What Is Needed To Become A Pharmacist?

Courses to Take to Become a Pharmacist

Pharmaceutics is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States. With the American population living longer, this industry helps provide patients with necessary medications to improve their health and overall well-being. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly salary for pharmacists is $126,120, and it is no wonder more students than ever are turning to pharmacy school when planning their futures.

If you are a detail-oriented person, have great communication skills, and are good with numbers, you may want to consider a career as a pharmacist. Like most careers in the health field, the path to becoming a pharmacist is one that takes careful planning. Pharmacists must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.) before practicing.

Pharmacy degree programs must be accredited, and before applicants apply, they need to have earned two years of undergraduate credit. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), pharmacy degree programs consist of four academic years or three calendar years of study, so you can expect to spend a total of five to six years taking courses to prepare you to become a pharmacist.

High School

While high school may seem like an early stage for planning your career, the courses you take in high school can have a huge impact in your future education. All pharmacy programs require a variety of courses, many of which include heavy emphasis in advanced science and math. High school courses like algebra and geometry are the building blocks of these higher-level courses required in pharmacy programs, so make an effort to gain a strong foundation in these subjects.

Additionally, taking AP courses in science classes like biology and chemistry can help you place out of lower-level college courses and get you on track for enrolling in other prerequisites required for pharmacy program applications.

Undergraduate Level

You will need to have at least two years of undergraduate-level courses on your transcript before applying for pharmacy school. During the two years of undergraduate school, you should focus on taking the prerequisite courses which are necessary for your application to pharmacy school. The program you apply to should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, an organization which deems programs to meet strict standards for accreditation.

Some of the courses you can expect to take as an undergraduate student are:

  • Microbiology
  • Physics
  • Statistics
  • Biological chemistry

You will also need to take general education requirements such as a foreign language and humanities. Learning a second language can help you communicate with more members of the community, while a humanities course can improve your writing and presenting skills.

Doctor of Pharmacy Program

Once you have been accepted into a PharmD program, your coursework will include classes tailored to educate you on both the micro and macrolevel of pharmacy. You will take courses that simultaneously focus on particulars of cell composition while also learning about the pharmacy’s role in the wider community.

A sampling of course titles in the University of Southern California’s PharmD curriculum includes:

  • Pharmacy Practice and Professionalism
  • Metabolism and Cell Biology
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Hospital Pharmacy Practice
  • Oncology
  • Infectious Diseases

PharmD programs combine theory with practice, and you can expect to spend significant amount of time interacting with professionals in the field through periodic rotations and internships. These practical components help students develop clinical decision-making skills and improve their communication with patients and providers.

While completing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree is an arduous task, it sets you on the path for a rewarding career. With advances in healthcare, the American population is living longer and is in need of more pharmacists than ever to help maintain health and improve quality of living from birth to the geriatric years.

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