Career Discovery Becoming a Pharmacist - Student Research Foundation

Career Discovery: Becoming a Pharmacist

Many people have been thinking about medicine and prescription drugs a lot over the last few weeks. They have been asking questions like these . . .

  • “Do I have enough of the prescription drugs I take to last me for the next few weeks?”
  • “Will my pharmacy run out of the prescription drugs I take?”
  • “How long will it take for a new Coronavirus vaccine to be developed, and how long will it be until it becomes available to consumers?”

If you are a parent, chances are that your children have seen you asking questions like those, and possibly seen you becoming nervous about medications. Your kids might have even gone into your pharmacy with you while you picked up prescriptions or while you asked your pharmacist questions.

So, who are these pharmacy professionals who we are relying on so heavily today? And if your children decide they might like to become pharmacists themselves, what do they need to know about preparing for the profession?

Here’s some basic information you and your children might need to know about the two routes to working in a retail pharmacy.

Career Path One: You Can Become a Pharmacy Tech after Only a Short Period of Study

Pharmacy technicians (techs) are pharmacy employees whose primary duties are to locate and deliver prescriptions to customers. There are many programs that train pharmacy techs. In addition to programs at regular four-year colleges, there are also training programs at community colleges, for-profit colleges, and even online schools.

It is not necessary to earn a college degree before you can start working as a pharmacy technician. However, every state requires pharmacy techs to become certified by taking a standardized test. Many pharmacy technicians work as hourly employees and although pay varies by employer and state, they generally earn more than minimum wage. When our editors did some online research, they found that some pharmacies are paying in the range of $18-$20/hour for new pharmacy technicians.

Career Path Two: You Can Earn a PharmD Degree

The pharmacists you have seen filling prescriptions in pharmacies are highly trained health care professionals who have earned Doctor of Pharmaceutical Science (PharmD) degrees from accredited universities and schools that have Pharmaceutical Science programs. There are many programs. The University of Illinois, for example, has a Pharmacy School that awards the degree, and so does the University of Vermont. You can find an online directory of accredited PharmD programs here.

Most PharmD programs are intensive, four-year postgraduate programs. Students study diseases and health conditions, drugs, drug interactions, the science of formulating prescriptions, and more. Some programs, though not all, require applicants to have completed certain pharmacy courses as undergraduates. And every U.S. state requires pharmacists to pass accreditation exams before they can start to work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median salary for pharmacists in the U.S. in 2018 was $126,120. But here is something troubling to think about. The Department of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for pharmacists will decline over the next few years. Why? Because more consumers are buying prescription drugs online instead of at retail pharmacies.

To Learn More about College and Career Options

We invite you to explore career options by participating in our career and college research studies. Students who complete the free career test for high school students will receive information on college and career opportunities matched to their interests.

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