Becoming a pharmacist is an interesting way to get involved in the medical field in a very different way than a doctor or nurse. And there is much more to it than handing customers a bag of pills!
Continue reading if you’d like to know how long it takes to become a pharmacist…
So You Want To Become a Pharmacist?
Most often, people want to become pharmacists so they can make lots of money without working hands-on with sick people in hospitals. But they usually don’t know a whole lot about being a pharmacist.
Most pharmacists do work in drug stores, and they distribute prescription medications and will tell people how to use the medicine correctly. Pharmacists are experts in medicine and its side effects, so they sometimes help doctors choose which medicines would be best for certain patients. Pharmacists also analyze prescriptions and warn doctors if any prescription medicines might hurt their patients.
To accomplish all this, you will want to be good at science and math, plus have the necessary communication skills for working with people (customers, doctors, etc.)
How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?
Becoming a pharmacist does not take as long as becoming a doctor, but it is a relatively long process.
You start out with 4 years of college and follow that with 4 years of pharmacy college, for a total of 8 years of schooling.
Technically, you only have to complete 2 years of pharmacy specific undergraduate training before applying to pharmacy college, but generally you’ll be better off if you also get a Bachelor’s degree by going the full 4 years. Then you must take the PCAT – the Pharmacy College Admissions Test.
A good score on the PCAT, along with a Bachelor’s degree, will be helpful to get into pharmacy school. There you must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as a PharmD degree.
After finishing school, you need to complete an internship with a practicing pharmacist before you can become licensed. This is a great way to transition into the workforce.
That makes approximately 9 years total. (Eight years of school followed by one or two years of internship or apprenticeship.)
As mentioned, you will start with 4 years of college as an undergraduate. A variety of science classes (biology, chemistry, etc.) are useful, but your top priority is to take all your pharmacology prerequisites.
Your first three years of pharmacy school will be course work, and the fourth year will be a combination of course work and hands-on work in a pharmacy. You will learn all about medicine as well as how to help patients understand their medicine.
Afterwards you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX.) The NAPLEX is a computer-based, 185-question exam.
Work Weeks, Salary, and Benefits
There are a variety of career options in the pharmaceutical field, including retail pharmacy, pharmaceutical sales, and pharmaceutical research. You are probably familiar with the retail pharmacy part, but the other avenues can be very exciting.
Starting salaries are in the $80,000 a year range, with many pharmacists making around $100,000. Pharmacy is probably your best chance to make the big bucks right out of school while maintaining a standard 40-hour workweek.