You may have heard that being a pharmacist is a stable and well-paying job and wonder what’s involved in getting a degree in pharmacy. Here’s what to know about exactly what a pharmacist does, what kind of schooling is required, and some pros and cons of the profession.
Duties of Pharmacists
A pharmacist is a medical professional who dispenses drugs to patients according to a prescription ordered by a physician or other clinician. Pharmacists have an in-depth knowledge of the chemistry of various drugs and how they react in humans, and also how drugs interact with each other. Pharmacists must accurately measure and package medicine, ensuring its dosage and safety to be administered properly to a patient.
While the pharmacist does not typically select or prescribe the medication, he or she educates the patient on how to take the medication and what reactions or problems to be aware of.
Pharmacists typically do the following:
- Fill prescriptions, verifying instructions from physicians on the proper amounts of medication to give to patients
- Check whether prescriptions will interact negatively with other drugs that a patient is taking or any medical conditions the patient has
- Instruct patients on how and when to take prescribed medicines and inform them about potential side effects they may experience from taking the medicine
- Give flu shots and, in most states, other vaccinations
- Advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best to treat a health problem
- Complete insurance forms and work with insurance companies to ensure that patients get the medicines they need
- Oversee the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
- Keep records and do other administrative tasks
- Teach other healthcare practitioners about proper medication therapies for patients
What Degree is Required to Become a Pharmacist?
Pharmacists graduating from college today are required to have a PharmDor Doctor of Pharmacy degree. College students can start a four-year pharmacy program after successfully completing two years of undergraduate coursework and earning a passing score on the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test).
If a student knows early in his or her college career (or even by the end of high school) that they would like to become a pharmacist, one could graduate with a PharmD in about six years. These programs are called “0-6” programs, There are only seven such programs listed on the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website as of 2018.
In addition to the 0-6 programs, there are also early assurance programs and some accelerated programs. Early assurance programs are for selected high school students who enroll and successfully complete the first two years of pre-professional study. They are then guaranteed admission to a four-year pharmacy program. The accelerated pharmacy schools confer a degree after three years instead of the usual four. There are 13 accelerated programs listed on the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website as of 2018.
Many college students do not decide until later in college or after college to become a pharmacist; therefore, some pharmacists end up completing eight years of school.