How to Become a Pharmacist
Category : Teen Job Guidance
A pharmacist is a professional who is qualified to prepare and dispense medications to patients, while advising them on the proper use of these drugs. Pharmacists are among the top-paid healthcare professionals, and rightly so, given the number of years they usually spend to acquire essential knowledge and skills. The profession also has great prospect, with job growth of around 14 percent projected from 2012 to 2022. The aim with this piece is to guide you on how to become a pharmacist, if that happens to be your career goal or you are just thinking about the possibility.
Steps to Becoming a
Develop interest in science courses early – There is no way you can aspire to become a pharmacist without being good in science courses. It is, therefore, advisable that you pay special attention to relevant courses such as biology and chemistry while in high school. How well you perform in these science subjects will determine your suitability for a career in pharmacy.
Meet the pre-requisites – When talking about how to become a pharmacist, it is pertinent to note that at least a two-year undergraduate program is required to proceed further. There are schools offering pre-pharmacy programs to help students complete the required minimum of two years of undergraduate study in courses such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, immunology, physics and physiology. Alternatively, you may choose to acquire a first degree in a laboratory science, as this can give you opportunity to explore other career options if you so wish.
Sit for PCAT – Many schools and colleges of pharmacy require aspiring students to take a Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). This test is designed to measure your knowledge of science and overall academic skills. Your score in the test must reach a stipulated threshold to be offered admission in some schools. However, the PCAT is not needed at every pharmacy school, so you may want to confirm this from the school you have in focus.
Obtain a Pharm.D – After successfully scaling the PCAT hurdle, you may now go ahead to enroll at an accredited pharmacy school for a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree. You should expect to spend about four years to complete this program. The first three years are usually used to expose students to the fundamentals and then the more advanced principles of pharmacy, including dosage forms, patient counseling, pharmacy law and ethics, bio-statistics, and health management. Between the second and third year, students determine a specific specialty they would like to focus on. The final year is more about getting practical experience.
Secure a license – You cannot practice after obtaining a Pharm.D, unless you have a license. It is required to take and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX) to secure a license to practice. If you fail the exam, there is opportunity to retake, but written approval from a pharmacy body and an extra exam fee will be required. In some states, an extra exam such as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) will need to be taken to gain a license.
Once you have a license, you are fully qualified to practice as a pharmacist. You can earn a salary ranging from over $80,000 to around $140,000 per year. As a pharmacist, you can work in a hospital, research center, drug-manufacturing company, or even in private practice.