There are many things to consider before you make the decision to pursue a degree in pharmacy. Becoming a pharmacist is by no means an easy endeavor. Not only does it require a considerable amount of education to become a pharmacist, but it also calls for certain important personality traits. Before you decide whether a Master of Pharmacy is right for you, you should understand the steps involved in the process of becoming a pharmacist, as well as the various career options that are available.
Many people first take interest in pharmacy because it is considered to be a fairly well paying and respectable occupation. Salaries vary according to geographic location, years of experience, and the specific area of pharmacy that you choose to go into. However, the median expected salary for a typical pharmacist in the U.S. is currently over $100,000. While that figure is quite persuasive, remember that there is a good reason that pharmacists tend to be paid so well pharmacy requires a considerable amount of schooling and involves a great deal of responsibility.
Obtaining a professional pharmacy degree typically requires about six years of post-secondary education for most students. The curriculum can be quite demanding, so it is important that you are really interested in the field of pharmacy and also that you are hardworking, self-motivating and willing to learn. Even after these initial (probably quite costly) six years of schooling have been completed, the pharmacist’s education is not yet finished. For pharmacists, education is a continual process. Pharmacists must continue to learn and grow along with their field as new drugs are introduced into the market. This continued education might consist of seminars, conferences or their own in-depth investigation.
Curriculum is designed to produce pharmacists who can provide pharmaceutical care to patients, develop and manage medication distribution and control systems, manage a pharmacy, promote public health and provide drug information and education. Students will explore many different areas of instruction. The first is Pharmacy Chemistry, which deals with the application of chemistry to pharmacy. The second is Pharmacognosy, which includes the nature and sources of “natural drugs”. Next there is Pharmacology, which is concerned with understanding how drugs affect the body. Pharmacology is a very important aspect of the curriculum. While physicians need to know a great deal about pharmacology and toxicology, the pharmacist must know even more and must be able to maintain this knowledge and continue to absorb information as new drugs enter the market. For those students who plan to enter community pharmacy, education in modern business management is also important. This will ensure that the future pharmacist has general knowledge in the areas of economics, accounting, management, computer applications, marketing, merchandising and legal issues involved in pharmacy. Finally, all colleges of pharmacy should offer a variety of courses in pharmacy practice, designed to provide an appreciation of the background and nature of the profession.
The clinical component of pharmacy education will vary from one program to the next, but the basic goals should be similar. These goals include: the development of good communication skills to ensure effective interaction with patients; the development of patient awareness; enabling students to integrate what they have learned and apply it to the solution of real life problems; developing a strong awareness of their responsibility for monitoring drugs taken by patients; and finally to help students become more aware of the general methods of diagnosis and patient care.
A solid education in pharmacy is not all that is takes to become a successful pharmacist. There are also many personal characteristics that are essential to becoming a good pharmacist. One of the main qualifications of a pharmacist is the ability to work well with other people. As a pharmacist, you will be constantly interacting with others, whether with patients, other health professionals or pharmaceutical company representatives. You must be comfortable in these situations and have the ability to adapt to a variety of different circumstances.
A pharmacist must also be dependable, have good judgment, and be very detail oriented. Because human lives are at stake, a pharmacist must be meticulous in their work and must be willing to check and double check their own work in order to ensure that life-threatening mistakes do not occur. This need for careful attention to your work, as well as your decisions and understanding the results of your actions cannot be stressed enough. A pharmacist must have high ethical standards and must use good judgment when answering the questions that patients direct at them. After all, as a pharmacist you are entrusted by law with the proper storage, handling and distributing of potentially dangerous and habit-forming substances.
Pharmacists are much more than distributors of drugs. Educating patients and monitoring patient records is a very important part of being a pharmacist as well. Patients rely heavily on their pharmacists for health care advice and information.
If you feel that you have what it takes to be a pharmacist, then it is time to consider what sorts of career opportunities are available to you. When most of us think of a pharmacist, we think of the friendly person behind the counter at our local drug store. However, community and consultant pharmacy is just one area that you can choose to go into. Hospitals and other institutionalized settings, such as nursing homes or mental health facilities also need to employ pharmacists. As an institutional pharmacist you will be a member of a health care team, working closely with physicians and nurses. In this instance, you will not only be responsible for drug distribution, but you will be responsible for controlling the entire drug distribution system, ensuring that each patient receives the appropriate medication, in the correct dosage and at the correct time. The pharmaceutical industry provides another career opportunity for pharmacists. Within the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists might be responsible for such tasks as marketing, research, product development, quality control, sales and administration. Yet another option is academic pharmacy. Academic pharmacists are employed by the nation’s colleges and schools of pharmacy, where they are involved with teaching, research, public service and patient care. Pharmacists are also needed to work in a variety of federal and state positions, such as within the U.S. Public Health Service, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration, and in all the branches of the armed services.
As you can see, there are a number of different career opportunities available to those with a degree in pharmacy. It all depends upon what interests you. Now that you have some background information about the pharmacy field and what it takes to acquire a degree in pharmacy, you can decide whether or not you think that it is the right career path for you!