Within pharmacy, there are two primary healthcare professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. Pharmacists are licensed professionals who work in pharmacy. They are the primary healthcare experts within the industry, as such, they are required to be licensed by the state where they work. Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, assisting with the dispensing of drugs and medications to customers. In some states, like pharmacists, pharmacy technicians are also required to be licensed.
Becoming a pharmacy technicians is actually quite straight forward. You can become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training or by earning a 1-year certificate or 2-year associate’s degrees in pharmacy technology from a vocational school or community college. Becoming a pharmacist is a little bit more involved. It typically requires earning a four-year bachelor’s degree and then earning doctoral degree in pharmacy from an accredited college or university.
An undergraduate major in pharmacy studies is designed to prepare aspiring college students and pharmaceutical professionals for the independent or employed practice of preparing and dispensing drugs and medications in consultation with prescribing physicians and other health care professionals, and for managing pharmacy practices and counseling patients. If you decide to pursue a major in pharmacy studies you can expect to take courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, pharmacy practice, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy administration, applicable regulations, and professional standards and ethics.
Select a concentration below to explore various pharmacy colleges and universities offering majors and degree programs. Learn how to prepare and dispense drugs and medications, counsel patients and manage a pharmacy practice.
- Pharmacy Technician/Assistant
- Pre-pharmacy Studies
- Pharmacy Administration, Policy and Regulation
- Pharmaceutics and Drug Design
- Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
- Natural Products Chemistry and Pharmacognosy
- Pharmacoeconomics/Pharmceutical Economics
- Clinical, Hospital, and Managed Care Pharmacy
- Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management
Choosing a Pharmacy SchoolCurrently, the top pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report are The University of California�San Francisco, The University of North Carolina�Chapel Hill, and The University of Minnesota. But picking a pharmacy schools is, and should be, a lot more involved than simply applying to the top ranked institutions. First off, applying to Pharmacy school isn’t like apply to an undergraduate program. Competition for most pharmacy programs is much more competitive. You really should feel fortunate to get accepted into any good program.
There are many factors to consider when selecting a pharmacy program. The following are a few of the most important:
- Residency. Residency is now
required of all students desiring to
work as a pharmacist. No only will
residency influence your eligibility
to work in the industry, it will also
impact your ability to find a good job
after you graduate.
- Admissions criteria. The
admissions criteria for pharmacy
schools can vary quite a bit from one
school to the next. Some schools have
several prerequisite courses that must
be completed for program candidacy. The Drake College of Pharmacy
and Health Sciences, for
example, has a mandatory 2-year
pre-pharmacy program students must
complete before being accepted to
their 4 year professional PharmD
program. Other schools have similar
admissions programs BUT guarantee
admission once the pre-pharmacy
program has been completed.
- Location. While location
doesn’t determine the quality of
education an institution provides, it
can influence a student’s ability to
have good experience. There are only a
limited number of good graduate level
pharmacy programs in the United States
(just over 100) and there’s a high
likelihood you may have to relocate if
you’re accepted. Can your family
easily move to a new city or even
across the country to go to school?
Can you afford to move? Will you have
to find a new job? Are you going to be
okay with being away from friends and
family for several years?
- Specialties. There are
several specialties within the field
of pharmaceutical sciences (e.g.
Pharmacy Administration, Drug Design,
Marketing and Management, etc.) There
are also many pharmacy schools that
offer a diverse selection of
specialized education tracks and/or
joint degrees. Before applying to a
program you should know (1) which
branch of pharmacy you want to pursue
as a career and (2) which schools
offers specialized tracks of study for
your desired career path. For example,
a few pharmacy schools now offer joint
degree programs that incorporate the
Pharma.D. with a traditional MBA. For
those pursuing a career in
Pharmaceutical Marketing and
Management, this is the perfect
program. While an MBA can be acquired
after completing the Pharma.D. program
it typically is much faster to
complete the two degrees together and
offers students the additional benefit
of a business education tailored
toward the pharmaceutical industry.
- Cost. While costs will vary,
according to the American
Association of Colleges of Pharmacy,
the average cost of a four-year
professional pharmacy programs,
including fees and tuition ranges from
$63,000 at a public school (for
in-state students) to $122,000 for
private schools. For out-of-state
students, attending a public school
costs roughly $115,000. Attending
pharmacy school is an expensive
proposition�and these figures don’t
include the cost of books, exams, and
living expenses. Very few students can
afford pharmacy school without some
form of financial aid. When
considering what programs to apply to
you’ll want to consider the cost of
the program and what type of financial
aid options are available through the
- Quality and reputation. We’ve
stated that attending one of the top
ranked pharmacy program in the nation
shouldn’t be your main criteria in
selecting a school, and we stand by
that, however, it’s still important to
attend a quality program that has a
good reputation. In order to make sure
you attend a quality program, you’ll
want to make sure it is offered by a regionally accredited
institution and/or accredited through
the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy
Education. Attending a program with a
good reputation will go a long way
toward helping you find a good
residency program and job.
- Career placement and support.
At the end of the day attending
pharmacy school is all about preparing
for your career and finding a good
job. When evaluating pharmacy schools
you’ll want to look into how
successful they’ve been at placing
their students in good jobs following
graduation. What is the starting
salary of most graduates? What is a
school’s overall placement rate? How
long does it take the average student
to find a job following graduation?
What other career development services
does the school provide its students?
- Faculty. Another strong
quality indicator is a school’s
faculty. A good pharmacy program is
typically the result of good faculty.
You’ll want to know how many students
there are per faculty member. Do all
faculty have a Ph.D. in their field of
expertise? Are faculty tenured? How
well is the school able to retain its
faculty? Schools that are unable to
retain their faculty for more than a
few years usually have less than
stellar pharmacy programs.
- Licensure and test scores.
Before becoming a practicing
pharmacist, students must get licensed
in the state where they’ll be working.
To become licensed students must pass
the North American Pharmacist
Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). When
evaluating potential pharmacy schools
you should inquire about the NAPLEX
pass rate of its students. What type
of preparation for the NAPLEX does the
school offer? What other licensure
assistance does the school provide.
- Internship/Externships. Both internships and externships are an important aspect of preparation for a career in pharmacy. The experience you obtain from your internships could very well set you apart from the competition when it comes time to start looking for a good job or launch your career. Do your due diligence! Make sure you find out how many of a school’s were able to find internships the previous year. Even find out which companies or organizations regularly recruit interns at the schools you’re considering.