How to Become a Pharmacist

Medical Specialties

Pharmacist

What is a Pharmacist? 

A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who:


  • Provides drugs to patients
  • Ensures the supply of drugs is within the law
  • Advises patients about the correct use of drugs

A pharmacist plays a crucial role in the assignment and deliverance of medicine to patients. They are the link between the doctors and the patient and are required to have a high proficiency in medicine so that all prescriptions are delivered correctly.


A pharmacist should know what drugs are required for each individual circumstance and make sure they are delivered within the law. It is a job that requires a high level of perfection as any mistakes could have serious consequences.

Duties of Pharmacist


  • Overlook the preparation and production of medicine
  • Assess the quality of the medicine
  • Respond to the patents symptoms and advise on the best solution
  • Be there as a consult for fellow healthcare professionals
  • Supervise the medicines and best practice
  • Answering any patient queries
  • Making sure prescribed medicine is suitable
  • Knowing the law and complying with it
  • Ensuring the patient receives quality medicine
  • Having a high level of knowledge on a wide range of drugs

Bonuses and Benefits of Pharmacist

Most pharmacists work for a bigger company who employ them on a full-time basis, and this could be anywhere that offers prescription medicine. It is an exciting career as it is one that will consistently test their skills and challenge them every day. Pharmacists have a high level of interaction with patients and it isn’t a job where they’d be easily bored.


It is a highly respected profession where people know that it requires a high level of trust. They provide a vital service to the public and they will find that their family and friends will always turn to them for advice. It is career to be proud of and one which will leave them feeling valued and an important part of the healthcare system.


There will always be a need for pharmacists in a variety of different settings. If there ever came a time when a pharmacist wanted to change careers then the qualifications they obtain, as well as their experience, can be transferred to many different roles.


Not only is it a rewarding career personally, but also financially too. Most earn over $100,000 a year as it is an industry that is constantly in demand. With the job satisfaction and financial rewards comes a lot of job security due to the high level of need. It is a great salary that rewards the high level of knowledge and competency that comes with the role.


Work Environment of Pharmacist

General Environment

1

Pharmacists can work in a wide range of environments and setting due to the nature of their job. Numerous places offer medicine to patients, and when they do they require a pharmacist to deliver that medicine to them. Most work in an actual pharmacy, but others might work in a laboratory or in an office.

Office Environment

2

There is a growing need for health care IT and a growing number of pharmacists find themselves in an office setting. This is rare however, as they generally work in different environments as an important point of contact with patients.

Hospitals 

3

All hospitals require a pharmacy to provide drugs for people that may come into the hospital, or clinic. They play a vital role in the correct administration and recording of the drugs that are taken and they are also a part of the medical care team to ensure the safe practice of medicine.

Social Environment

4

Communication is vital for a pharmacist as they have to liaise not just with patients, but doctors too. They not only deliver the correct medicine, but they also have to be a safety check for the doctors and also be able to advise patients on how the medicine should be taken. Having a high level of social skills can be important in both aspects.

Retail Environment

5

Possibly the most common place to find a pharmacist would be at a drugstore or grocery store. The vast majority of drugs are taken outside of a hospital after being prescribed by a doctor. This means that people have a need for a convenient and close place to pick up what they need. Pharmacies are very common, and pharmacists are essential to make drugs more accessible to patients.

Government

6

Pharmacists are also required in long-term care facilities in order to be able to give the right treatment to the elderly or disabled. In this environment, the role is to look after people who can’t look after themselves and therefore, the correct drug administration is vital. In this environment, it has a lower social aspect as the medicine is generally given to, and delivered by, the nurses.


Nuclear Pharmacy

7

Here you could be taking a step back and wondering what nuclear and pharmacy are doing in the same job title, but it’s an incredibly important role. There are a lot of radioactive materials in a hospital, and they are required for such roles in MRI and CT scans.


Work Schedules of Pharmacist

Unlike a lot of healthcare professionals, pharmacists generally have a more structured work schedule dependent on the place they work. In the retail sector, their hours will often be for as long as the shop is open, or even shorter. The same can be said for any who works in an office environment, as these hours are a lot more structured.


In a hospital environment, longer and different working hours may be required as the need for medicine in a hospital is 24/7. While most will be prescribed and delivered in the daytime, there will still be need for a pharmacist to be there at all times. Any who work with nuclear products are likely to have a very early start time as this needs to be handled as soon as there is a delivery.


While there are certain roles that demand more unsociable hours, the vast majority of pharmacists work during the day time as that’s where the greatest need for medicine is found. There are certain roles, in the retail sector for example, where unsociable hours would never be required.


Important Qualities of Pharmacist

Qualities

Communication skills


Communication is vital for any healthcare professional as patients want to know about their treatment. Not only is this important when pharmacists are talking to patients, but also doctors too. They could be able to speak in high technical detail to a doctor, but also be able to put the same information to a patient in words that they understand.


There are also other challenges such a language that a pharmacist overcome, as they have to make sure that the patient is fully aware on how to take their medicine and any other important information.

Interpersonal skills

Not only is communication vital for a pharmacist, but they have to be able to communicate in the right way. Pharmacists could talk to a lot of people throughout the day who all require a different type of communication techniques. Be that with a patient, doctor, or fellow colleague, they have to be adept at matching the tone and language of the person they are speaking to in order to get the desired results and ensure that no mistakes are made when it comes to the medicine.

High level of knowledge

Having a high level of knowledge is imperative for a pharmacist. They should know their medicines inside-out to be able to communicate that information with a patient. If they can’t provide the information, then they need to know where to find it as quickly as possible.

 

Medicine is always changing, and it’s also important that a pharmacist keeps up with the latest advances and the latest medical advice. They should have confidence in what they are saying, and that confidence should come from a high level of knowledge, including the ability to accurately answer any questions that a patient may have.

Leadership qualities

As a pharmacist they will face many challenges on a daily basis, and clear and concise decisions need to be made regularly. There will be times when they will need to take the lead and supervise the work of others to make sure correct procedures are being followed.

 

A great pharmacist need to take charge when there is a problem to make sure that is doesn’t escalate into a bigger issue. Strong leadership skills are required to ensure the smooth running of the pharmacy.

Analytical skills

A great pharmacist requires a high level of competency with analyzing data and prescriptions to ensure that correct practice and regulations are followed. Being able to match up the correct medicine with the correct patient and their related illness all has to be done very quickly and therefore an analytical mind is required to read this information. It is a job where mistakes have to be at the absolute minimum and therefore a sharp mind is a must.

A great memory

The amount of information that a pharmacist has to process in a day is vast. They are constantly faced with numbers and names of medicines that most people would be unable to pronounce. A pharmacist needs a solid memory of the knowledge that they have learned throughout their career.

 

Not only is a memory of this knowledge vital, but they also need to remember which prescriptions belong to which patients, who they have talked to and the conversation they have had. It’s a role that requires a great level of memory in quite a few different aspects.

High attention to detail

A pharmacist knows their responsibilities and the impact that they have. While mistakes may happen from time to time, in this line of work the consequences of making a mistake could have serious implications on a patient’s health. It requires great attention to detail to ensure that any mistakes are kept to an absolute minimum. This could be the medicine they give out to patients or it could be the double checking the information they receive from doctors.

 

Constantly checking and making sure everything is done correctly is of key importance to a pharmacist.

A caring nature

A pharmacist can have a very direct, but brief interaction with patients and it can be crucial in getting the right message across. If required they need to educate people on the correct way to take medicine, the importance of taking their prescription and the consequences of it. They need to do this in a caring manner that relates to the patient so that they fully understand and trust what the pharmacist is telling them.

 

They may also receive many questions about what they are giving out, and sometimes these questions might be personal. Caring and empathy are required to understand where the patient is coming from.

An appetite to learn

The world of medicine is constantly evolving and sometimes it can be hard to keep up. For a great pharmacist it is vital that they keep up to date with the latest advances so that they never give out incorrect information. They need to keep up that appetite for knowledge including pursuing further education opportunities. This application for learning is not only vital to be the best pharmacist they can be, it is also a vital part of keeping their license. The advancement of knowledge can set apart a good pharmacist from a great one.

High computer literacy

The world has moved on a lot in the last few decades and the medical profession is becoming more reliant on technology to keep its records. It is therefore becoming more important for a medical professional to be literate in computer technology. For a pharmacist, this can be for taking orders, managing the stock of drugs or for finding information. The world is only going to get more technologically advanced as time moves on and having a high level of skill in this area may set them apart in the future.


Similar Occupations

Here are some of the occupations that are most transferable with the skills and qualities required of a pharmacist.


  • Clinical research associate
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Medical sales representative
  • Pharmacologist
  • Product/process development scientist
  • Regulatory affairs officer
  • Research scientist (life sciences)
  • Science writer
  • Toxicologist



Projected Future of a Pharmacist

Career Prospects

There is a projected increase of around 14% over the next 10 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) which is about average when compared against all industries. As the population ages however, there will always be an increased need for pharmacists as health care becomes more accessible. Competition will always be strong so, it’s important for any pharmacist to take on additional qualification as well as any residencies.


Job Outlook

Not only will there always be a high demand for pharmacists, but also the skills required mean that there will always be job opportunities in other areas too. It is a job with a rock-solid future, partly due to the fact there are many types of organizations that hire pharmacists such as hospitals, retail chains and agencies.

         Potential Increase


A pharmaceutical degree can be a door to many other opportunities and can become experts in such areas as pediatric pharmacology, nutrition support pharmacology, oncology and psychiatric pharmacology. It is a career that will always offer them advancement if they wish to take it and it’s a rule where self-improvement is encouraged and always accessible.

Career Options

There are many different paths that a pharmacist can take into their dream role and one of the best advantages of the position is that there are many different options available. Some may wish to work in a hospital environment, where others many wish to work in the more relaxed and personable retail environment.


Some may wish for less interaction by working with the various agencies and industries that also employ pharmacists. Once they have mastered the world of pharmacology, then there are other career options available with the qualifications that have been obtained.


How to Become a Pharmacist

1. Get educated

One of the first things is to have a high school diploma so that they can be accepted into an undergraduate program at college. Once they have obtained that, there are numerous degrees that could provide a ticket into a pharmacology school. The most obvious of these are biology, pre-pharmacy and chemistry. These will help a pharmacist on their journey, but most schools do require a GPA of 3.0 and above, and the higher it is, the more likely they are to be accepted into a pharmacology school.

2. Obtain experience

After they have started on the path with the relevant qualifications, any budding pharmacist will need to get any experience they can as soon as possible. There are quite a few ways that this can be done, and they have to be willing to put in the hours of work for little or no money.


The experience is vital and can be obtained by getting and internship, a job in a pharmacy or even shadowing a pharmacist. Not only will this experience help them get into a pharmacy college, but it could also be helpful in the future as they will have gained connections that could be useful when trying to obtain employment in the future.

3. Pass the tests

In order to get into college then they need to pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) which is standard across the country. This was formerly a written test; however, this is now done via computer. The knowledge needed for the test is high and students are expected to use study materials that can be found online and in local libraries and bookstores.


Once they have registered for the test they have to select the school that they wish to send their scores to. Due to this, it’s important that they spend time beforehand researching the right schools for them.

4. Complete your degree

One the PCAT has been passed, it’s then time to apply to a pharmacy school. As well as the PCAT, there would also have to have experience in the industry and an undergraduate degree. At this stage, the aim is to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacology degree which generally takes three years to complete.


Each school will have their own fees and therefore it’s important to check each one and make a plan for how they are going to be paid. This can be done via scholarships, loans and grants.

5. Pass the NAPLEX

The work is not done yet however, as a license is still required and in order to get one, another test has to be passed. This is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and is again a standard test used throughout the country. This tests graduates on their knowledge of pharmacology to an expert degree. In each state there will also be specific tests that have to be passed dependent on the laws of that jurisdiction.


6. Get your first job

One the NAPLEX has been passed and a license has been obtained, then the search for a job can begin. This is where the connections made throughout the experience they obtained can be useful in getting on the career ladder. There are many job sites that have postings for pharmacists as the position is always in demand.


As with any industry, getting the dream job on the first application would be unlikely, and pharmacists would have to move up the career ladder. That being said, an entry-level job would pay around $75,000; therefore, the money would still be good even at the start of a career.

6. Never stop learning

Once their career in pharmacology has started, they can further themselves by becoming a specialist in a specific subject. There are further educational tracts available, which require a 2-year residency. Once they have done this, then they are eligible to get a certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties.




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