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What is Pharmacy?
Pharmacy is a field of medicine involved in providing patients medication needed to treat ailments and diseases as outlined by a physicians prescription. Pharmacists see to the operations of a pharmacy and work from a variety of locations including dedicated pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. Pharmacists are responsible for providing education to customers regarding maintaining good health and inform them of possible reactions and side effects of medications dispensed.
Pharmacists are licensed to dispense prescriptions to patients who need proper medication and provide counseling while also monitoring the health of the patient. In addition to working with patients, pharmacists are tasked with advising physicians and/or physician assistants about proper medication, dosages, interactions, and potential medical side effects.
A pharmacist must intimately understand a drug or medication along with its chemical composition, physical properties, interaction with other medications, and likely side effects to the general public remains properly education and protected. Becoming a pharmacist is still considered by many industry experts to be one of the top professions in the U.S. blending technical know-how with a desire to help others in a stable, high paying career.
Educational Requirements for Pharmacists
A doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD) allows an individual to become a practicing pharmacist. PharmD programs are typically four years long (or three continuous) with the final year reserved for practical experience. Most pharmacy programs require two years of prerequisite courses prior to admission or a bachelor's degree.
For individuals pursuing a degree directly out of high school there are pre-pharmacy programs available, as well as â€œ0-6 programsâ€ which are six year programs that begin with the prerequisite courses and end with required pharmacy graduate level courses. Additionally, most programs will require a score of at least 50% on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
Pharmacy programs are highly selective due to the nature of the career and limited amount of space. Therefore students looking to enter the field should be prepared for a high amount of competition. More comprehensive information regarding pharmacy program prerequisites can be found here. Pre-requisite courses necessary for admission may include:
What is Pharmacy Science?
Pharmacy science is defined as anything related to the standardization, collection, processing, communication, and preparation of prescription drugs. It is true that pharmacy science has come a long way inside of a generation as a few years ago pharmacists were measuring, sorting, and mixing drugs as they were prescribed by a physician. Most prescription drugs of today are mass produced by large multi-national pharmaceutical companies under the guidance of the FDA. Although a pharmacist is performing less manual labor today than a generation ago, pharmacists still are required to earn an advanced degree to dispense medications as the complexity of drugs has escalated markedly.
The proper dosage and storage of medications and drugs is an important aspect of pharmacy science. Making sure the correct person receives the right prescription in the right frequency and amount while adhering to applicable federal and state laws is critical to the well-functioning pharmacy ecosystem.
Popular Pharmacy Careers
There are a number of tracks within pharmacy that allow professionals to specialize within a variety of occupational settings. The following tracks are a sampling of the specializations available to pharmacists including healthcare distributors, pharmaceutical, academic, informatics, managed care, community pharmacy, ambulatory care, consultant, hospital, and federal pharmacies.
Healthcare Distributors. Healthcare Distributors are the brains behind the pharmacy’s logistical operations. They make sure the correct medical supplies and prescription drugs arrive at the right facility when needed. Healthcare distributors are often tasked to manage supply chain management, humidity control, inventory control, record keeping, quality control, on-site training, distribution methodology, security and emergency planning.
Pharmaceutical. The pharmaceutical industry formulates drugs, produces chemicals, manufactures prescription drugs, produce non-prescription drugs, and other health products. Pharmacists working for a pharmaceutical corporation may focus on research, manufacturing, marketing, quality control, management, sales, and/or administration. A recent report by PhRMA supports the direct and indirect economic impact of the pharmaceutical industry at $1.2 trillion annually.
Managed Care Pharmacy. The Managed Care Pharmacy track specialize in the design and management of prescription drug benefits for the health insurance industry. These specialists provide access to safe, cost-effective drugs for a wide variety of individuals across the healthcare ecosystem.
Academic Pharmacy. Academic Pharmacy offers a professional discipline to education an teach others in public and private institutions nationwide. With over three-thousand full-time professors at colleges across the U.S., the academic prowess of this discipline continues to grow in size and influence.
Community Pharmacy. The Community Pharmacy discipline can be either an independent organization or part of a national chain. With pros and cons to each, consumers are provided retail pharmacy options with the same overarching goals of prudently assisting patients. Licensed pharmacists are seen as the go-to source for ailments of all shapes and sizes which explains the Gallop Poll ranking of “most trusted professional” for 22 consecutive years and running.
Informatics. Informatics is the science of computer information systems in the pharmacy industry. Bringing health insurance information together with patient data, informatics is a science that continues to provide quality information to the pharmacy industry.
Ambulatory Care Pharmacy. Pharmacists specializing in Ambulatory Care mesh the urgent need of ambulatory patients and pharmacy within the healthcare continuum. AC Pharmacists meld direct care and proper medication management with long-term relationships, coordinated care, wellness programs, referrals, self-management, and community partnerships.
Pharmacy Consultant. A Pharmacy Consultant acts as independent agent working one-on-one with patients in a variety of settings. With the genesis in nursing and long-term care, a pharmacy consultant can help with administrative, distribution, and clinical expertise a traditional doctor or pharmacist may not be able to provide.
Hospital & Institutional Pharmacy. The expert clinical skills of a pharmacist blend with latent prescription drug knowledge to provide a unique customer-facing professional in a hospital or clinical organization. add an important resident expert to the mix of hospital professionals. Sub disciplines of institutional pharma include adult therapy, oncology, nuclear pharmacy, poison control, and intravenous therapy.
Federal Pharmacy. Military Pharmacists and U.S. Public Health Pharmacists are an integral part of the health and well-being of the armed forces, FDA, CDC, NIH, Immigration Department, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. for our country. Federal pharmacist help manage health, prescribe medications, and counsel patients much the same way their private industry counterparts do.
How Do I Become a Pharmacist?
In order to become pharmacist, you will need the proper education, training, and licensure. To begin, the educational requirements include a series of general education courses with an emphasis on the sciences like physics, chemistry, biology plus successfully passing the PCAT or Pharmacy College Admissions Test prior to matriculation.
Once you have completed your prerequisites, passed the PCAT, and decided upon an accredited pharmacy school, you will begin your journey towards earning a Pharm D or Doctorate in Pharmacy. This 5-6 year program includes rigorous coursework, an internship under the guidance of a licensed pharmacist, and successfully sitting for your state’s mandated pharmacy examination. At this point, you are eligible for state licensure as a pharmacist and can seek employment in the pharmacy field. Keep in mind, you may need to seek state-approved continuing education courses to keep your license active depending on your state of residence and their unique requirements.
Top Job Titles of a Pharmacist
A list of commonly used job titles for a pharmacist has been compiled to give you a wider view of the pharmacy profession. We have culled the list of commonly used job titles to help you associate commonly used terms for a pharmacist into your vocabulary. The list includes the following:
- Clinical Pharmacist
- Hospital Pharmacist
- Outpatient Pharmacy Manager
- Pharmacist in Charge (PIC)
- Pharmacist in Charge, Owner (PIC, Owner)
- Pharmacy Informaticist
- Registered Pharmacist
- Staff Pharmacist
- Staff Pharmacist, Hospital
Job Responsibilities of a Pharmacist
In a recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor completed by active pharmacists, the top 5 job responsibilities of a licensed pharmacist include the following items:
- Plan, implement, and maintain a set of defined procedures for mixing, packaging, or labeling pharmaceuticals to ensure quality and security
- Provide counsel and information to patients and healthcare professionals on drug interactions, side effects, storage, and dosage
- Carefully review prescriptions to assure accuracy, contents, and suitability
- Maintain and manage inventory of prescription drugs and patient records
- Assess the purity, strength, and identity of prescription medications
Where Can a Pharmacist Work?
While the traditional image of a pharmacist standing behind the counter at a local drugstore wearing a long, white lab coat is still true it is not a complete picture of the vocation. There are a number of work settings you may find a licensed pharmacist working, including:
- Veteran’s administration
- Retail outlets
- Healthcare associations
- Drug research companies
- Colleges & universities
- Home health care facilities
- Health clinics
- Pharmaceutical sales
- Insurance companies
- Home infusion facilities
- Community health care facilities
- State and federal government agencies
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Employment Opportunities and Pharmacy Job Growth
The short supply and high demand for pharmacists has led to increases in salary in recent years. Additionally, many tuition benefits may be gleaned from potential employers who wish to secure pharmacists prior to their graduation. With the increase in population, especially as baby boomers begin to enter the retirement age, the necessity for qualified pharmacists is expected to grow. It is important to note that all states require licensing for pharmacists, which in turn requires a pharmacy degree and a passing score on the North American Pharmaceutical Licensing Exam (NAPLEX)
States with the Highest Employment of Pharmacists
- California 28,670
- Texas 21,560
- Florida 21,490
- New York 20,440
- Pennsylvania 13,460
Top Paying States for a Pharmacist
- Alaska $137,650
- California $136,100
- New Hampshire $128,790
- Vermont $128,380
- Wisconsin $124,060
Largest Employers of Pharmacists
- Health & Personal Care Stores 134,610
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals 71,390
- Grocery Stores 22,670
- General Merchandise Stores 16,940
- Department Stores 10,330
Pharmacy Career Outlook
The median pay for a pharmacist is $122,320 annually according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics which is nearly four times the median income for all occupations in the United States. Individuals working in more densely populated areas tend to earn higher salaries to earn more due to the increase in customers. This growth projection is equivalent to adding 9,100 pharmacist jobs over the next decade.
Those interested in a career as a pharmacist may also wish to consider a career in medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry, clinical and industrial drug development, or pharmacoeconomics, pharmaceutical economics. For additional information on pharmacy, check out our Pharmacy Career Guide on our blog.