Getting Your PharmD in North Carolina

Getting your PharmD can be a challenging and rewarding step toward a great career in medicine. Nearly every person has taken a prescription at some time in their life. Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing proper drugs to patients, offering invaluable information about medications and what to expect when taking them. They may also conduct health screenings, offer advice on living a healthy life, and provide immunizations.

Pharmacists also work closely with doctors and patients to ensure safety and health when taking the proper medications. Pharmacists are also instrumental in maintaining the health and wellbeing of patients and helping people overcome illnesses. 

Finishing the PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) program is a huge step in becoming a pharmacist and practicing pharmacy, but that is not the only career path you can take with this degree. Other career paths with a PharmD can include research pharmacist, hospital pharmacy, lecturer, working in a medication distribution center, a consultant pharmacist, and many more options depending on what appeals to you. You don’t have to work in the retail sector with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree if the thought of standing behind a counter doesn’t appeal to you. 

A pharmacist exudes professionalism, strong moral character, maturity and takes time to listen and understand people. They want to help their customers feel better and get well. If you enjoy helping people and making a difference in people’s lives, then a career as a pharmacist might be for you.  

Because a pharmacist is instrumental in the health and wellbeing of patients, they have to go through an intensive educational process. All that hard work will be rewarded by improving people’s lives, having a varied career path and enjoying a lucrative salary. 

Requirements for PharmD

To get a PharmD degree in North Carolina, you will have to have a high school diploma and then enter an accredited college program. While in college, the first three to four years will focus on prerequisite coursework. Here you will expand upon mathematics, English, and different branches of science such as biology and chemistry. Pharmacy relies heavily on these subjects, so your prerequisite years will have you studying courses such as: 

  • Chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Calculus
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology

Pharmacists have to know how the human body will act to pharmaceuticals in extreme detail, often down to the cellular and molecular level. 

Once you’ve passed all your prerequisite work, you will then work on getting into a program accredited by the Council for Pharmacy Education. You’ll also have to complete two years of undergraduate study, which equals at least 72 credit hours. 

In the Program

Once you are in the pharmacist program, your class focus will shift to medicines, the physiological aspects involved when drugs are present in the body and the business aspects of running a pharmacy. These classes will get you ready for your role as a pharmacist and can include: 

  • Pharmacology

This class will focus on how drugs and medications affect biological systems. You will be studying the effects of drugs in the body, sometimes at the cellular level and beyond. There will also be a focus on diseases both in treatment and prevention. 

  • Pharmacokinetics

In this class, you will be looking at how the body reacts to drugs in the system. You will go into depth about how medications are absorbed, metabolized, distributed and even excreted as they travel throughout the body.  

  • Business Management

Because pharmacists often work in the retail sector, you will learn all about business management. A pharmacist will have to manage the pharmacy department and help to keep it running smoothly. 

  • Psychology

Pharmacists need to study psychology because they will be interacting with people from all different backgrounds with varying medical needs. This subject will help with understanding and providing excellent communication so pharmacists can provide great care as well as informed medical consultations.

  • Pharmacogenomics

Pharmacists will also have to study how particular genes will affect a patient’s response to medications. Most drugs on the market are tailored for the masses. Often they don’t work the same for everyone. This field of study hopes to develop safe and effective medications that are based on one’s genetics, therefore becoming more effective. 

Working as an Intern

Depending on your curriculum and school choice, you can begin to intern at a pharmacy either in the second or third year of your program. During this time, your duties will include verifying and filling prescriptions, interacting with customers, and consulting with patients about their medications.

You may also be interacting with people and answering their questions under the guidance of the pharmacist you’re working under. While taking on this responsibility, your main objectives will be learning and gaining plenty of on-the-job experience. 

Testing Requirements

Once you’ve completed the required education you’ll need to obtain licensure to practice. In North Carolina you need to pass the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam), the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam), plus the NC practical exam.

The NAPLEX is an extensive exam that will test your knowledge of pharmacotherapy and resulting therapeutic outcomes. It will also test you on your knowledge of medications including preparation and distribution of medications, as well as the health of the patients. Be aware that the NAPLEX is an adaptive exam, this means the test will select questions based on how well you are doing on it. This exam costs about $500, so you should make sure you are well prepared and ready before scheduling testing. 

North Carolina also requires prospective pharmacists to take the MPJE on top of the NAPLEX. This adaptive exam is 2.5 hours long and consists of 120 questions. Prospective candidates have up to five attempts at passing the MPJE. 

Stay on Top of Continuing Education

Every year a pharmacist in North Carolina needs to obtain at least 15 hours of continuing education to stay licensed. Five of those hours must be obtained as live contact. This means that you have to practice for at least five hours a year. The NC Board of Pharmacy will only accept three types of pharmacy continuing education. These include ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education), NC-CE and pharmacy school hours. 

Average Salary

As a pharmacist in North Carolina, the average salary will differ depending on many factors such as location in which you apply, years in the profession, experience and additional skills or certifications. The average pharmacist salary in North Carolina is $136,205 as of March 2022. 

Here are a few other pharmacist career paths and their average salaries:

  • Retail pharmacist—the most popular career path averages between $97,381 to $123,494.
  • Hospital pharmacists average between $133,500 to $150,900.
  • Clinical research pharmacists average $126,600 to $143,000. 
  • Nuclear pharmacist averages between $132,227 to $151,826

PharmD Accredited Schools in North Carolina

To get your PharmD degree, you will need to attend an accredited school. Two of the top schools in NC to receive your Doctorate of Pharmacy degree include the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Campbell University.

The UNC program for PharmD is considered one of the best pharmacy colleges in North Carolina. Students here will get into clinical rotations in the summer after the first year of courses. These clinicals take place at prestigious hospitals such as Mission Hospitals system, Duke University Hospital, and the University of North Carolina Hospital system. The tuition for UNC will cost about $25,000 per year for NC residents. 

Campbell University has recently adopted a “block” formula for their classroom work. This means their coursework consists of a few concentrated subjects each semester. Graduates will know how to effectively function as a productive part of a whole health care team. The cost of tuition at Campbell is slightly less than at UNC; it comes in at around $22,000 per year.

Online Option: St. John Fisher College

Earn you Pharm.D. online from St. John Fisher College. St. John Fisher College is an accredited online college. You will still finish your PharmD in four years, just like any other program, and you’ll get 2000 hours of hands-on clinical experience.

St. John Fisher has partnered with a multitude of health institutions so that clinical rotations will be carried out in pharmacy settings in your local area. They also make things easier by waiving the PCAT requirement. 

Pharmacist Job Outlook

Since the pandemic hit, the need for pharmacists has increased dramatically. Retail giants such as Walgreens and CVS have stated they need to hire tens of thousands of pharmacists and pharmacy techs.

Just before the pandemic, pharmacies were in decline, with a lot of stores actually shutting down. Even without the pandemic flipping the world on its head, it is projected that there will be about 11,300 pharmacist job openings every year over the next decade. These openings are thought to be a result of worker transfer and retiring pharmacists. 

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmacists found themselves taking on more responsibilities, such as administering immunizations and testing, and they started receiving additional recognition as important healthcare providers. This trend may have been attributed to the spike in pharmacist positions.