Pharmacy School Classes

One of the requirements to become a pharmacist is to go to pharmacy school.  There are two ways to get into pharmacy school.  The first option is to take 2 years of undergraduate college courses that are related to the field of pharmacy and then 4 years of professional pharmacy school afterwards for a total of 6 years of education.  This option is usually chosen by high school students who are certain that they want to become pharmacists.  The second option is to take 4 years of professional pharmacy school after graduating from college.  This option takes longer, but is good for people who are still trying to decide what type of career they want.

There is a variety of different classes in pharmacy school and most of them are based on fundamentals from biology and chemistry.  Some common courses include organic chemistry, molecular biology, medicinal chemistry, and physiology.  There are also many in-depth courses on specific areas of treatment such as infectious diseases and chemotherapy.  The in-depth courses prepare students for clinical experiential roles at hospitals where they recommend treatment options with doctors.

There are also practical courses where pharmacy students give patients counseling for their medications and learn how to recommend over the counter products without potentially embarrassing customers.  Some students also learn how to apply diagnostic tests and administer flu shots.

Becoming a pharmacist takes commitment, but the rewards are often worth it for the right people.  Salaries for pharmacists often exceed $100,000.  The job market for pharmacists has become more saturated in the past, but there is room for students who stand out and proactively learn more to increase their knowledge of the profession.

Everything You Need to Know to Get a Pharmacy Residency

Since pharmacists are becoming more clinically involved, it is becoming increasingly important to keep up with modern medicine. As such, a residency after graduation from pharmacy school is a great way to gain exposure to the latest developments and to get a job as a hospital or clinical pharmacist.

Residency for pharmacists take place over 2 years (PGY-1 and PGY-2). The first year is general and provides a wide range of study and helps future pharmacists decide which clinical areas to focus on. The second year is specific and allows the future pharmacist to specialize in a particular field of pharmacy medicine.

Residency specialties offered include health system pharmacy administration, nutrition, informatics, critical care, emergency medicine, psychiatric medicine, solid organ transplant, pharmacotherapy, geriatric care, managed care, pediatric care, internal medicine, infectious diseases, ambulatory care, drug information, oncology, medication use safety, nuclear pharmacy, and cardiology.

To get a residency, prospective candidates go through a matching system that is sponsored by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP). Candidates can attend Midyear for the Residency Showcase and sign up for the Personnel Placement Service (PPS) where they can meet with representatives from various residency programs in December. After reviewing residency programs, candidates complete an application and attend interviews. Applications require an updated resume, transcript, reference letters, and essays. The applicant selects from their favorite residency programs and the residency program selects their top picks for candidates. Residency is given if there is a match between an applicant’s selection and the residency program’s pick.

Going through a residency program is a tough challenge, but it is essential if you want to be a pharmacist in a clinical role. Read about clinical pharmacists here to make sure that this is the right career path for you.

5 Reasons to Become a Pharmacist

1.  Passion for Medicine

You enjoy medicine and want to be part of the healthcare team to help people live better lives.  From the drug store patient who comes in for cough syrup to the emergency room patient who needs lifesaving infusions, a pharmacist is always there to make a difference.

2.  Profession of Growth

You want to be part of the growing healthcare industry.  As more and more people get older, healthcare will continue to grow and become a larger part of the economy.  Pharmacists are an essential part of the healthcare team and will also benefit from this growth.  The BLS estimates that growth for pharmacists will be faster than average.

3.  Great Benefits

You want to make a good salary in a stable profession.  The median salary for pharmacists exceed $100,000 a year.  New pharmacy graduates can earn over $100,000 and have an easier time paying back student loans compared to other college majors.

4.  Many Options

You want a degree that gives you a lot of flexibility.  Pharmacists can work in a variety of settings.  Retail pharmacy, hospital, drug industry, health insurance industry, and pharmacy consulting industry are just some of the available job options for pharmacists.

5.  Prestigious Profession

You want to be an important part of your community.  Pharmacists consistently rank high on polls for trustworthiness and many people count on the pharmacist to give them unbiased advice.  Many pharmacists feel a sense of joy when they know they are making the community they live in better.

How Being a Pharmacy Technician Sets You Up To Become a Pharmacist

Getting a job as a pharmacy technician is a great way to gain experience in a pharmacy and to make money while in school.  According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians make $13.65 per hour or $28,400 per year.  Job growth in the field is expected to be high.

A pharmacy technician helps a pharmacist by entering data from patients and preparing medications for the pharmacist to dispense.  Most pharmacy technicians become familiar with medications, which gives them an advantage when it comes the courses in pharmacy school.  Also, many technicians network with pharmacists and pharmacy store managers, which makes it much easier to find a job later on if they want to become pharmacists.

Educational requirements usually require a high school diploma and increasingly, certifications from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).  Certification from the PTCB requires passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).  Some people choose to study for the exam on their own, but a few take courses at pharmacy schools designed to give them the knowledge needed to pass the exam.

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a good start to become a pharmacist.  Don’t miss out on a chance to gain real work experience, drug knowledge, and a networking opportunity.

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Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination

Passing the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination) is necessary to become a pharmacist in most states in the US. Exceptions are Arkansas, California, and Virginia, which have their own law exam.

The exam contains 90 multiple choice questions that must be completed within 2 hours. Questions will ask about both federal and state laws for your chosen state of licensure. A score of 75 or higher is required to pass.

The MPJE exam tests you on:

  • Legal aspects of pharmacy practice, including responsibilities with regard to the distribution and dispensing of pharmaceuticals and for the care of patients.
  • Licensure, registration, certification, and operational requirements.
  • Regulatory structure and terms of the laws and rules that regulate or affect pharmacists, pharmacies, manufacturers, and distributors.

More information about the exam can be found at the NABP.

Most recent pharmacy students pass the MPJE for the state that they went to pharmacy school in. However, if you are looking to get a license in a different state, you should get an exam guide to show you the differences between state laws. A state law guide is not only good to pass the exam, but it will also give you the knowledge you need to practice pharmacy in the state without unknowingly breaking laws!

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North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX)

Passing the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination) is necessary to become a pharmacist in the US.

The exam contains 185 questions that must be completed within 4 hours and 15 minutes. There is an optional 10 minute break after the first 2 hours. The questions are multiple choice and some have a K-Type format. A 75 or higher score is required to pass.

The 3 main competencies that the NAPLEX tests you on are your abilities to:

  • Assess pharmacotherapy to assure safe and effective therapeutic outcomes (56% of exam)
  • Assess safe and accurate preparation and dispensing of medications (33% of exam)
  • Assess, recommend, and provide health care information that promotes public health (11% of exam)

More information about the exam can be found at the NABP.

Although the exam usually has a high pass rate for pharmacy students who recently graduated, it doesn’t hurt to get an exam guide since those who fail will need to wait an entire 91 days before retaking the exam. Don’t risk putting your job search on hold while waiting to retake the exam!

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Thriving in the Job Market

Finding a Job

The time has finally arrived. You have completed your education and the requirements to become a pharmacist. Now you just have to find a job to become a pharmacist. Hopefully, you maintained your good grades through pharmacy school, have gotten real experience working in a pharmacy, and have networked with everyone you met in class and on rotations. If you haven’t, it will take longer to find a job and become a pharmacist, but our guides will help you get there faster.

Getting a job as a pharmacist requires you to:

  1. Identify all the employers that you are interested in
  2. Contact the employers in a way that will get you noticed
  3. Ace the interview process

Key Milestones:

  • Get a job
  • Maintain license
  • Continue improving

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Making the Most of Pharmacy School

Pharmacy School

Congratulations on gaining entry to a pharmacy school! It is a big achievement, but there is still more ahead before you can become a pharmacist.

The courses in pharmacy school are much more challenging than the classes in undergraduate education, but it is still important to continue to do well in class so that you can find a job after graduation. Study groups and study guides can help you reach your goals.

There are several options after graduating from pharmacy school. Some people choose to go directly to work, others choose to do a residency or fellowship. Networking becomes extremely important as you get closer to graduation.

Key Milestones:

  • Complete pharmacy school with a 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Get a job as a pharmacy technician or intern
  • Apply for residency (optional)
  • Apply for fellowship (optional)
  • Get a state pharmacy license by passing the NAPLEX, MPJE, and other requirements

Time for Completion: 2-4 years

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Building a Strong Foundation in Undergrad

Undergraduate Education

There are 2 paths to pharmacy school. One involves 2 years of undergraduate coursework before transferring to a 4 year pharmacy school and the other involves completing a 4 year Bachelor degree and then going to a 4 year pharmacy school. It is important to maintain a good GPA and to excel in the science courses. The introductory chemistry courses will be an important foundation for future classes in pharmacy school.

At this time, students should meet with pharmacy students so they can get an idea of what to expect in pharmacy school. Also, students should try to get a job at a pharmacy and gain experience.

Key Milestones:

  • Complete undergraduate education with a 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Network with current pharmacy students to get an idea of what to expect
  • Get a 430 or higher score on PCAT (if necessary)
  • Complete pharmacy school application (if necessary)
  • Prepare for pharmacy school admission interview
  • Get a job at a pharmacy

Time for Completion: 4-6 years

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Starting from High School

High School

Students can get an early start to become a pharmacist by getting good scores on the SAT and maintaining a high GPA. Courses to focus on are biology and chemistry. Several colleges will give students credit if they pass the AP exams.

Also, students should get a job at a retail pharmacy as a pharmacy technician or a cashier working in the pharmacy area. While many people enjoy pharmacy, it is important for you to experience firsthand if pharmacy is the right career for you.

Key Milestones:

  • Complete high school with a 3.5 or higher GPA
  • Get a 4 or higher score on the AP biology exam
  • Get a 4 or higher score on the AP chemistry exam
  • Get a 2100 or higher on the SAT
  • Get a job at a pharmacy
  • Complete college applications

Time for Completion: 4 years

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