The Scoop on Being a Pharmacist

The field of Pharmacy (no not the drug store, the study of dispensing medication) is growing and Pharmacists tend to make pretty good money.

I know, you can't imagine yourself working at the drug store, but there's more to it than that and you have the chance to help people, counsel patients, and even do research. Sliding pills across a small tray and into a bottle and giving Mrs. Henderson her blood pressure medication doesn't have to be your whole life if you're a Pharmacist, but it can be if you like.

What in the World Does a Pharmacist Do?

When you work as a Pharmacist you dispense medications to patients according to a Doctor's written prescription. You would advise patients and Doctors on the types of medications that are necessary for the patient, how much the patient should be getting, and how long they should be taking it. Many times you would be called on to monitor a patient and their intake of medication or prescribe a drug-therapy regimen at the request of a Doctor.

Every now and then you have to actually mix ingredients to produce medications or take medications that you have on hand to produce the right mixture for a patient. You will have to be able to advise patients on how their diet affects the medicines they take or what to and NOT to eat or drink while they're on their medication. Basically, you're a line of warning to make sure the patients take their medications right and get the right dose.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Well, when you go to school now you will have to get the Pharm D Degree. It has replaced the Bachelor's Degree of Pharmacy (once again, not the drug store) and though you don't HAVE to have completed a full 4 years of college, most Colleges of Pharmacy want you to have completed at least 2 or 3 (obviously 4 would be better.) As of 2007 92 Colleges of Pharmacy were operating in the U.S., so you might have to travel a little to get to one, but they seem fairly abundant.

After you complete Pharmacy School you will be required to get your License from the State Pharmacy Board. Usually, this requires you to pass a written exam and a skills exam. After you've passed you'll be able to get a job as a Pharmacist.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Anyways, after you finish Pharmacy School and you get your license you can go to work. Yes, the majority of Pharmacists work in "the drug store", but that ranges from a big chain to a small independent pharmacy. A Pharmacist could open an old school Apothecary in their town if they thought there was a market for it if they like the idea of working for "the man". With 243,000 jobs in this field in 2006 and a population that is growing and aging (just think "Baby Boomers") the growth in this field will keep pace with every other profession.

If you were working as a Pharmacist you could just as easily work in a Hospital, a health clinic, or for a government agency like the VA. If you wanted to advance in the profession you could get additional schooling and get a Master of Pharmacy or even a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. When doing additional schooling you could: study Pharmacology (how drugs effect the body), pharmaceutical chemistry (how the chemicals in drugs mix and how to mix them) or pharmaceutical administration (how to manage a pharmacy and the dispensation of drugs.)

With this advanced education you could move into management or administrations, teaching at a Pharmacy School, conduct research for a pharmaceutical company, or become a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company. Many times management is a good move for someone who wants to make more money and maximize how much they make before retirement. Teaching or conducting research might be better suited for someone who is thinking about retiring or is retired. Like I said before, you don't just have to get Mrs. Henderson her blood pressure medicine for your whole career.

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Pharmacists Overview

Pharmacist Salary:$106,410
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:8 years
# Employed in US:266,410
% Who work Part Time:16%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Pharmacist

  • You can get a well-paying salaried position
  • You can get a job working in your community where you can help your neighbors
  • You can become a staple in your community as "The Pharmacist"
  • You don't just have to get a job in a drug store

The Cons of being a Pharmacist

  • There is at least 4 years of schooling after you have completed a couple of years of undergraduate study
  • Advancement requires additional schooling
  • The majority of jobs are in "the drug store"