Pharmacists are an integral part of the health care industry. They need to have a sound knowledge of the medications a doctor may prescribe. Pharmacists are however not responsible for prescribing drugs to patients. Their job description covers basic education of patients on how to take their medication, measuring the correct dosage and answering any technical questions patients might have. There are several kinds of medicines available for the same condition and pharmacists therefore are responsible for sorting wheat from the chaff. They work closely with pharmaceutical companies in order to test and develop new drugs.
In order to become a professional pharmacist you will need to complete Pharm D which is a Doctorate in Pharmacy. After graduating from high school you will have to spend two years in an undergraduate degree program, before applying for a four-year pharmacy program. Other than spending two years in an undergraduate degree, you will also need to clear the PCAT (Pharmacy college admission test). You can complete your undergraduate requirements in any program; however, there are some institutes that offer integrated or joint programs. Enrollment in such a program would mean that you spend the first couple of years during college courses before moving on to the doctor of pharmacy degree. This degree normally takes five to seven years.
Apart from your course work, you will also have to gain practical experience in a variety of medical scenarios, as part of your degree. These are called rotations. The average length of a rotation is four to six weeks and usually students are supposed to take seven to ten rotations.
After Your Degree
Once you have completed your diploma, you have the requisite abilities necessary to become a professional pharmacist. But in order to practice your profession you will need to be licensed. Pharmacists hold an extremely important position in any community and so this profession is strictly regulated by the government. After your degree you will need to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). In many states you will also have to clear the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which is a test of pharmacy law. If this exam is not administered in your state, you should check with authorities to learn about any other exam or test which needs to be cleared. License transfer from one state to another is possible in all states except for the state of California.
Most pharmacists work in retail settings helping customers get their medicine. But pharmacists are also required in many other medical settings including hospitals, nursing homes etc. The demand for pharmacists is on the rise and hence career prospects are strong. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for pharmacists is expected to increase by twenty-five percent between 2010 - 2020. BLS also estimated that the average salary of pharmacists $116,670 in 2012.