How to Become a Pharmacist

Millions of people around the United States take prescription medications. Pharmacy is a very important health field that makes sure medications are effective and safe. Pharmacists are licensed health professionals that are drug therapy experts that find the best possible medication to give patients favorable health outcomes.

What does a pharmacist do?

Pharmacists fill and distribute prescription medications to individuals. They take prescription requests from health care providers and assess the safety and effectiveness of the medication. They provide drug information to the patient and talk to them about the appropriate use and the possible side effects. They provide advice to patients, doctors, and other health personnel on the choice, dosages, interactions, and side effects of prescription drugs. Pharmacists also keep an eye on the progress and health of patients to make sure the medication is effective and used safely.

Pharmacists also advise patients on the use of over-the-counter medications and on general health topics such as exercise, diet, and management of stress. Some pharmacists offer specialized services to help patients with certain conditions such as smoking cessation, diabetes, high blood pressure, or asthma.

What kind of training does a pharmacist need?

Pharmacists must obtain a Pharm.D. degree from a school of pharmacy or college that is accredited. The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is required for most Pharm. D. programs. Pharmacy schools and colleges are designed to provide students with instruction on all concepts of drug therapy. The programs consist of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in many different pharmacy practice settings. A licensed pharmacist always supervises students.

All states require pharmacists to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from an accredited college of pharmacy and passing many examinations. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) is required by all states. Majority of states require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) administers both exams. Additional exams are required in some states.

What are the prospects for a career as a pharmacist?

Employment of pharmacists is projected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 22% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased demand for prescription drugs and aging population will fuel job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent due to rapid job growth and the need to replace pharmacists who retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do pharmacists make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of pharmacists earned annual salaries between $101,653 and $113,437. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $118,585 (2).

A career as a pharmacist is a great choice for people who are interested in helping people with prescription medications. Pharmacists must have scientific talent and the ability to solve problems in effective ways. Great communication and excellent interpersonal skills are essential. Pharmacists must also pay close attention to detail and make good decisions because they are dealing with patients’ health and lives.

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