Pharmacists dispense prescription medication to patients. They must take a patient’s record of allergies and possible drug interactions into account prior to filling a prescription for medicine given to a patient by a physician. Pharmacists counsel patients about their medications and answer questions.
A good candidate for pharmacist training has a strong background in advanced math and science including biology and chemistry. Pharmacists also require excellent interpersonal skills. Not only do pharmacists have to consult with patients, but they also have to communicate effectively with physicians and other health care professionals. In many small pharmacies, pharmacists tend to also work as a direct supervisor by default, overseeing the work of the pharmacy technicians and other support staff.
Pharmacy Schools By State
The Pharm.D. degree is a professional degree required to work as a pharmacist within the United States.
Technically, the minimum amount of requisite classes for the programs is two years, but with fierce competition for admissions to pharmacy schools, a four year degree with an emphasis on math and science is the true standard. Pharm.D. programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education are four years in length. The accreditation is required to become licensed.
Licensing and Examination
In addition to the schooling, pharmacists in all U.S. states and territories are required to successfully pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which tests Pharm.D. graduates on their scope of knowledge, to legally work as a pharmacist. In addition, most states also require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which tests pharmacists on pharmacy law. Some states or municipalities may require further licensing.
To sit for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), applicants must pass a criminal background check, have the Pharm.D. degree from a pharmacy school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, reach a minimum age requirement and have satisfied a clinical experience requirement.
Pharmacist Career Outlook
The job prospects for pharmacists are excellent. Medical research is constant and new drug therapies are available all of the time, growing the need for pharmacies and pharmacists. As the baby boomer generation ages, the need for more medication distribution will grow. In some countries, politics and public funding for health care for those who live in poverty and old age may increase the need for pharmacists and pharmacies as more of the population obtain medical treatments for both minor and major illnesses.*
Health care as a whole has shifted into a preventative care model and therefore more people than ever are seeking treatment for conditions before they develop into more serious health issues.
Job opportunities are also expected to grow as more pharmacists embrace the part-time lifestyle, made possible by higher than average salary and excellent benefit packages.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Pharmacist Work Environment
Pharmacists have a variety of options when it comes to their work environment. They can work in a retail environment at a national drug store chain, or small, locally-owned drug shops. They can own and operate their own small pharmacy business. Most grocery stores and discount stores have pharmacies to offer convenience to shoppers. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and even doctor’s offices hire pharmacists.
Pharmacists tend to work long hours, especially within the hospital setting. It is considered one of the most family-friendly professional career tracks as it is possible to work 24 hour shifts within the hospital environment and have huge blocks of time available for family. A significant amount of pharmacists also work part-time with job-share opportunities. At the same time, hospitals remain staffed and open around the clock, even holidays.
Due to the nature of working in the medical field, pharmacists can find work in any corner of the world. Whether your goal is to live in the heart of a major metropolitan area or on the family farm, people require medication everywhere.
Some pharmacists work in the research and development of new drug treatments at pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmacists spend the majority of their workday on their feet, so this is a significant point of consideration while contemplating a career as a pharmacist.
Regardless of the location, pharmacists work within clean, clinical, well-lit conditions.
Pharmacists within retail settings have the largest opportunity for advancement with the possibility of managing the pharmacy, a store location, a region, the district – all the way up to the corporate level. Pharmacy management positions are available within every drug dispensary across the profession. Some hospitals keep pharmacists on staff at the administrative level. Pharmacists who have ambition to work within management should take business courses throughout their education to prepare themselves.
Pharmacists that work in research and development can combine many business concepts, such as marketing and advertising to lab production and quality control.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual wage for pharmacists in 2008 was $106,410.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/