The road to becoming a successful, registered pharmacist is a rigorous and demanding one. It requires effort, time, training, education, commitment, and dedication. However, earning a pharmacist degree can open the doors for employment as some of the highest paid professionals in the country.
For many years, pharmacists could enter the workforce with as little as a Bachelor’s degree. However, since 1990, the American College of Pharmacists has mandated that pharmacists now hold a doctorate degree. The previously awarded Bachelor of Pharmacy is no longer issued. Two years of pre-pharmacological studies can be completed at any accredited college or university. In the United States alone, well over 100 colleges and universities currently offer degrees in pharmacy. In addition to the traditional studies of English, and math, the course load should include extensive studies in chemistry, physics, calculus, microbiology, and human anatomy. Many universities require a minimum of 9 credit hours in humanities or social sciences. An internship, completed under the direction of a licensed pharmacist, is also required.
In all 50 states, and Puerto Rico, pharmacists must be licensed by the state (or territory) in which they work. Licensure requirements may vary from state to state, so the student should completely understand the requirements of the state in which he or she plans to seek employment. What exactly do pharmacists do? Certainly, the most obvious aspect of the job is to meticulously dispense medication as prescribed by physicians. Additionally, pharmacists are charged with maintaining the confidentiality of patients’ records relating to medications. They often advise physicians and other health care professionals regarding dosages and interactions of medicines. The pharmacist is the professional who routinely educates patients about the use and potential side effects of medications.
Most pharmacists work a standard 40-hour week, although many do work extended hours and weekends. While the majority of pharmacists are employed by drug or grocery stores, a significant number are employed by hospitals, health insurance organizations, federal, state, and local governments, and public health care organizations. Colleges and universities frequently employ pharmacists as teachers or researchers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual salary for a pharmacist is somewhere between $92,600 and $121,300. The highest 10% of pharmacists reportedly earn more than $131,400 per year. As with most other professions, experience and geographic region of employment affect salaries. The number of pharmacists needed is expected to grow at a rate of about 17% per year for the next several years. This rate is faster than for most other professions. In 2008, there were 269,900 registered pharmacists working in the United States. The number of pharmacists needed within the next few years, is well over 300,000. Employers across the country report difficulty in locating qualified pharmacists, due in part to the limited number of programs issuing a pharmacist degree.