“Pharmacy 101: Is this healthcare profession right for you?”
If you’re looking for a rewarding career path in the healthcare industry that also involves patient care, you might be asking yourself, “is pharmacy a good career?“
You can earn a good salary as a pharmacist, and you can work your way up in the field. You can start your journey as a pharmacy technician and advance to becoming a pharmacist.
There are different paths one can take to become a pharmacist, regardless of educational background or working experience. A career in pharmacy might be more within reach than you think.
In this article we will discover what pharmacists do ar work, and whether a career in pharmacy is a good idea.
What Do Pharmacists Do?
These days pharmacists work in different areas and have different responsibilities, such as conducting health screenings, giving vaccines and immunizations, as well as offering patients advice on over-the-counter medications for ailments that aren’t severe enough for a doctor.
As a pharmacist, you’ll also have to advise and educate patients on the correct usage of the drugs you dispense. Clinical pharmacists are also in charge of supervising and teaching pharmacy technicians. This is something to take into account as you consider this career: do you like dealing with people?
If you’re not comfortable talking to patients, you can still work in a pharmacy. Consultant pharmacists and pharmaceutical industry pharmacists mainly deal with healthcare providers and healthcare professionals. There are many different options you can explore, and that includes online work.
Clinical pharmacy services are vital to a healthcare team and the healthcare industry. Aside from dispensing medication, pharmacists also keep an eye out for patient safety. They make sure that the doctor has prescribed the appropriate medications in the appropriate dose. They also ensure that the medications don’t negatively interact with anything else the patient is taking.
Where Do Pharmacists Work?
Pharmacists aren’t only restricted to working in drug stores. You can find pharmacists in a clinical pharmacy, an independent pharmacy, a hospital pharmacy or even working from home.
They can also work as a pharmacist for government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, online pharmacies and outpatient facilities.
Pharmacists can be found in community pharmacies, retail pharmacies, and chain drug stores. The specific duties of the pharmacist depend on where they’re working.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?
If you have an interest in pharmaceutical science or becoming a pharmacist, there are a few paths for you to consider. There are also traditional and online pharmacy schools and pharmacy programs that’ll suit you and your circumstances.
It generally takes about six to eight years to become a pharmacist. You can choose to take a six-year Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy degree) straight out of high school, which will typically include professional pharmacy coursework and pre-pharmacy studies. This is also an option for you if you have completed two years of an undergraduate degree.
Alternatively, you can get a bachelor’s degree, which will take four years, and then apply for a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. That will take another four years to complete, bringing your total up to eight years of school.
However, it can take a little longer if you desire to specialize in a specific area of pharmacy. You might need to factor in an extra year or two if you’re required to do a residency at a clinic, hospital or community pharmacy. Of course, personal factors can also determine how long it takes for each individual.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry, all you have to do is complete the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. So technically, it would take about 4 years for you to become a pharmacist.
The next thing to do is to ensure you have everything you need to qualify for a pharmacy degree or PharmD program.
All pharmacy schools don’t necessarily have the same educational requirements, but they are pretty similar. It’s important to be aware of what exactly is required for you to gain admission into your chosen pharmacy degree program.
Pharmacy schools don’t necessarily require you to have a bachelor’s degree, but many pharmacy schools do have prerequisite courses that you need to complete.
These are courses like calculus, anatomy and biochemistry; the course you’re required to take depends on the school and program you’re looking at. There is a strong focus on physics, biology and chemistry courses.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related school, you may also qualify for a pharmacy program. You will be expected to have a fairly good GPA of about 3.0 or higher.
The first step when looking at potential pharmacy schools is making sure that you’ve done the necessary prerequisite coursework and then making sure that the school is accredited by the ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education).
A program will typically take four years to complete, but some schools do offer expedited programs if you meet certain requirements.
Depending on the school you’re applying to, you might be required to take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test) as part of the admissions process. The PCAT has sections that test your writing skills, reading comprehension, biology, chemistry, verbal abilities and quantitative ability.
Your PCAT scores can definitely bolster your application and secure your place if they’re good enough. It also won’t hurt your application if you can show that you’ve done some work experience in a pharmacy.
A pharmacy program will include both experiential and didactic learning, which means that you’ll supplement what you learn in the classroom with hands-on, practical training in a real pharmacy. Your first-year lectures will include classes in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical science and biochemistry.
During your coursework, you will probably study public health, pharmacy law, pharmaceuticals, community practice, pharmacology and body systems and pharmacy management.
The hours spent doing practical training can also count towards the 1,500 clinical internship hours that must be completed. This isn’t the exact figure of required clinical internship hours for every school or pharmacy program. Typically, these rotations begin in the second year of the program.
While choosing to specialize will add time to the length of your pharmacy degree, it can also make this a more lucrative career path for you. With PharmD programs, one can specialize in a number of fields, including; cardiology, neurology, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and so much more.
Using the work experience and education from being a pharmacist, one can also further advance themselves in the pharmaceutical industry.
After receiving your Doctor of Pharmacy degree, the next step is to become a licensed pharmacist. There are different requirements for each state in the U.S., so make sure that you’re aware of what’s necessary for the state you choose to practice in.
Here are some requirements that you may have to meet:
- A Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an ACPE-accredited school.
- Successful completion of a certain amount of clinical internship hours.
- A passing score on the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam).
- A passing score on the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam) or any other state pharmacy licensure exam.
If your desired career path is working as a pharmacist in a hospital or another specialized environment, then you might need additional specialized training.
How Much Does a Pharmacist Make?
Pharmacy can be a competitive field because there’s always a need for pharmacists; in hospitals, retail pharmacies and even in the pharmaceutical industry. You can boost your career profile by networking throughout your time in pharmacy school as well as getting work experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacist employment is projected to grow by 2% from 2021 to 2031, with about 13,600 new job openings projected for each year. This is a decline in comparison to the 5% projected growth seen in other industries, but this is still a good job prospect.
A possible reason for this decline is that there were fewer pharmacists retiring, and this coincided with an 85% increase in pharmacy graduates.
Despite these figures, there will still be a need for over 300,000 pharmacists to work in a variety of healthcare settings. The role of traditional retail pharmacists is currently changing, having them in more healthcare settings than drug stores and retail pharmacies. This will result in more pharmacist jobs.
The responsibilities of pharmacists are also expanding to include much more patient care. They do more than just dispense medications at this point.
They are now doing things such as vaccinating patients and running clinics. This means that the demand for pharmacists will keep growing. This also means the need for other roles, such as pharmacy technicians, will also grow.
The median annual salary for a pharmacist is $128,710 or $61.88 per hour. The top-paying states for pharmacists, in descending order, are:
The setting in which a pharmacist works can also impact how much money they make annually. For example, one of the up-and-coming specializations in pharmacy is ambulatory care pharmacy.
When working in this field, pharmacists work more in outpatient facilities. They deal primarily with chronic diseases and work together with other healthcare providers.
In this role, pharmacists also conduct research to stay up to date with advancements in medication therapy management.
The top wages per workplace, in descending order, in 2020 were:
- Ambulatory Healthcare
- Pharmacies and drug stores
On top of the salary, pharmacists also generally get other perks such as paid sick leave, paid time off, paid personal days, bonuses, health insurance and sometimes, even tuition reimbursement. It all just depends on where you end up working.
Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacist
One of the best ways to decide if pharmacy is a good career is to weigh up the pros and cons. This will give you a better idea of what you can expect and whether or not it’s a good fit for you.
One of the best parts of a career in pharmacy is the lucrative pay. Even the lowest-paid pharmacist makes over $100,000 a year. That’s not including any perks and benefits that come with the job, or taking into account the wages you can earn when you specialize.
Flexibility in the work environment
There are so many healthcare settings that pharmacists can work in. This provides a level of flexibility in the choice of where you might like to work. This is also great because you can choose the setting that pays the most.
A career in pharmacy is always going to be necessary and lucrative. People will always need someone to dispense prescriptions and consult when ill.
This career can provide you with job stability for decades if you want to work that long. You can also branch out and start your own pharmacy!
Serving your community
As someone working a patient-facing job in the healthcare industry, you get to serve your community. In this position, you get to make a difference in someone’s life every day. Pharmacists are truly vital in healthcare facilities.
Well-respected career path
Medical professionals are some of the most respected people in the world. That makes this career one of the most well-respected. That isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Part of what makes this career path so well-respected is how much schooling is required. As well as how smart one has to be to have such an amazing working knowledge of medicine.
Ability to travel
If you qualify as a pharmacist, you also have the option to work as a travelling pharmacist. This is a way to see the country and make more money. You can literally go to where the money is!
There are also some pay bumps associated with working as a traveling pharmacist. The demand means that they are willing to pay more. And most pharmacists who travel receive a stipend for food and housing.
No room for error
As a pharmacist, there is absolutely no room to make mistakes. A mistake can negatively impact a patient’s health in a big way, and you could be held liable.
Competitive career path
Choosing a career in pharmacy is entering a very competitive field. You might not be earning a salary as high as you’d like right away.
You might work long hours depending on the setting you choose to work in. Some pharmacies are open 24/7, which can mean overnight shifts.
An expensive and lengthy journey
Getting your qualifications as a pharmacist is a long journey that requires quite a lot of money. This is especially true if you choose to specialize when you get your degree.
The costs start to add up when you take into account that you have to get a doctoral degree and complete a residency. There are all the fees associated with the application process. And then, of course, it can take nearly 10 years, depending on your chosen career path.
Maintaining the license
It’s not a simple matter of getting licensed or certified just once. Depending on your state, you have to renew quite regularly to be able to practice.
How to Determine if Pharmacy is the Right Career for You
You can never be 100% sure that you’ll find this career fulfilling. If you want to become a pharmacist, research to ensure it’s a path that interests you.
You can contact any pharmacy schools that you’re interested in directly and find out more about their pharmacy programs. You can also consider talking to your local pharmacist or pharmaceutical students about their experience.
Use the resources at your school and see if it’s possible to shadow a pharmacist or join clubs and organizations for pharmacy students. Speak to a guidance counselor to see if they have any information that might be helpful in making a decision.
What are the continuing education requirements for pharmacists?
Every state in the U.S. requires pharmacists to complete continuing education courses. The specific requirements, like the number of hours and frequency, are dependent on each state. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the regulations in your state.
Generally, though, most states require renewal every two years and at least 30 hours of continuing education. Different specialties also have different requirements – clinical pharmacists and community pharmacists need different ongoing education.
Is pharmacy a good career? The answer is a resounding yes! If you’re interested in joining the healthcare industry, a pharmacy career might be just the career path for you.
A career in pharmacy can be very lucrative. There’s also room to grow and advance in this career path if you specialize. Pharmacy can be a very rewarding career, especially as it moves towards more patient care. Whether you want to become a hospital pharmacist or help train pharmacy technicians, this field has something to offer.