It used to be that students who wanted to become pharmacists went to school to earn a bachelor’s of pharmacy degree. However, since that degree is no longer awarded, those interested in working in the pharmacy field must receive a Pharm.D. degree.
To be awarded the Pharm.D. degree, an applicant must have first completed two or more years of general education after high school. During these years, the student must take certain prerequisite classes in the humanities and social sciences, as well as those courses generally associated with a pharmacy degree – including biology, chemistry and physics – before entering a Pharm.D. program.
Choosing the appropriate school to attend in order to receive this degree is not as simple as you might imagine.
Of the hundreds of schools currently open to admission in the United States, only ninety-two of them are licensed by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) to confer the Pharm.D. degree.
Most of these colleges require applicants who are interested in completing this degree program to first take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) in order to be admitted. With the outlook for the pharmacist job market as high as it is, it’s almost certain that the competition to get into these programs will be much tighter than in past years.
Once a student is admitted into the program, they’re required to study everything from drug therapy to patient interactions. As the role of the pharmacist expands from a mere pill counter to someone who maintains an important balance in the patient’s treatment process, the schooling has also changed to acknowledge this new role. When choosing a pharmacy school to attend, look for one that offers materials that specifically focus on patient contact – pharmacists who possess this skill will be much more appealing to potential employer upon graduation.
If you’re interested at becoming a pharmaceutical researcher at an institute or drug manufacturer, you must also pursue master’s of science in pharmacy or even a Ph.D in pharmacology. This additional education will give the additional exposure to the science you’ll need to find work in this field. Of the ninety-two schools who are licensed to give a Pharm.D. degree, only seventy also conferred these higher degrees in the 2006-07 academic year. If you plan to pursue additional education, you’ll want to consider whether the college you plan to attend offers programs that will meet your career goals.
After you’ve received the necessary level of education for the field of pharmacist you plan on entering, you’ll have to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) to become a licensed practicing pharmacist. This test is required in all fifty states, although in forty-four of those states, an additional test known as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) is necessary. Both of these exams are administrated by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). After becoming licensed, you’ll still need to take continuing education courses every year to remain current on the latest prescription drugs, other drug therapy treatments, and the side effects associated with every medicine you may prescribe.