Medications are a very important aspect of society. The demand for medications is so high that the pharmaceutical industry is currently worth nearly $400 billion globally. People depend on medications when they are ill, depressed, stressed, and for a number of other reasons. To obtain prescribed medications, people turn to pharmacists. Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing prescribed medications and advising patients on the use and side effects of drugs. The job is stable, the salary and benefits are excellent, and the job outlook is very positive. If you’re considering this career path and want to learn how to become a pharmacist, you’re in the right place.
STEP 1: Complete at least two to three years of undergraduate study with a focus in the natural sciences
The first step to becoming a pharmacist is getting a good education. You’ll need to enroll in a college or university that offers pre-pharmacy courses. Some schools offer specific pre-pharmacy majors that include all the basic coursework that you’ll need to apply to pharmacy schools. Other institutions require that you incorporate pre-pharmacy coursework into your concentration because they don’t offer an official pre-pharmacy curriculum.
As far as coursework goes, most of your classes will fall under the natural sciences category. Chemistry is at the core of your education, and you’ll spend a lot of time in a lab setting exploring the properties of elements and various substances. Examples of courses that you may need to complete include: general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, human biology, and pharmacology. Every pharmacy school has its own admissions requirements, but the subject material is basically the same across all programs. Some pharmacy schools will accept students after two to three years if they’ve completed all prerequisites, but most students obtain a bachelor’s degree before entering a pharmacy program.
STEP 2: Gain job-related work experience
While job-related experience isn’t required by many pharmacy schools, it’s highly recommended to show that you are serious about your choice of career. Most prospective pharmacy students either volunteer at a pharmacy or work as a pharmacy aide or technician. Any of these experiences will put you into an actual pharmacy setting where you’ll become familiar with how things are done in the real world. These experiences allow you to pick up and practice essential skills while under pressure.
STEP 3: Take the PCAT
Nearly every accredited pharmacy program will require you to take and pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. This test covers several general areas of study including: chemistry, biology, verbal, quantitative, writing, and reading comprehension. The aim is to score at 75th percentile as that will meet or exceed the minimum requirement for most programs.
STEP 4: Apply to accredited pharmacy programs
Once you’ve reviewed your checklist and ensured that it’s complete, it’s time to apply to pharmacy schools. Most schools ask for official college transcripts, letters of recommendation, a PCAT score, a resume, and a statement of purpose. You’ll most likely have to complete an interview as well.
STEP 5: Complete pharmacy school
Getting into the pharmacy school of your dreams is a major achievement, but that’s just the beginning of becoming a pharmacist. You’ll still have to endure a whole four years of advanced pharmacology, medical ethics, and more. The last year of most programs are reserved for experiential work under a licensed pharmacist in hospitals, retail locations, nursing homes, and more. You may have to complete an additional one to two year residency if you plan on doing specialized clinical work or research.
STEP 6: Get licensed
All pharmacists must be licensed before they can practice. There are two exams you must pass to get licensed to become a pharmacist. The first covers pharmacy knowledge and skills, while the second is about pharmacy laws.
Licensure is the final step before becoming a pharmacist. If you want to know how to become a pharmacist and do well at the job, that’s another story. Pharmacists must be very detail-oriented as prescription and dosage mistakes can have serious consequences. As a pharmacist, you must also be able to communicate very well because a big part of the job involves conversing with patients. Finally, leadership skills are a must as you’ll be managing other workers.