Taking a pharmacy program can mean several different things. Pharmacists, those responsible for dosing and handling drugs, must have a PharmD (doctorate in the subject) and appropriate licensing. This page is mainly about programs for those intending to follow a career as a pharmacist. But there are other professionals that work in pharmacies, such as technicians and assistants, some of whom are licensed and some of whom are not.
Pharmacy programs can provide the skills and knowledge required for becoming a licensed pharmacist. This page gives you more information about how to become a pharmacist, what is involved in the programs, where you can study them, and the careers and salary prospects after completion.
How to be a pharmacist
Pharmacists who graduated before 2003 only require a bachelors degree to practice in the US. Those who graduated during or after that year require a PharmD. In most cases, this is a four-year program completed after a four-year undergraduate degree, but there are some accelerated six-year programs that lead directly from high school to a PharmD. The vast majority of programs are intended for currently practicing pharmacists with bachelors degrees who want to increase their level of education. It may be possible to enter one of these pharmacy degrees by completing an associates degree, or find a program that will accept students new to the subject, but most programs require at least a bachelors of pharmacy, if not a current license in the field.
Beginning coursework consists of medical pharmacology training such as physiology, medicinal chemistry, and toxicology. These are the core courses that are completed before advanced work on the effects of the various medications is completed. Before graduation, practical training in a pharmacy under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist is required.
What about licensing?
The state that the pharmacist works in must license the professional. The only exception is that pharmacists working for federal facilities may work in any state as long as they hold a pharmacist license in one state. The NAPLEX exam (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam) is required for licensing, as well as a test on pharmacological law. In most states, this test is the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam), but some states have their own law tests.
In order to be eligible for licensing, the PharmD program completed must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Check into the accreditation of any school you are interested in, especially online ones, because your pharmacy degree will be useless if it does not come from an ACPE-accredited program. Accreditation itself is not enough – it must be accredited by the proper authorities, in this case, the ACPE.
Pharmacist careers, prospects and salary after completing pharmacy programs?
Pharmacists work regular hours, but these often include nights and weekends. Most work in drugstores, clinics, or other retail locations, but around 27% of them work in hospitals. They are responsible for counseling patients on their medications, possible interactions, and things that may improve or decrease the efficiency of their treatment program. A lot of patient contact is involved in these jobs.
Jobs for pharmacists are expected to increase 17% between 2008 and 2018, mostly due to the aging population that is taking increasingly more medications. This growth is higher than the predicted average growth for the job market, and represents good employment prospects for potential pharmacists. Pharmacist salaries are good, with the median salary in 2008 being $106,410. Due to a shortage of licensed pharmacists, California is the highest paying state for these professionals.
List of schools and programs