Pharmacists are health professionals with extensive knowledge on how to use medication safely and effectively. Once patients get certain medication prescribed by a physician, they take their prescriptions to a pharmacist. The pharmacist has to dispense the drug and explain how it should be properly used.
Recent reports point to an increased need for pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in the United States, which would make pharmacy an excellent career choice.
If you are interested in working in healthcare industry, educating patients about medications, and providing helpful advice, pharmacy might be a good fit for you.
This article will explain how to become a pharmacist.
What Is Required for Becoming a Pharmacist?
In order to become a pharmacist, you will need advanced education and licensure. Having a doctoral degree (Doctor of Pharmacy, also known as Pharm.D.) is mandatory for becoming a pharmacist. Also, there are several exams that you must pass in order to get a license.
Students usually enter Pharm.D programs after their third year of undergraduate studies. If you want to apply for a Pharm.D program as well, make sure that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
Your focus should be on the following courses, so aim for higher grades in:
- Organic chemistry
- Human anatomy
- General chemistry
Students that entered Pharm.D. programs have to take the PCAT, which is short for Pharmacy College Admission Test. The PCAT is made out of seven tests that measure:
- Verbal ability
- Writing ability
- Chemistry knowledge
- Biology knowledge
- Reading and understanding
Pharm.D. students also have to take courses in pharmaceutical chemistry (how chemistry is used to design drugs), pharmacology (how drugs affect the human body), and pharmacology (focuses on plant-derived and animal-derived drugs).
If you are a future pharmacy student, expect lots of clinical training in different settings like hospitals and compounding pharmacies. During your clinical training, you will be able to work with physicians, treat patients, and see how other healthcare professionals do their work.
People usually think that pharmacists only fill prescriptions, but in reality, they have many more responsibilities such as:
- Performing blood sugar and cholesterol tests in patients
- Administering vaccines and flu shots
- Ensuring that the prescribed medication won’t have a negative effect on the patient’s health due to interacting with other drugs the patient might be taking
- Performing wellness screenings
- Working with insurance companies
Aside from working in retail, hospital, government, and military pharmacies, pharmacists can work in research labs and clinics.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Pharmacist
With all that being said, you have to complete your education before you apply for your pharmacist license. Here are the steps you need to take to become a pharmacist:
1. Choose the Degree Path
It usually takes 6 or 7 years to acquire a bachelor’s degree and a Pharm.D, seeing as pharmacy schools are mostly dual degree programs. Some programs only require high school diplomas from their students, while there are others that require a bachelor’s degree and are meant for doctoral-level training.
2. Pass The PCAT
Take seven tests that make the PCAT. These tests usually consist of multiple-choice questions about previously mentioned topics.
When it comes to the required passing score, each school determines its own.
3. Finish Your Education and Take Licensure Exams
Once you have finished with all of the required courses, exams, and formal internships, you should take the licensure exam.
After completing the Pharm.D program, future pharmacists need to take two licensing exams. The first exam is The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam, and the second one could be your state’s jurisprudence exam or the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam).
4. Apply for Your Pharmacist License
After you have completed the previous steps, all that you need to do is apply for your pharmacist license. Depending on the state you are living in, you might need to undergo a background check, take additional training hours, etc.
Other Pharmacy Career Options Becoming a pharmacist isn’t your only option if you want to work with medications and patients.
Your second option is to become a pharmacy assistant or technician. These two positions are also very important in the healthcare industry. If you’re considering either of these positions, you should know that they require much less education and different diplomas.
Pharmacy assistants and technicians complete and organize important tasks for doctors and patients. That could be a great place to start your career in pharmacy.
In order to help you decide which pharmacy career option is for you, let’s look at them in more detail.
If you want to become a pharmacy assistant, you need a high school diploma and a completed on-the-job training.
Because higher education isn’t necessary for a pharmacy assistant, it goes without saying that they have fewer responsibilities than other healthcare professionals.
Pharmacy assistants keep a record of medications that have been delivered, work at the cash register, and stock and manage supplies.
In order to become a pharmacy technician, you have to earn the credential of CPhT, which is short for Certified Pharmacy Technician. This certification is required in most U.S. states.
Furthermore, pharmacy technicians usually undergo formal education programs and acquire an associate’s degree.
Finally, you have to successfully pass a drug screening and a background check.
Pharmacy technicians have more responsibilities such as:
- Filling prescriptions
- Calling the doctor’s office for medication refills
- Labeling and packing prescriptions
- Collecting customer information and entering it into a database
- Talking with customers and answering phone calls
- Taking care of payments
Depending on the state, pharmacy technicians might not have all of these responsibilities. In some states, pharmacy technicians aren’t allowed to call doctor’s offices and ask for prescription refill authorization, while there’s no such restriction in other states.
The Final Verdict
Becoming a pharmacist requires advanced education and certain licensures. There is a long way ahead of you if you are interested in becoming a pharmacist. However, all the troubles could pay off as pharmacists are becoming more and more in-demand.
This article explained everything you need to know on how to become a pharmacist. Carefully consider everything you’ve read here and decide if this is really the right career choice for you.