Is a Pharmacy Degree Right for You?

A career in pharmacy is a great way to enter the healthcare industry. Pharmacies are responsible for providing controlled access to medications and informing patients how to properly administer their prescriptions. This profession requires thorough attention to detail and strong customer service skills, as pharmacists often deal with their customers on a consistent basis. You might enjoy working at a pharmacy if you enjoy dealing with people and have an interest in health and wellness as well as pharmaceutical treatment.

Advice for Earning Your Pharmacy Degree Online

If you are considering a long-term career as a pharmacist, please note that your education will require a bachelor’s degree as well as graduate degree in pharmacy. Bachelor’s degrees in pharmacy are less common in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. However, a bachelor’s degree in a related health science field — like biology or chemistry — should provide you with the relevant foundational knowledge for a graduate pharmacy program. You may also want to review the program prerequisites so you can take the necessary courses during your undergraduate degree. If you plan to pursue your bachelor’s degree online, confirm that the school is regionally or nationally accredited to ensure your undergraduate coursework will be recognized by a graduate pharmacy program’s admissions office.

Required Courses

When completing your bachelor’s degree, you should take a variety of health and science courses. You will benefit from thorough knowledge of chemistry and biology, as well as anatomy and physiology. You may also want to take a selection of business and economics classes to develop your understanding of the health care industry, how it operates, and the role of the pharmacist in the world of health care. Also, courses in medical ethics should be beneficial in your pursuit of a career as a pharmacist. Many graduate pharmacy programs have undergraduate course prerequisites and you should become familiar with these so you can meet these requirements while completing your bachelor’s degree.

Common Career Paths

A college degree in pharmacy usually leads to one of two career paths. Most students pursue a pharmacy technician position while others complete the necessary education and training to become a pharmacist. Both careers are expected to be in high demand in years to come. Read to learn more about how to launch a career in the industry:

  • Pharmacy Technician

    Pharmacy technicians perform a variety of service and administrative tasks to support the operations of a pharmacy. These include dispensing medications to customers, processing payments and insurance claims, filling prescriptions, etc. Pharmacy technicians often work in pharmacies that are located in grocery or drug stores as well as hospitals and clinics. They work alongside pharmacists, who are qualified to review all medications before the technician gives them to the patient. You will need a high school diploma and some college coursework. It is recommended that you complete a pharmacy technician training program, which are often certificate or associate degree programs offered at community colleges and vocational schools.

    Job growth for pharmacy technicians is expected to be quite strong in the years to come. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacy technician positions are projected to grow by 32% by 2020, which is considered much faster than average. In 2010, the average pharmacy technician salary was $30,275. However, please note that salaries for this field can vary depending on the job market, employer, and individual qualifications. Some states and employers require certification, so you should check your state’s requirements before launching your job search. While a bachelor’s degree is not required, it may improve your job prospects and will be useful if you plan to complete a pharmacy graduate program in the future.

  • Pharmacist

    Like pharmacy technicians, pharmacists dispense medications to customers but are also trained to advise patients on how to use the medications safely. Pharmacists are also knowledgeable pharmaceutical interactions and can notify patients when two of their prescriptions should not be taken together. A bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or other health science field will be useful in your pharmacy career. However, you will need to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree to become a pharmacist, which is a four-year degree in most cases. You will also need to pass a series of exams to become a licensed pharmacist.

    The pharmacy occupation is expected to grow at a faster than average pace through 2020, according to the BLS . Pharmacists can expect 25% percent growth in their field, although this pace is not a guarantee. This career path also brings earning potential that is significantly greater than the pharmacy technician route. According to figures reported by the BLS , the average pharmacist salary was $110,355 in 2010. And, the lowest-paid pharmacists earned $82,090. However, these figures are not guaranteed. Actually salaries are subject to market and regional influences as well as the credentials and experience of individual candidates.

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