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Pharmacist Education Requirements

Omkar Phatak
A career as a pharmacist can give you an opportunity to contribute immensely to the medical field. If you are looking for a career in the field of pharmacy, this story will be a helpful read. It provides you with much-needed information, about the education requirements.
Pharmacy is an integral part of the medical field. If you want to serve the medical field in the role of a pharmacist, you can look forward to a challenging career.

Job Description

The primary role of a pharmacist is to accurately dispense medications, drugs and other medical supplements to people, according to prescription. They also act as advisors to physicians as well as patients, regarding the choice of medicines, their dosage, side effects and other interactions.
As part of their duties, pharmacists have to confidentially maintain a record of a patient's medication or drug therapy for future reference.

Earlier, compounding, which was creation of medicines through mixing of specific ingredients, used to be a part of the pharmacist's duties.
However, nowadays almost all medicines and drugs are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Pharmacists may set up their own medical shops, work in community pharmaceuticals or work in collaboration with a hospital. They must advise patients on the use of over-the-counter drugs and other medical products, as well as medical equipment.
Some pharmacists specialize in consultation regarding drugs that treat specific ailments like asthma etc. Some are even employed in pharmaceutical companies as drug researchers. They are also hired by health insurance companies, public health care agencies and in university teaching positions.
There are pharmacy technicians who work in retail pharmacies, but are not as highly qualified as pharmacists. Today, online pharmacies have also begun operating, who carry all their operations online and deliver medicines at home.
Pharmacist salary range has shown a rising trend over the years. More than half of the pharmacists in United states of America work in community pharmacies. According to many surveys, the average salary of a pharmacist is roughly around $126,000 per year, which extends to about $161,000. On an average, a pharmacist works 40 hours a week.

Education Requirements of a Pharmacist

Since, a pharmacist is the one who must ensure accurate distribution of drugs and medications, he must know about the effects and reactions of different medications. Ergo, to become a pharmacist, one must have a pharmacy degree, from an accredited university. The education requirements vary from country to country. Here I talk about the requirements in United States of America.

For U.S. Students

Since 2006, to be qualified for getting licensed as a pharmacist, one must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an recognized university. This is a four-year course, which includes a lot of coursework, as well as clinical work.
To get admitted into these courses, one must go through at least two years of pre-pharmacy undergraduate program (completing 60-90 semester credit hours including courses in biology and chemistry) or a four-year undergraduate program and then clear an entrance test to get into this 4 year degree course.
The four year course is considerably rigorous and involves a lot of coursework. It includes courses in pharmacology, pharmacognosy, physiology, pathophysiology, medical chemistry, pharmacy administration, biochemistry, pharmaceutics, drug absorption rates, medicinal chemistry, drug information, patient care and clinical pharmacy.
After successful completion of coursework, pharmacy students spend the last year of their course in gaining practical experience through internship, under the observation of an experienced pharmacist.
After completion of all the course requirements, they are offered the degree. To gain a license and become a pharmacist officially, there is one more hurdle to be cleared, which is the NABPLEX (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Licensing Examination). It tests pharmacy knowledge and skills of the candidate.
A majority of US states require candidates to clear MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam), that tests the nuances of law, related to pharmacy profession. The eight states which don't conduct MPJE, conduct their own pharmacy law exam.
Besides clearance of NABPLEX and MJPE, a certain amount of hands-on experience and criminal background check might be conducted, as a part of the licensing system. Once license is granted, pharmacists are free to work in public or private retail pharmacies.

For Foreign Students

Foreigners can also practice pharmacy in USA, as their degrees obtained in other countries are recognized. They can gain certification by applying to FPGEC (Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee).
However, to gain a license, they must clear the FPGEE (Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination), TSE (Test of Spoken English) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Besides this, they also need to clear the NABPLEX and MPJE. A certain specific hours of clinical work experience is mandatory.
Pharmacists play an important role in the medical field, as they come in direct contact with patients and advise them regarding medications. The reason for these rigorous educational requirements is the need to ensure that the right and most capable people are selected for the job.