accept students who have been pursuing undergraduate degrees for two to three years. If you want to pursue this type of program, you’ll need to focus on pharmacy-related disciplines during your undergraduate studies. These programs involve six to seven years of studies in total.
Lastly, certain Pharm.D. programs only accept students who have completed four-year undergraduate degrees. These programs involve eight full years of studying.
How Much Will You Make as a Pharmacist?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists made an average of $126,120 in 2018. The lowest 10 percent of pharmacists made an average of $87,420, and the highest 10 percent of these professionals made an average of $159,410. While getting a Pharm.D. requires a significant amount of schooling, at the end of your education, you’ll be set up with a career path that could be highly lucrative.
What Are Your Job Prospects as a Pharmacist?
In 2016, the BLS states that there were 312,500 pharmacist jobs in the United States. This number of jobs is expected to increase by six percent between 2016 and 2026, which means that the availability of pharmacist jobs is growing slower than the average availability of other jobs, which is projected to grow around seven percent during the same period. Overall, the BLS expects that 17,400 new pharmacist jobs will be added during this time window.
Keep in mind that there’s enormous competition among new pharmacists for high-paying positions. You may have trouble competing with your fellow Pharm.D. graduates for the best pharmacist jobs on the market. While you might be forced to start your career as a pharmacist at a nationwide pharmacy chain, you could also get lucky and score a lucrative position in the pharmaceutical industry right after you graduate.
How Do You Find Work as a Pharmacist?
Your ability to find a job as a pharmacist is largely determined by who you know. As part of your Pharm.D. program, you’ll meet a lot of successful pharmacists working in clinical settings.
The better you are at ingratiating yourself and making friends, the more likely it will be that one of your contacts will pay off when you’re on the job hunt. If all else fails, you can simply apply for open pharmacist positions in your area. While you might not get your first pick, you’ll gain valuable on-the-job experience no matter which position you end up getting.