Becoming a pharmacist is a serious commitment. Although it’s definitely a rewarding career, it takes several years of dedication, determination and hard work to achieve the distinguished title of Pharmacist… but it’s worth it, no doubt. In this position, you will be responsible for the health and well-being of patients who come to you for their prescription drugs. You must be able to advise them on the proper use and storage, as well as, the side effects and interactions of the drugs they are prescribed. You will oversee that proper patient records are kept and that insurance matters are handled properly. Pharmacists often work closely with consulting physicians, pharmacy technicians and others within the pharmacy setting to educate patients about illness and disease prevention.
So, if you would like to become a pharmacist, what steps are recommended? How do you earn the Doctor of Pharmacy degree? The first step involves a decision about your end goal. Do you want to become a pharmacist, or would you like to pursue research within the pharmaceutical world? Would you like to teach at the graduate level? In some instances, a PharmD degree will apply and in others the PhD degree is required. Both programs take a different approach to learning about the field of pharmacy, however, you may also obtain both degrees if you are so inclined. Typically, the PharmD degree requirement is sufficient to become a pharmacist and is the most popular to obtain of the two. The PhD accolade is required to begin your research career or pursue teaching. It is important to mention that before beginning your online Doctor of Pharmacy program, you should check with your state’s guidelines for specific requirements applicable to your state.
To obtain your PharmD degree to be a pharmacist, you will need to obtain your online Bachelor of Science (BS) degree with a program that offers at least two years of pre-pharmacy courses. You will need classes such as, chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, anatomy and sociology to prepare you for a pharmacy doctorate degree program.
To enter a pharmacy doctorate degree program, you must have completed your online Bachelor of Pharmacy degree program and then pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Once you have entered your PharmD program, it will generally take you up to four years to complete. The coursework will prepare you for work as a pharmacist through classes in biopharmaceuticals, pathology, toxicology, medicinal chemistry, pathophysiology, therapeutics, patient care, drug absorption rates and pharmacy ethics and law, among others.
Your next step will involve some clinical training, typically acquired in the fourth year of your PharmD program. You will have the opportunity to put into practice what you have been learning, of course, all under the watchful eye of a licensed on-duty pharmacist. In addition, you may have the opportunity to work in a hospital pharmacy, out-patient care center or with a pharmaceutical company giving you valuable real-world work experience working with patients, physicians and researchers. The number and length of your clinical training rotations will depend on your school’s requirements.
You must also gain licensure in the state in which you intend to practice, therefore, after you graduate from your PharmD program, you will need to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination, which tests your knowledge of federal and state laws governing pharmaceuticals. Other requirements will include a background check.
If you would like to learn more about this field, please see our list of the Best Online Schools for Doctor of Pharmacy degree programs.