Pharmacists work with patients to ensure they get their medication. From giving the correct dosage to telling patients the most appropriate way to take medicine, pharmacists help people get better.
With the current medical climate, the demand for pharmacists is growing. If you have a love for helping people and want a career as a pharmacist, check out our guide below on how to become a pharmacist.
What Is a Pharmacist?
A pharmacist is an expert in medication. Their primary role is to make sure patients get better with the medication they are taking. You’ve probably picked up prescribed medication from a pharmacist.
Being a pharmacist is no easy job. They are specialized in the field and they have extensive knowledge of the composition of medicine, how medicine is manufactured, and the proper way to use it.
Healthcare professionals rely heavily on pharmacists to administer medication for the best outcome for a patient while minimizing side effects.
What Does a Pharmacist Do?
Pharmacists have several responsibilities. While a patient’s interactions with a pharmacist typically mean receiving medicine, there are many tasks they do behind the scenes that are very significant. Below are some of the things a pharmacist does throughout their workday.
Distribute Prescription Drugs
The primary job of a pharmacist is to distribute prescription medication to an individual. Giving prescription medication means giving the patient the right drug, the proper dosage, and letting the patient know any special instructions related to taking the medication. They also monitor the progress of a patient on medication to make sure they are using it safely and it has the intended effects.
Advise Patients on Health
Pharmacists are medical experts. Their knowledge means that they can advise patients on several health factors. You can speak to pharmacists about several medical topics, such as diet, exercise, and even receive information on over-the-counter medication.
Inform Healthcare Practitioners About Medications
New medications are being made constantly to help with various medical problems. Pharmacists communicate with physicians and other healthcare professions on the side effects, dosages, and interactions of medications.
Research and Development
Some pharmacists take part in researching, testing, and developing new drugs for pharmaceutical companies. Others work in sales or marketing to provide clients information on new drugs that are available. Some pharmacists do research in multiple areas while teaching college courses.
Essential Pharmacist Skills
Math and Science
Before considering a career as a pharmacist, keep in mind that you must have a strong aptitude for math and science. Things can be as simple as counting out how many pills a patient needs to as complex as needing extensive knowledge of biology and chemistry. You’ll have to be up to date on the latest advancements of medical science and how it impacts your field.
Accuracy and Attention to Detail
Pharmacists deal with extremely powerful medicines. Some of the medicines pharmacists deal with can cause severe side effects if taken improperly. You must be able to dispense medicine quickly and accurately with no errors. A single mistake could lead to fatal consequences.
From patients to health practitioners, pharmacists must communicate with several people. Strong communication skills are necessary when explaining the proper way to take medicine or explaining the effects of medicines to physicians.
Being a pharmacist means more than just putting pills in a bottle. Pharmacists have to look over the expiration date on medication, work on multiple projects at a time, and carefully deal with any questions a patient may have about their health or the medicine they’re taking.
Pharmacists have to speak with several people throughout the workday. This may include talking to frustrated patients who have to wait for their prescriptions or don’t like the effects of the medicine they’re taking.
You may also deal with doctors who don’t like being questioned or who may have made a mistake when prescribing medication. Whatever the case may be, a pharmacist has to handle things calmly and professionally.
Pharmacist Salaries and Job outlook
According to Salary.com, the average salary of a pharmacist in the United States is $136,591. The lowest 10 percent makes $121,520 a year and the upper 90 percent earn $153,571 or more each year.
The salary of a pharmacist varies widely based on several factors, which include certification, education, years of experience, and other skills.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment of pharmacists is projected to show very little change from 2018 to 2028. However, employment in retail pharmacies is impacted by mail-order sales and the need for online pharmacies.
While the job outlook for pharmacists is low, there are still many career options for people in the United States. Demand for pharmacists is highest in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alaska.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacist?
It takes seven to eight years to become a pharmacist. The first three to four years are for earning your undergraduate degree and completing prerequisite coursework. After completing prerequisite work, it takes four more years to complete pharmacy school and earn your degree.
If you already have a degree in a related program, such as biology, you’ll still need to complete four years of pharmacy school to become a certified pharmacist.
How to Become a Pharmacist: A Step by Step Guide
Anyone can become a pharmacist. It takes hard work, studying, and a love of math and science. Once you’ve graduated from pharmacy school and started working professionally, you’ll see just how important pharmacists are in the healthcare industry.
Step 1: Study Math and Science
Math and science are important aspects of a pharmacist’s job. If you’re still in high school, study and take as many high-level math and science courses as you can. It will prepare you for your career. After you graduate, you can choose a college and a degree program to further your education.
Step 2: Choose a Degree Program
You’ll need a relevant bachelor’s degree, such as a degree in biology, to become a pharmacist. You can go to a college or university you like and earn your bachelor’s degree or find a school that offers a dual degree program.
A dual degree program means you’ll earn your bachelor’s degree and your PharmD within six to seven years. You only need a high school diploma to enter these programs. If you do already have your degree, completing the program takes three to four years.
Take time to work as a pharmacy assistant or technician to increase your chances of admission into the program.
Step 3: Get Your License
All states require you to have a license to work as a pharmacist. Luckily, licenses are usually transferrable from state-to-state, but there are some occasions where you’ll have to take other exams.
There are two examinations you must pass. One is the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam, which is a test of federal and state pharmacy laws. The other is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam, which is designed to test your decision-making skills and ability to make safe choices for patients.
Step 4: Continuing Education
Once you’ve completed your studies, you’re not done. Pharmacists are required, by all states, to complete continuing education hours to maintain the validity of their license. This means taking between 15 and 30 hours of learning during every license renewal period.
The typical license renewal period is every two years. Depending on trends in the industry, states may require you to take specific courses to keep your license.
Should You Become a Pharmacist?
Pharmacy is an excellent career path for those that want to serve others without necessarily going the route of a practicing physician. You’ll provide expert advice, care, and medication to patients, but you won’t do any hospital work.
Pharmacists earn good salaries, even when taking on entry-level positions. There are several fields to choose from. You can work as a pharmacist that distributes medicines to patients, work on developing new medications, or even work in marketing to help with the sale and distribution of the latest drugs.
If you have a love of science, math, and a passion for working in the medicinal industry, then you should become a pharmacist.
FAQs About Becoming a Pharmacist
You must submit an application for licensure with the fee and show proof of graduation from college and pharmacy school. The school must be ACPE approved.
No, most pharmacy schools don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Instead, you’ll undertake a dual degree program where you graduate with a degree and your PharmD.
With a pharmacy degree, you can work in a community pharmacy or hospital. However, many pharmacists work in the armed forces, managed care, and public health.
Simply put, pharmacists are healthcare workers who provide medicine to patients to help them get well.
It takes four years of undergraduate study, which is the first step toward graduating from pharmacy school. Pharmacy school takes three to four years to complete after that.
High school courses in chemistry, physics, biology, and algebra are courses beneficial to becoming a pharmacist. Pharmacists must also have strong communication and writing skills.