Pharmacists play an integral role in the healthcare industry. In recent years, the healthcare industry has advanced due to increased healthcare needs. Researchers and technicians have developed a wide array of drugs and medications to meet new and more complex medical conditions. This has pushed the need for more pharmacists throughout the nation. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the field of pharmacy is expected to grow from 2010-2015 with a 58% increase in pharmacy residents and 21% increase in entry-level Pharm.D. graduates.
Pharmacists are professionals who dispense medication to patients and also provide advice on the usage and effects of medical drugs. Their services are crucial to the implementation of medical treatment plans and healthcare delivery services.
To qualify for this job, individuals must meet the minimum educational and training requirements. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, should complete a 1-2 year residency program, and earn a license.
Many colleges all over the nation are offering pharmacy degree programs at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate level. These programs are designed to provide students with an in-depth knowledge and skills, and prepare them for the licensing examinations in their state.
Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (B.S. in Pharm.)
This is an undergraduate pre-pharmacy program that is designed to prepare students for entry-level careers or advanced pharmacy studies. The program typically takes four years to complete. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of fundamental pharmaceutical procedures, medical terminology, drugs and their uses, and how various medications affect the human body.
The coursework is typically divided into a set of theoretical subjects and practice-oriented courses. Students must cover all the courses and earn the minimum number of credit hours to successfully complete the degree. Although the components of the curriculum will vary from college to college, general coursework remains the same. Here are some of the important subjects covered:
- General chemistry
- Medicinal chemistry
- Pharmaceutical calculations
- Microbiology and immunology
- Dimensions of healthcare
Master of Science in Pharmacology
This is a two-year advanced graduate program that focuses on pharmacy practice and its science. The degree will cover clinical science areas and will equip students with an in-depth knowledge of the field. Students will develop a strong understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and drug design. The coursework entails a range of courses that are covered in classrooms and training labs. Each course carries a certain number of credit hours that must be earned. Some colleges also offer internships and practical training sessions as a part of the degree requirements. Here are some of the common subjects covered in the degree:
- Pharmaceutical policy and safety
- Social behavioral theories in drug use
- Health behavior
- Social organization of pharmacy
Doctor of Pharmacy is a post-graduate program that will qualify students for licensing and a professional career as a pharmacist. The program will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the basic, clinical, and administrative procedures of pharmacy. Students will learn how to:
- Methodically identify pharmacy-related problems
- Demonstrate professional skills and function in groups
- Acquire an in-depth knowledge of pharmaceutical sciences
- Critically evaluate clinical information
- Understand the role of a pharmacist
The program can take 4-8 years to complete, depending upon the school. In the first few semesters, the program will focus on theory-building. Students will then be required to participate in training sessions and gain hands-on experience. Research is an important aspect of the field and covers a major portion of the degree. Students must conduct research for an approved thesis topic. The research area should be relevant to the field and can include areas such as medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, etc.
The requirements for enrolling in a pharmacy program will vary from place to place. Undergrad students must provide a high school diploma and meet certain grade requirements of the school. On the other hand, applicants for the Pharm.D. program must:
- Take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test)
- Have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.0
- Letters of recommendation
- Letter of intent
An online pharmacy degree is an alternative route to preparing for a career in this field. If you are working or do not have the time to attend campus-based classes, you can opt for a pharmacy degree online. This mode of learning is flexible and will enable you to study according to your own schedule. You must find out what curriculum is being offered by the online school. Online schools are following a hybrid format, which requires students to take a few classes at the campus for hands-on training. Usually, online pharmacy degree programs are covered via videos and online lectures.
Licensing and Career Prospects
After earning a Pharm.D. degree, students must complete a residency program that lasts between 1-2 years. A license is also required for this occupation. Individuals are required to pass two examinations to get a license; these are:
- The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX)
- The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE)
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists made a median annual income of $116,670 in 2012. The income level will vary slightly from place to place. As a pharmacist, you can work in pharmacies and drug stores, hospitals, and general merchandise stores. The positive employment outlook makes this occupation a suitable choice if you want to join the healthcare industry.