Become a Pharmacist: Costs & Comparisons of Pharmacy Schools
Pharmacists specialize in the clinical use and underlying science of prescription medications. They must understand the nature of drug composition and appropriate uses. Knowledge of the effects of a drug and its activity within the body are critical, and physicians increasingly rely on the pharmacist for information on specific drugs and their availability.
Over the past 20 years, the role of the pharmacist has continued to evolve. Once a profession that was primarily associated with drug manufacturing, most modern pharmacists assume positions that are clinical in nature. These changes have resulted in a greater emphasis on developing strategies that address the disease process and how drug therapy can help improve a patient’s quality of life.
The Responsibilities of the Pharmacist
As the most accessible health care professional, pharmacists are often highly visible members of neighborhood communities. They provide appropriate products in precise quantities and also offer prescription drug counseling while dispensing the medication.
While the responsibilities encompassed by the profession continue to expand, the primary activities of a pharmacist include:
* Prescription Processing: Upon receiving a prescription order from a licensed physician, the pharmacist is charged with filling the order appropriately. This process includes verifying the safety and legality of the prescription and checking the patient’s medical records before dispensing the medication.
* Patient Care and Clinical Pharmacy: The pharmacist assembles a medication history that is used in consultation to ensure the patient understands dosage instructions and potential adverse drug interactions.
* Drug Utilization Monitoring: In association with a university’s pharmacology department, the pharmacist may participate in research projects and drug utilization monitoring programs.
* Compounded Medications: When manufactured medicine does not meet a patient’s needs, an authorized pharmacist can mix different drugs to create a suitable compound. These skills are most often utilized when a drug has been discontinued, or the proper form of the medication is unavailable.
* Patient Advice: As patients become familiar with their local pharmacist, they often seek out advice for a variety of different symptoms. For minor issues, the pharmacist may recommend a non-prescription medicine. For more serious issues, the patient is referred to a practicing physician.
Schooling, Qualifications and Certifications
In the past, a Bachelor of Pharmacy was the required degree for establishing a pharmacy practice. However, anyone considering a career as a pharmacist must now earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) from an accredited program recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
Programs designed for aspiring pharmacists include up to three years of undergraduate study as a condition for enrollment in a Pharm.D program. Some schools even require a full Bachelor of Science degree as a prerequisite. Each student must successfully pass a PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) prior to acceptance into an accredited pharmacy program. A Pharm.D curriculum includes coursework in pharmacology, chemistry, medical ethics and other related disciplines. Including undergraduate work, most pharmacy programs require a 6-7 year commitment.
Every state requires a license to become a practicing pharmacist. Skills and knowledge are verified by successfully passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) test. Many states also require that the applicant pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a specific state-approved equivalent.
Pharmacy School Cost
So, how much does pharmacy school cost? While estimates vary according to location, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and other relevant sources provide some broad guidelines.
* Instate Public Schools: Four year degree programs range from $63,000-$82,000
* Out of State Public Schools: Four year degree programs range from $115,000 to $132,000
* Private Schools: Four year degree programs range from $122,000-$160,000
When considering the cost of pharmacy school, it is important to include these additional expenses:
* Admissions Test: $125
* Books: $300-600 per year
* License Requirements: The fee is generally $200 or more. Each person must meet the individual requirements of the state where they will be practicing.
* Other Fees: Liability insurance, technical services and lab fees can be as much as $1800.
Career Prospects for Pharmacists
Pharmacists can become licensed to practice their craft at pharmacies, research centers and drug manufacturing facilities. Data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that the median pay for a pharmacist in 2012 was $116,670 per year. Career prospects are exceptional as the industry is projected to grow 14 percent between 2012 and 2022.