How to Become a Pharmacist: Your Pharmacy Degree Guide

pharmacist degree

What is a Pharmacist? How do you become a pharmacist? We answer these questions. Think of your pharmacist as a medicine expert. They don’t just fill your medicine bottles. Their job is to help you take your medicine safely and make sure it works the way it should. They are super smart about medicine, help answer questions, and make sure your different medicines don’t cause bad problems when taken together.

Becoming a pharmacist takes lots of schooling and practice. But if you love science, helping people, and working in healthcare, it could be the perfect job for you!

What Does a Pharmacist Do?

They fill the medicine your doctor orders, but they do so much more! They carefully check to make sure you’re getting the right amount of medicine and that it won’t mix badly with other things you might be taking.

Featured Programs

Your pharmacist wants you to understand how to use your medicine! They’ll take time to explain things, tell you about possible side effects (those little problems the medicine might cause),  and answer any questions.

They might even give you tricks for remembering when to take it and what to do if you feel a little weird after taking it. Sometimes pharmacists do even more than fill prescriptions, like:

  • Giving Shots: Like flu shots or those you need before traveling.
  • Checking Your Health: They might check your blood pressure or other important things.
  • Big Medicine Checkup: Helping older folks or those taking lots of different medicines make sure they’re all working together safely.
  • Hospital Aid: Pharmacists in hospitals work with doctors and nurses to get patients the exact medicine they need.

Ultimately, pharmacists are there to make sure you have the knowledge and support to get the most benefit from your medications safely.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacist?

How many years it takes to become a pharmacist can vary a little, but not too much. It usually takes six to eight years of specialized education after high school to become a pharmacist. becoming a pharmacist requires dedication and several years of specialized education. While the path is demanding, it provides the skills and knowledge to make a real difference in people’s lives. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps along the way:

High School Prep

While not strictly mandatory, a strong foundation in science and math can give you an edge later on. Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in chemistry, biology, calculus, and statistics demonstrates your ability to handle rigorous coursework and signals your interest in the field.

Participating in science-related extracurriculars or volunteering at a healthcare facility can further solidify your commitment.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

There’s no one specific major you have to pick to become a pharmacist. But it’s best to study subjects like chemistry, biology, or anything science-related. These will give you a strong foundation for the tough classes in your pharmacy degree. While you don’t necessarily have to major in pharmacy, there are undergraduate pharmacy degrees. These bachelor’s in pharmacy programs can set you up really well for the PCAT which we talk about later in the article. Pharmacy is one of the highest paying degrees you will find.

Some people also major in things like public health, but make sure you still take the right science classes that pharmacy schools want to see. Good grades matter a lot because getting into a good pharmacy degree program can be tough!

Gain Healthcare Experience

Working even a little bit in a pharmacy or hospital shows you care and helps you learn if this is the right job for you. Some places offer internships where you can learn the basics. If you can’t get one of those, try shadowing a pharmacist (following them around) for a while.

Or, you could become a pharmacy technician, which is like an assistant to the pharmacist. Any of these experiences will look great when you apply to a pharmacy degree program and might even help pay for it!

Take the PCAT

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a standardized exam required for most PharmD applications. It covers biology, chemistry, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning.

Many students find that taking a prep course or utilizing study guides helps to boost their scores, giving them a better chance of admission into their top-choice pharmacy degree programs.

Earn Your PharmD

The Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) is the degree you need to become a pharmacist. It usually takes four years to finish after you graduate college. In this program, you’ll learn all about medicine. Some of the things you’ll study include:

  • Pharmacology: This is the science of how medicines work in the body.
  • How Medicines Work: You’ll learn how different medicines are used to treat diseases.
  • Pharmacy Law: Understanding the rules and regulations about medicines.

You’ll also spend time training in real-world settings like hospitals, drug stores, and other healthcare places. Some programs even let you specialize in a specific kind of pharmacy,  like working with older people or those with mental health issues.

Optional Residency

You don’t absolutely have to do a residency to become a pharmacist, but it’s a big plus! It’s like extra training for 1-2 years, where you learn even more about a specific area of pharmacy.

This makes you stand out when applying for jobs, helps you become an expert, and can even lead to a higher salary.

The downside is it takes more time, and you don’t earn as much as a full pharmacist during this period. You apply during your last year of pharmacy school.

Get Licensed

Before you can start working, all pharmacists have to take a big test called the NAPLEX. You might also have to pass other tests depending on which state you live in. Even after becoming licensed, pharmacists have to keep learning by taking special classes throughout their careers.

Important Things to Know

Before you embark on the path to becoming a pharmacist, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Accreditation Matters

Make sure the pharmacy school you choose is accredited by a reputable organization. This ensures the program meets quality standards and will be recognized by future employers and for licensing.

The Cost of School

Becoming a pharmacist means going to school for a long time, and that can be expensive! You need a regular college degree first and then pharmacy school on top of that. But don’t worry too much—pharmacists make good money, so it’s worth it for most people.

Look for scholarships, special loans for students, and see if there are programs that might help pay off your loans later.

How Much Will You Earn When You Become a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists make a good living! Most make way more than $100,000 a year. Where you live, how long you’ve been working, and whether you work in a hospital or a regular drug store can change how much you’ll make.

Is It Worth It?

Becoming a pharmacist takes a lot of time and hard work. But if you love science, helping people, and want a  good job, it’s a great choice! Pharmacists play a really important role in keeping people healthy and making sure they understand their medicines. You’ll be making a real difference in your community!