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Interested in Health Care? Here’s How to Get a Degree in Pharmacy
Pills coming out of a pill bottle

What Do Pharmacists Do?

When most people think about pharmacists, they think of the person who works behind the counter to count out pills and dole out prescriptions. While this may have been true in the past, today’s pharmacists are more intent on providing pharmaceutical care—they are more involved in consulting with customers to identify, prevent and resolve any problems they may have with their medications.

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The benefits of pharmacy careers are many: Pharmacists can earn an income approaching that of a doctor and not have to deal with blood, their hours are flexible and they often have the opportunity to manage or own their own pharmacy.

Becoming a Pharmacist

If you want to be a pharmacist, you need to start early. In high school, it’s important to load up on courses like physics, calculus, chemistry and biology.

To become a pharmacist, you’ll need to complete a Pharmacy degree (PharmD). This is a professional degree, which means that even if you already have your Bachelor of Science degree, you’ll still need to complete an additional four years of pharmacist education. The entry requirements differ from state to state; some may require that you have a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite.

To gain entry into most pharmacy schools, you’ll need to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), which has both written and multiple choice sections and takes about 4.5 hours to complete. Students entering early assurance or 0-6 programs aren’t required to take the PCAT test.

Upon completing your schooling, all American states require an internship of 1500 hours before you will be able to take the licensing exams. These exams include the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). The exams must be completed before you can accept any pharmacist employment opportunities. You may need to apply for an intern license as well in some states.

Pharmacist Careers

To be successful, a pharmacist must genuinely care about the health and well-being of others and put the customer first. They need to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of prescription drugs and how they interact with each other. Pharmacists also require excellent communication and problem solving skills and must feel comfortable working with customers to address their questions and concerns.

Pharmacists must be willing to take responsibility for the health of all the clients who trust them to make their lives better. Perhaps most importantly, pharmacists also have to decipher those messy prescription notes that doctors like to write!

Work opportunities for pharmacists are expected to grow for the next few years, with salaries ranging from about $84,000 to as high as $150,000 per year.