Do you want to make a difference with your job after graduation? Searching for a fulfilling career in medicine that doesn’t require working directly with patients? A career as a pharmacist may be just what you’re seeking. Nonetheless, being a pharmacist requires some foreknowledge. It is achievable with hard work and commitment and presents a great chance to make a difference while enjoying stable employment.
If you are considering this noble path of pharmacist schooling, here are some key steps from high school to graduation day!
What Does a Pharmacist Do?
Before knowing the various pharmacist schooling requirements, you must understand what a pharmacist is. They are more than just employees who find the proper medication when you buy it from your local drug store. They are, primarily, scientific professionals who prepare the right medicines and chemical formulations for patients in the hospital.
Therefore, they are an integral part of the healthcare system that you must consider. Furthermore, the compensation for this type of career is rewarding, with some reported incomes reaching over six figures. So as a high school student, there are plenty of preparations you must do for your pharmacist schooling!
With proper planning and dedication, you will be successful in this field. After that, you’ll learn how to become a pharmacist as you start your career.
How to Become a Pharmacist?
You must do many things if you want to learn how to become a pharmacist while you’re still in high school. That said, starting to learn as early as today will give you more chances to reach your dream of paving your path into this respected career.
To provide a brief overview, check out our helpful tips on becoming a pharmacist.
Take Advanced Classes While in High School
You can opt for elective classes or AP courses supporting your pharmacist schooling requirements. Some of these subjects worth pursuing should be biology, chemistry, math, or physics, if available. A solid foundation will help you get into your dream pharmacy school and take it at an advanced level.
Before you can even start with your pharmacist schooling, you may also do some extracurricular activities. Some examples are as follows:
- Work in a nursing home
- Join HOSA (Future Health Professionals, formerly Health Occupations Students of America)
- Write in your school newspaper
- Become a part of the debate team
- Other extracurricular activities that demonstrate your unique talents and strengths!
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Another part of knowing how to become a pharmacist is considering your degree curriculum route. There are two main options: the first is a two-year pre-pharmacy program, and the second is a four-year bachelor’s degree program in pharmacy science. Either way, you’ll need to know the pharmacist’s schooling requirements beforehand.
Some experts recommend starting with a pre-pharmacy program first before diving into a bachelor’s degree so that you can learn the ropes. Ultimately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states you need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree before becoming a licensed pharmacist.
No matter where you start, you must know what prerequisites or common classes you must take during your pre-pharmacy years. These subjects often include the following:
- General chemistry with lab (2 semesters)
- Psychology (1-2 semesters)
- English (2 semesters)
- Biology with lab (2 semesters)
- Physics with lab (2 semesters)
- Human anatomy with lab
- Organic chemistry with lab (2 semesters)
- Microbiology with lab (1-2 semesters)
Take note all PharmD students must take these prerequisites, whether on a traditional undergraduate plus graduate path or an accelerated timeline. Once you have completed your prerequisites, you can choose to get a bachelor’s degree before you can apply for PharmD programs.
Apply for Pharmacy School
Now that you know all the prerequisites, it’s time to enroll in a college or university of your choice to start your pharmacy schooling. Several of these institutions may offer programs related to pharmacy or other fields. However, make sure that the Accreditation Council accredits any school you consider for Pharmacy Education.
In regards to your applications, the traditional pharmacy student should also pass the PCAT (or the Pharmacy College Admission Test) before proceeding with schooling at their chosen pharmacy school. But pharmacy school admissions boards have many things they’re searching for in candidates, such as volunteer work, work experience, leadership experience, and even research experience. There are plenty of ways to strengthen your application in advance with the proper guidance!
Preparation for Your Post-Graduation
Once you have completed pharmacy school, you will prepare for your post-graduate degree. At this point in your journey, you already know pharmacy schooling works, and you know that it’s in your best interest to start a formal internship/residency program—or find a way for experiential learning in a pharmacy setting. On the other hand, you can apply for internships or residencies in community clinics, outpatient care centers, and hospitals.
The hours you need will depend on your state’s licensing requirements. After that, you will need to take two pharmacist licensure exams. Then, you must satisfy pharmacist licensure requirements provided by the state you want to practice in.
These two pharmacist licensure exams are as follows:
- North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX)
- Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)
You must pass these tests before you can get your license after your pharmacist schooling. But to give you an idea of what you’re up against, the NAPLEX will test your ability to make patient decisions. On the other hand, the MPJE will test your familiarity with federal and state pharmacy laws.
Most of all, remember that some states have further requirements, but it will depend on what they ask you after your pharmacy schooling.
Common Pharmacy Careers Available
Once you’re done with your pharmacy schooling and have passed your licensure exams, choosing the proper role in the pharmaceutical care industry is best. Ask yourself where you envision yourself working.
Below are some examples of different pharmacy careers you can choose from once you graduate:
- Pharmacy tech: They are the first person a doctor, patient, or other medical professional talks to about medical prescriptions. Most of the time, their tasks involve getting a patient’s information for refills, measuring the right amount of medication, packaging and labeling prescriptions, tracking medication inventories, and processing insurance claims. The average salary for this position is $35,950.
- Pharmacy assistant: A pharmacy assistant can keep stock of merchandise, man the cash register, or track medication deliveries. But the role will vary from state to state, but the average salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $30,490.
Pharmacists: More than just filling prescription medications, pharmacists have many responsibilities. These may also depend on their work setting, such as drug stores, hospitals, or other healthcare facilities. Plus, they need business skill sets if they own a pharmacy. But overall, they must educate a patient on how to take the medications, research allergies related to the medicine, give flu shots, and more. The average salary for this role is $128,090.
Most young pharmacy graduates will work in a pharmacy or drug store as an introduction to their careers. Others will consider working in hospitals, medical centers, or retail pharmacies. On the other hand, some fresh graduates will choose a long-term facility, such as care facilities in institutional settings. It’s worth remembering that the pharmaceutical industry employs a small number of pharmacists.
Other pharmacists also choose to teach PharmD students. In the academic approach, they are hired by colleges and universities as trainers to provide clinical skills and teach courses while also doing additional research. These are just some of the choices one can make after they have completed their pharmacist schooling.
Will Pharmacy Jobs Grow in the Next Few Years?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pharmacy jobs are expected to increase in the coming years as the government and private sectors will also establish many healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.
It’s all primarily because of the complexity of medication therapy. Plus, there’s a need for proper drug selection, dosing, monitoring, and entire drug use process management. Therefore, the demand for pharmacists remains solid and stable in the medical industry.
Whatever major you choose during your pharmacist schooling, you’re already setting yourself up for relative success. Plus, this path in medicine gives you enough knowledge to acquire jobs in different health-related roles later on if you so choose.
Choose to Become a Pharmacist After High School
Overall, the pharmacy industry looks very promising for the years to come, and knowing how to become a pharmacist helps you achieve a stable career. Not only that, but you can also make a difference in patients’ lives with proper pharmacist schooling and licensure.