Pharmacists are the country's main experts in medicines and pharmacy is one of the fastest growing areas of healthcare. In the next 50 years we will see some amazing developments in science that will lead to the introduction of new medicines for all kinds of illnesses and diseases. Pharmacists will be involved with these new medicines every step of the way, from their development in the lab to their distribution in the community and in hospitals.
To graduate in Pharmacy a candidate has to go through the competitive examinations (pre-medical or pre-engineering entrance tests) that are conducted by the respective State Boards. There are certain National Institutions which conduct the National level entrance examination for admission into the graduation program in Pharmacy.
Take a good look at yourself. If you want to make a contribution to society, if a life in science interests you, and if your A-levels include chemistry and biology or physics and maths then you could be on the way to becoming a pharmacist. The other thing to consider is what sort of person you are. Are you good with people? Do you like them and care about them? You will need to be if you are going to deal with patients on a day-to-day basis, looking after their health concerns and perhaps offering a word of comfort or reassurance.
Become a Pharmacist
As a pharmacist, you'll use your extensive knowledge of how each of hundreds of medications works to fill prescriptions and advise patients on how various drugs ought to be taken.
Pharmacist Job Description
Community pharmacists use their skills, knowledge and expertise about the management and best use of medicines to support the effective delivery of primary care. They provide advice to patients, GPs and other healthcare professionals ensuring that medicines are used appropriately, safely and effectively. In addition to this, the community pharmacist’s vital role in the NHS includes prescribing medicines, reviewing treatments and monitoring how patients take their medicines.
Primary care pharmacists work in GP practices providing prescribing advice to GPs and nurses as well as running clinics for patients with long term conditions usually underpinned by their role as qualified independent or supplementary prescribers.
PCT pharmacists play a key role in managing the prescribing budget, setting up PCT-wide drug formularies to assure the cost effectiveness of prescribing. They also offer prescribing advice to GPs and non-medical prescribers.
In secondary care, hospital pharmacists offer patient-focused care as part of the clinical ward team who advice consultants, doctors and nurses on the safe and effective use of medicines. Other roles include medicines information and manufacturing in addition to running outpatient clinics and their core role of provision of in and outpatient dispensing.
Pharmaceutical advisers are pharmacists who work across both primary and secondary care, providing guidance to community and hospital pharmacists in the planning of local pharmacy services.
Other career options range from pursuing medicines research in industry or academia as an industrial or academic pharmacist.
According to Salary.com, the middle 50 percent of pharmacists earn between $95,384 and $105,719 per year. The top 10 percent earn an annual salary of at least $113,018
Pharmacist Work Environment
As a pharmacist, you might work in any of the following settings:
• Drug stores, grocery stores, or department stores
• Pharmaceutical manufacturers
• Health insurance companies
• Government agencies
• Public health care agencies
• Colleges and universities (in teaching and research positions, or in on-campus pharmacies)
Most full-time pharmacists work 40 hours per week. You should plan on being available to work some evenings and weekends, as many pharmacies are open during these hours.
Pharmacy Degree Options
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
This four-year professional degree trains students to practice pharmacy after licensure. Acceptance to a program requires completion of two years of undergraduate pre-pharmacy coursework thus equaling a minimum of six years post-secondary education. The PharmD degree can also lead to graduate studies in the areas of pharmaceutical care, pharmaceutical sciences, and pharmaceutical health policy and management.
Non-Traditional PharmD (PharmD)
This degree is designed for practicing pharmacists with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from an accredited pharmacy school who are interested in practicing at an advanced level. Most often these programs are offered with a very flexible schedule and through online learning, to accommodate the needs of working pharmacists. They also take less time to complete compared to a traditional PharmD.
Drug developer. Clinical researcher. Scientific administrator. Community pharmacist. Health-care team member. Professor. Pharmacy owner. Career options for Pharm.D.s span the full length of a drug's life, from the research lab to the corner pharmacy. And the demand for pharmacists is rising.
The April 2006 issue of Money magazine put “pharmacist” ninth in its list of the top 50 jobs in America. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 230,000 pharmacists were employed in 2004, a number they expect to rise 25% by 2014. And even now, demand for pharmacists outstrips supply, apparently: As of January 2007, chain pharmacy companies had 3904 vacancies for pharmacists, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Finally, pharmacists make decent money: According to BLS, the median salary for pharmacists in 2004 was $84,900. A 2006 Pharmacy Compensation Survey put the average for staff pharmacists at $98,300.
Pharmacists are biomedical-science generalists: To make it as a pharmacist, you need a strong understanding of anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, statistics, and--especially--pharmacology. But pharmacists are also clinicians, so they need strong people skills: Those who work in retail settings counsel patients and field medical inquiries. Hospital pharmacists must be able to explain clearly a medication's indications, side effects, and contraindications to patients--and doctors--who may not be at their most coherent.
As with any (especially clinical) science job, earning the right to practice takes time. In the United States, to be a fully licensed pharmacist, you need a doctor of pharmacy, or Pharm.D., degree; nearly 100 U.S. universities have Pharm.D. programs. Students can enter some prepharmacy programs directly from high school; these students must spend 2 years in intensive science and math training prior to the 4-year Pharm.D. program proper. Most students, however, transfer into Pharm.D. programs after 2 years or more of college coursework, or after completing a bachelor's degree. This gives the Pharm.D. the distinction of being one of the few doctoral degrees you can get without earning a bachelor's degree first.
Outside the United States, requirements vary. In the United Kingdom, for example, a master of pharmacy (MPharm) degree is required, which, despite its name, is a 4-year undergraduate degree. After an additional year of preregistration training in a pharmacy, graduates are eligible to take the examination to become a licensed pharmacist. In France, pharmacists need a doctorate in pharmacy, a rigorous 6-year program with more years required for pharmacists who want to specialize or go into research.
After graduating, about 60% of U.S. Pharm.D. graduates go straight into jobs at community pharmacies--from big chains to small independent stores. But other pharmacists go to work at hospitals, clinics, mail-order pharmacies, and the federal government. Some pharmacists specialize by discipline: cardiology, pediatrics, or oncology, for example. Other niches include academic pharmacy, pharmaceutical research, drug regulation, and clinical research.
In Behind the Scenes, Pharmacists Play Key Role in Clinical Research, Karyn Hede, a freelance science writer in Richland, Washington, describes one of these niches: pharmacy careers in clinical research. Research-oriented Pharm.D. programs, and new fellowship opportunities, are formalizing the career path for pharmacists interested in working in research, either at the bench or in clinical trials research.
In French Pharmacist Finds Career Niche at Regulatory Agency, Elisabeth Pain, our contributing editor for south Europe, profiles French pharmacist Franck Diafouka, who worked in a handful of traditional pharmacy jobs before joining Europe's regulatory agency in charge of drugs. There, Diafouka works as a scientific administrator on projects that monitor drug safety and unify drug terminology.
In Pharmacists Working in the Community, Science Careers correspondent Andrew Fazekas looks at the patient-care side of community pharmacy and learns that counseling patients is becoming a more important part of a pharmacist's job.