How Do I Become a Pharmacist?
If looking to work as a pharmacy aide, a high school diploma or equivalent can be all that may be required. This means that one can enter a career in pharmaceuticals right after graduation. Those looking to go into the field as pharmacy technicians can be asked to complete a certification and/or obtain a certification in pharmacy, depending on the state. One of the best known agencies is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. They offer a PTCE exam, that once passed, must be renewed within two years and after completing 20 hours of continuing education.
In order to become an official and licensed pharmacist, students must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) from an accredited school of pharmacy. This requires earning an applicable bachelor’s degree, each pharmacy school having its own requirements on which, and takes an average of four years. Once the bachelor’s degree has been earned, students may begin studies for the Pharm.D. degree. Completing the degree takes an average of four years, although there are some schools that offer a fast track or Advanced Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
After a Pharm.D. degree has been earned, pharmacists in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are required to obtain a license. The NAPLEX, or North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, measures a candidate’s knowledge of the practice of pharmacy and is the national standard. Each state has its own pharmacy board which can also require the passing of other exams, certifications, etc.
What Types of Pharmacy Degrees Exist?
Whether working as a pharmacy assistant or the head pharmacist, a degree is required, and we have listed just a few of the available choices below.
- Associate in Pharmacy Technology (A. in Pharm. Tech.): If looking to become a pharmacy technician, this is one of the many degrees that can be chosen.
- Associate of Applied Science in Pharmacy Technician (A.A.S. in Pharm. Tech.): Similar to the above, this degree has a focus on the application of pharmacy technology.
- Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration (B.S. in H.A.): This four year degree is functions as a stepping stone to a master’s degree in pharmacy or other healthcare field.
- Bachelor of Science in Medical Terminology (B.S. in Med. Term.): Another four year degree, this degree is often chosen by students who wish to enter graduate school in a medical field, including pharmaceuticals.
- Bachelor of Science in Marketing (B.S. in Mark.): If looking to go into the sales side of the pharmaceutical business, a four year degree in marketing, sales, or other area of business can often be asked of by an employer.
- Master of Pharmaceutical Science: A graduate degree, the master’s degree can prepare a student to take a leadership role in pharmacy or help prepare them for a doctorate.
- Master of Psychopharmacology: Learn how pharmacy science and psychology combine in this degree.
- Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.): This degree is the current requirement to obtain a pharmacist’s license. It also prepares students to take the licensing exam.
- Advanced Doctor of Pharmacy (Adv. Pharm.D.): For students who have completed their pre-professional coursework at an accredited college or university, this pharmacy degree can take as little as three years to complete.
These pharmacy degrees are just some of the options available. Although some pharmacy workers, such as pharmaceutical aides, can seek a career with an associate’s degree, certification, or even high school diploma, a PhD level degree is required to become a licensed pharmacist.
Where Can I Find Pharmacy Degree Rankings?
Looking for pharmacy degree school rankings? One of the best known ranking systems is U.S. News & World Report. With figures from 2008, they ranked over 100 graduate schools in pharmacy. Simply click to get the results, and you can use the site to find rankings for many other undergraduate, graduate, and technical schools.
While rankings can be an important aspect when choosing a pharmacy degree, accreditation is far more important. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education is one of the premiere agencies for accrediting schools for both undergraduate degrees and the Pharm.D. View accredited schools that offer pharmacy degrees with a simple visit.
Another good stop for pharmacy students is the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. They also list colleges or schools of pharmacy whose professional degree programs have been granted full or candidate accredited status. You can click on the state of your choice to view schools, and they even have a few international schools listed.
Can I Transfer Pharmacy Degree School Credits?
Students looking to get a pharmacy degree should ask their current or future schools about their transfer credit policy as soon as possible. Because earning transfer credits can considerably lower both time spent studying and money spent on tuition, a school with a good policy can be far more appealing than one who will not accept transfer credits.
A good rule to remember is that if the pharmacy degree or school has been accredited by either/both the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, transfer credits are far more likely to happen. This can also cancel out any issues normally associated with nationally accredited pharmacy degrees versus regionally accredited. Because both the ACPE and AACP are national agencies, programs approved by them will be recognized across the entire 50 states and are far more likely to allow at least some transfer credits.
However, even with pharmacy degree transfer credits allowed between schools, there are still limitations. While many core classes can be eligible for transfer credits, many of the specialty classes, such as any in the pharmacy sciences, are less likely to be allowed. All schools have a maximum number of allowable transfer credits and usually is capped at the halfway mark, for example two years transferred for a four year degree.
One of the best ways to bypass transfer credit issues for a pharmacy degree is to already have a degree from an approved program. For example, those who already hold an accredited bachelor’s degree can begin studying for a Pharm.D. at the graduate level.
What Sorts of Careers are Common With a Pharmacy Degree?
There are many careers available with a pharmacy degree, and we have listed some of them below.
- Pharmacy Aide: They perform administrative functions such as answering phones, stocking shelves, and operating cash registers.
- Pharmacy Technician: These techs prepare prescription medications, provide customer service, and perform administrative duties within a pharmacy setting.
- Certified Pharmacy Technician: Similar to the above, these are pharmacy techs that have passed the certification process at the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.
- Clinical Pharmacist: These pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.
- Hospital Staff Pharmacist: Similar to a clinical pharmacist, this career involves working in a hospital and can require shifts at all hours.
- Retail Pharmacist: These pharmacists are employed by large chain pharmacies and other retail stores.
- Pharmacist in Charge: Whether working in clinical or retail areas, the pharmacist in charge supervises both the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians they work with.
- Pharmacy Director: Like the above, this pharmacist directs an entire staff or pharmacy department at a clinic, store, and others.
- Pharmaceutical Sales: This is one of the few careers in pharmacy that does not specifically require a degree in pharmacy and focuses more on the business and sales side of the field.
- Registered Pharmacist: Getting certified as a registered pharmacist after completing an applicable pharmacy degree can pay off both in job opportunities and salary.
And these are just some of the careers available with a pharmacy degree. There are other jobs available and each of the 50 states has its own regulations and requirements for pharmacists, pharmacy aides, and everyone in between.
What is the Average Salary with a Pharmacy Degree?
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of pharmacists was $106,410 per year for 2008. Those who worked as pharmacy technicians and aides earned an average hourly pay of $13.32 and $9.66 respectively for the same year. They currently list the median yearly pay of many pharmaceutical careers well into the six-figure range including clinical pharmacist, retail pharmacist, and clinical pharmacist specialist.
Voluntary processes such as certifications and registrations can also pay off in average salary. Certified pharmacy technicians can earn up to $18.44 an hour. Everyone from retail pharmacist to the pharmacist in charge experiences pay from $97,153 per year all the way up to $114,892 per year.
Where Can I Find Pharmacy Degree Scholarships and Grants?
Because two to eight years of pharmacy school can be expensive, we have listed a few of the scholarships and grants available to those looking to earn a pharmacy degree below.
- FAFSA: Before you turn in the application for any scholarship or grant, make sure you have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Both scholarships and grants commonly require the FAFSA from all applicants.
- AFPE Scholarships and Fellowships Provided with the help of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, everyone from undergraduates to post-doctoral students can apply for these.
- Academy of Student Pharmacists: With the help of the American Pharmacists Association, the ASP offers scholarships to pharmacy students at many levels and across the country.
- PhRMA: This foundation offers scholarships to support the training, research, and careers of young pharmaceutical scientists by awarding competitive grants and fellowships.
- Wal-Mart Scholars Program: Graduate students, professional (doctoral) students, residents and fellows, along with their faculty mentors, are eligible to apply for the scholarships from Wal-Mart.
- Pharm.D. Gateway to NIH: The National Institutes of Health offer many different funding opportunities to pharmacy students at the pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and other levels.
- McKesson Pharmacy Scholarship Program: This scholarship is designed for pharmacy students continuing an education and is renewable.
- ASHP Foundation Scholarship: The Undergraduate Gateway to Research Scholarship is a $5,000 grant offered to outstanding pharmacy students enrolled at U.S. schools and colleges of pharmacy and science.
Although there are many other scholarships available to pharmacy students, not every student who applies for one wins it. However, grants are federal or state funds that are awarded on a needs basis, and everyone who applies for and qualifies for a grant receives it. Pharmacy degree scholarships and grants are alike in that they do not have to be paid back and are generally contingent on the student graduating.
If you need more assistance in finding scholarships or grants, contact the financial aid office of the school you are attending or plan to attend. They can help you find many other pharmacy degree scholarships and grants not listed above, apply for them, and even fill out forms at no charge.