What do pharmacists do?
Pharmacists are health care providers who fill prescriptions written by physicians and physician assistants and educate patients on how to take medications and possible side effects they may experience. They check on the accuracy of prescribed dosages and possible drug interactions that may have been overlooked especially when patients see multiple providers. Pharmacists work in stand-alone drug stores, large pharmacy chains, or in a hospital. In any of these settings they may also be responsible for ensuring the adequate supply of medications. A hospital pharmacist typically deals with more powerful and varied types of medications such as formulations administered intravenously, including chemotherapy and pain medications, as well as medications taken by mouth. They typically interact with other health care professionals but usually not directly with patients. Pharmacists can also opt to work in research, for example, in academia or with companies developing and manufacturing drugs. Individuals may also work in research by earning a PhD in pharmacology, which does not provide licensure to provide patient care.
What training is required to become a pharmacist?
Pharmacy has transitioned to a doctoral program, the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, which takes four years to complete following at least two years (typically 72 credits) of an undergraduate preparatory program or the completion of a Bachelor degree. Programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and are listed here. Coursework during the first years of the program includes more biochemistry, chemistry, physiology, and pathophysiology somewhat similar to what may have been taken in the undergraduate degree in Genetics. Clinical work typically begins early in the program and the final year is spent in clerkships rather than in traditional classes. Following graduation, individuals must pass the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacy Licensure Exam) in order to practice. Many graduates elect to do an additional one or two years of residency in order to further specialize. Some programs also offer dual degrees such as a combined PharmD/MPH.
How do I best prepare for admission to a PharmD program?
Growth in the field of pharmacogenomics makes Genetics an ideal major to prepare for entrance into a PharmD program. All of the prerequisite coursework for admission, typically calculus, statistics, general biology, general and organic chemistry, physics, humanities, English, and social sciences can be met within the requirements of the major. Some schools require anatomy and physiology. BIOL 335 (Physiology and Humans and Other Animals) and BIOL 350 (Comprehensive Human Anatomy) will meet these requirements and can be used as advanced science electives for the major. You will also be well served by adding a minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology administered by the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Biochemistry (BBMB 404 and 405) can be used to meet some of the minor requirements.
If you are interested in pharmacy, you should look for jobs in a pharmacy, volunteer at a hospital, job shadow a pharmacist, or even become a pharmacy technician. As with other professions, teaching and research experience can provide you with connections to faculty and analytical and problem solving skills.
The PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) is required by most pharmacy programs. It includes sections on biology and chemistry as well as writing, critical reading and quantitative reasoning. Becoming an SI leader or tutor for chemistry may be a valuable way to prepare for the PCAT. As with several other health care professions, pharmacy uses a centralized application process, the PharmCAS. Because most PharmD programs do not require the completion of a Bachelor degree before entrance we have had several students who received early admission and thus are not truly our alumni. However, some of our graduates have been admitted to highly ranked PharmD programs and will be prepared to become leaders and researchers in the field of pharmacy.