How to Obtain Your Pharma D Degree in Iowa

Pharmacists are an integral part of the health care industry. They form an essential link between Doctors and patients. They can tell you whether your newest prescription is going to react poorly with your other medications or which medicine is best for your child’s ear infection. They can also help you to choose a remedy when seeing your doctor is not practical, or they simply aren’t available.

If you want to become a pharmacist, there are a wide array of career options and opportunities to work in multiple areas of the healthcare industry. For someone who enjoys interacting with patients, there are opportunities to work in hospitals, long-term care homes or community and family medicine clinics. If you are more interested in the idea of working in a less patient-centric setting, you can still find work in pharmaceutical companies, universities, insurance companies and government departments doing quality insurance or regulatory affairs.

Entering the industry takes a certain level of commitment in terms of time and finances, but the opportunities are varied and exciting for the right individual.

What is Required to Become a Pharmacist

A pharmacist takes on much responsibility within the healthcare industry, so it’s understandable that schooling can take six to eight years. The amount of information a pharmacist possesses takes a good amount of time to accumulate. Generally speaking, a student needs to complete at least a two-year undergraduate program followed by a four-year post-doctoral pharmacy program. Some students will find that they are not ready to take their Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) after just two years, which is why it may take some individuals more than six years to enter the field.

Students interested in practicing must obtain at least a bachelor of science in Pharmacy from a school or college of Pharmacy accredited by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education. Students must also complete 1500 internship hours, this requirement is most often met through their schooling, but it would be wise to look into the number of clinical hours included prior to beginning a program.

The licensure exam is made up of two sections. Students will need to pass both the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). These two components must be passed within a 365-day period in order to count towards licensure.

The fee for licensure by examination is $297.00, which is payable to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. This fee covers the exam registration fee, administrative fee, a biennial license fee of $180.00 and the required criminal background check fee of $45.00.

The exams are available to be written through Pearson VUE testing centers. For more information on completing the licensure process visit the Iowa Board of Pharmacy.

Pharma D Programs in Iowa

Keeping in mind that completing a degree in Pharmacy can take six to eight years, it would make sense that you would want to make the right choice when it comes to selecting a school to attend. There are only two Pharmacy schools in Iowa, but they will each offer individual perks and drawbacks that will suit each student, depending on their needs and interests.

The University of Iowa

Located in Iowa City, the seat of Johnson County in Eastern Iowa, the University is an accredited pharmacy school that offers high school students an Assured Admissions Program that assures qualifying students a spot in the PharmD program.

Classes are taught in modern, sophisticated facilities, and their proximity to the University of Iowa Hospital and clinics means that students have the opportunity to engage in many activities outside the standard Pharmacy curriculum. Students begin observing practicing pharmacists right from their first year of the four-year graduate program.

Students participating in the Assured Admission Program have the added advantage of interacting with pharmacists and scientists, mentoring opportunities and concentrated academic advising. Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA during their undergraduate years in order to hold their place in the program. If not accepted into the program, students will remain in the Pharmacy Interest Program and can apply for competitive admission to the PharmD program.

Drake University

Located in Des Moines, the capital and most populous city in Iowa, the University offers students a six-year Pharmacy program that encompasses both an undergraduate Pre-pharmacy program and a graduate Pharmacy school program.

Students admitted to Drake’s pre-pharmacy school have the advantage of being enrolled in the Drake Direct Pharm D program allowing students to complete their studies in just six years instead of seven or eight. Pre-pharmacy students do not have to write their PCAT in order to be accepted into the Pharma D program.

During the course of the program, students build skills in patient advocacy and patient-centered care, cultural sensitivity, leadership and innovation and entrepreneurship, to name a few. Along with this, students are encouraged to pursue advanced study and electives in many different areas of their program, allowing them to develop a highly personalized degree.

Pre Pharmacy Options

For students who would like the experience of studying on campus but are not able to commit to a six-year program, or those looking to start their studies closer to home and with more of a budget in mind, there are a couple of pre-pharmacy programs to choose from in Iowa.

Des Moines Area Community College

Located in the capital city of Des Moines, the college offers a more intimate way for students to start their path to becoming a Pharmacist with small class sizes that offers a great level of support that isn’t always possible in a University setting.

Students can declare either an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science during the two-year program as they prepare for Pharmacy School. Smaller class sizes, along with lower costs, make DMACC an appealing choice for many students.

Iowa State University

Located 30 miles North of Des Moines in the city of Ames, the institution is a major research university that focuses on helping students create a competitive application for Pharmacy, medical or professional school.

Each student is assigned two academic advisors who will work with you throughout your two years to first select an appropriate major that you enjoy as well as make sure you meet your chosen school’s requirements. Students have the chance to learn under world-class scholars who are leaders in their fields.

Online Learning Options

Sometimes as much as someone may want to study on campus, it’s not possible. Due to an inability to travel, financial restrictions or even family responsibilities, just because you can’t attend classes in doesn’t mean you can’t pursue higher learning. For those interested in this field but who are afraid that they would be able to make the commitment, there is the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College.

Grounded in the sciences, this hybrid program focuses on creating patient-centered pharmacists who learn from faculty that are experts in their field. About 70 percent of course work will be completed online, while 30 percent or about 2,000 hours of clinical rotations will take place in partnership with community partners. Students will also have the opportunity to work with underserved communities locally and abroad.

Students will need to have completed 62 semester hours (approximately a two-year undergraduate program) that meets the requirements listed here. The pre-pharmacy programs listed above would be good options to choose from. The program has one start date per year in September, and the application deadline is June 1st of the same year.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Job growth for pharmacists is declining in some areas, such as pharmacies and drug stores, as more people order prescriptions online and as pharmacy technicians begin to take on more of the responsibilities that used to be performed solely by the Pharmacists. While this may seem discouraging, there is an expected increase in the need for pharmacists in hospitals and clinics, likely as a result of the nation’s aging population.

For those wishing to stay in Iowa, Iowa City ranks third in metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of employed pharmacists, so whether or not jobs may be declining, there are sure to be jobs in Iowa City.

In terms of salary, those working in Iowa can expect to make an average of $61.39 per hour or $127,690 per year, which is just cents off of the national average. On the lower end of the scale, O-net online reports that ten percent of workers make $98,680 per year, and at the very highest end of the scale, the top ten percent report making up to $152,480 per year.

So while there will be a good amount of time and money invested in becoming a pharmacist, for someone with interest in science and medicine who wants to be challenged while helping others, a career as a pharmacist may be the perfect fit. 

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