The job outlook for pharmacists in this country is more than bright. It’s more like blinding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals, drug stores, managed care facilities, and other employers of pharmacists are predicted to increase hiring by a whopping 22 percent during the 2006-2016 decade. If you’re considering enrolling in a pre-pharmacy program to qualify for pharmacy school, now might be the best time to launch your career.
There are two-year programs in pre-pharmacy studies that provide the backbone of pre-requisite courses vital to entry into a full pharmacist career-training program. Typically, you’ll receive two years of education in biology, microbiology, general and organic chemistry, anatomy, calculus, and physics. All programs have their subtle differences, so it’s important to evaluate the entry requirements of your continuing, four-year pharmacist program to ensure you’re loading up on the right courses.
Here’s a general review of the main areas of study offered in today’s pre-pharmacy degree or training programs:
You can’t get by without it. Your studies should delve into atomic and molecular properties, thermodynamics, and chemical structure. A companion segment should offer practical laboratory experience in observing, recording, and interpreting data.
Laboratory and lecture segments should add up to a complete foundation course in properties, structure, reactions, and mechanisms of organic molecules, along with practical applications.
You’ll probably take one or two semesters of study in chemistry, structure, functioning, and energy transformations in animal and plant cells. Your school may also integrate your studies with courses in botany or zoology.
Microbiology and Biochemistry
You’ll undertake studies in infectious diseases, basic immunology, as well as the metabolism of biological compounds.
Most programs will also expect you to complete general studies courses in composition and writing, speech, humanities, and social science.
Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They also advise their patients, as well as physicians and other health practitioners, on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists monitor the health and progress of patients to ensure the safe and effective use of medication. Compounding—the actual mixing of ingredients to form medications—is a small part of a pharmacist’s practice because most medicines are produced by pharmaceutical companies in a standard dosage and drug delivery form. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drugstore, or in a health care facility, such as a hospital, nursing home, mental health institution, or neighborhood health clinic.
Pharmacists in community pharmacies dispense medications, counsel patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and advise physicians about patients’ medication therapy. They also advise patients about general health topics such as diet, exercise, and stress management and provide information on products such as durable medical equipment or home health care supplies. In addition, they may complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. Those who own or manage community pharmacies may sell non-health-related merchandise, hire and supervise personnel, and oversee the general operation of the pharmacy. Some community pharmacists provide specialized services to help patients with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure; others also are trained to administer vaccinations.
Pharmacists in health care facilities dispense medications and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They may make sterile solutions to be administered intravenously. They also plan, monitor, and evaluate drug programs or regimens. They may counsel hospitalized patients on the use of drugs before the patients are discharged.
Pharmacists who work in home health care monitor drug therapy and prepare infusions—solutions that are injected into patients—and other medications for use in the home.
Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy, and psychiatric pharmacy (the use of drugs to treat mental disorders).
Most pharmacists keep confidential computerized records of patients’ drug therapies to prevent harmful drug interactions. Pharmacists are responsible for the accuracy of every prescription that is filled, but they often rely upon pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides to assist them in the dispensing process. Thus, the pharmacist may delegate prescription filling and administrative tasks and supervise their completion. Pharmacists also frequently oversee pharmacy students serving as interns.
Increasingly, pharmacists are pursuing nontraditional pharmacy work. Some are involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers, developing new drugs, and testing their effects. Others work in marketing or sales, providing clients with expertise on the use, effectiveness, and possible side effects of drugs. Some pharmacists work for health insurance companies, developing pharmacy benefit packages and carrying out cost-benefit analyses on certain drugs. Other pharmacists work for the government, managed care organizations, public health care services, the armed services, or pharmacy associations. Finally, some pharmacists are employed full-time or part-time as college faculty, teaching classes and performing research in a wide range of areas.