Although each pharmacist has their own personal story about what led them to choose a career in pharmacy there are some common reasons people choose to become a pharmacist.
- Pharmacists help people get well. Pharmacists play a key role in helping patients feel better and get well as quickly as possible. Pharmacists can be instrumental in improving the health of patients by choosing the best medicines and helping to avoid side effects.
- Pharmacists work directly with patients. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare provider, with many pharmacies open 24 hours, a pharmacist is nearly always available to answer health and medication related questions.
- Pharmacists enjoy a wide variety of career opportunities. Pharmacists work in nearly every healthcare setting possible. The majority work in community pharmacies, but the remaining pharmacists work in numerous other healthcare environments, including hospitals, nursing homes, managed care organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy schools and the federal government.
- Pharmacists are an important member of the healthcare team. Pharmacists work with other health care professionals to maximize health outcomes. The collaboration of healthcare professionals, such as physicians and pharmacists, can help to ensure that patients properly take their medications as prescribed and avoid any harmful drug interactions.
Education and Training
Pharmacists who are trained in the United States must earn a Pharm.D. degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy. The Pharm.D. degree has replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, which is no longer being awarded. To be admitted to a Pharm.D. program, an applicant must have completed at least 2 years of specific professional study. This requirement generally includes courses in mathematics and natural sciences, such as chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences. In addition, most applicants have completed 3 or more years at a college or university before moving on to a Pharm.D. program, although this is not specifically required.
Over 80% of pharmacy schools require the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) as part of the admissions requirements. The PCAT is designed to test students who have completed two years of undergraduate education and through percentile ranking is designed to help admissions committees differentiate applicants on a level playing field. The six content areas, Verbal Ability, Biology, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Ability, Chemistry, and Written Essay, measure pre-requisite knowledge for many pharmacy programs.
Pharm.D. programs generally take four years to complete. The courses offered are designed to teach students about all aspects of medication therapy. In addition, students learn how to communicate with patients and other healthcare providers about medication information and patient care. Students also learn professional ethics, concepts of public health, and business management. In addition to receiving classroom instruction, students in Pharm.D. programs spend time working with licensed pharmacists in a variety of practice settings.
Some Pharm.D. graduates obtain further training through 1-year or 2-year residency programs or fellowships. Pharmacy residencies are postgraduate training programs in pharmacy practice and usually require the completion of a research project. The programs are often mandatory for pharmacists who wish to work in a clinical setting. Pharmacy fellowships are highly individualized programs that are designed to prepare participants to work in a specialized area of pharmacy, such clinical practice or research laboratories. Some pharmacists who own their own pharmacy obtain a master's degree in business administration (MBA). Others may obtain a degree in public administration or public health.
Choosing a Pharmacy Program
The following is a listing of things to consider when choosing a Pharmacy College or School. It is not all inclusive, but will help to start your search for the programs that will fit you the best. It is up to you to decide which factors are the most important in your decision on where to apply.
- Location - How far are you willing to relocate?
- Class Size - In what environment do you learn best?
- What is the accreditation status of the program? (See the next section for information on accreditation.)
- Does the program offer dual degrees? Will you be able to develop other interests that compliment your pharmacy education while you pursue it?
- Curricular Innovations - What unique teaching techniques are employed to help you learn the pharmacy curriculum?
Pharmacy School Accreditation
Pharmacy institutions are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Accreditation is the public recognition accorded a professional program in pharmacy that is judged to meet established qualifications and educational standards through initial and subsequent periodic evaluations. It applies to degree programs and is to be distinguished from certification or licensure, which applies to individuals.
The values of accreditation are several and the ACPE accreditation process serves concurrently several constituencies including the general public, students and prospective students, licensing bodies, colleges and schools of pharmacy and their parent institutions, providers of continuing pharmaceutical education including certificate programs in pharmacy, and the profession. Graduates of accredited professional programs in pharmacy should be educationally prepared for practice and should satisfy educational requirements for licensure. However, decisions concerning eligibility for licensure reside with the respective licensing bodies in accordance with their state statutes and administrative rules and regulations.