As the senior citizen population continues to grow, the demand for qualified pharmacists and pharmacist technicians is also expected to increase. Prescription medications improve the quality of life for senior citizens by enabling them to live longer, healthier lives. Pharmacists and pharmacist technicians contribute to the well-being of patients under physician care by filling their prescriptions and advising them on the safe use of medications.
Types of Pharmacy Degrees
There are three main types of degrees that prepare students for careers in pharmacy:
- Associate of Pharmacy Technology
An associate degree prepares students for an entry-level position as a pharmacy aid or technician. An associate degree can be completed after two years of studies and provides students with the foundation they need to work in a retail or hospital pharmacy.
- Bachelor of Pharmacy
Students who wish to work in a health care setting may consider a bachelor’s of pharmacy, also known a BPharm degree. A BPharm degree is awarded after four years of study and qualifies students for technician positions with larger healthcare organizations.
- Doctor of Pharmacy
Also known as a PharmD degree, this four-year professional degree prepares students to become licensed pharmacists. Students who are interested in working in a clinical setting or in research may complete a 1- to 2-year residency as a culmination of their studies.
Each type of degree program prepares students to complete any required licensure exams.
Pharmacy Courses of Study
In order to properly fill prescriptions and advise patients on dosages, interactions, and drug side effects, pharmacy majors must complete a thorough program of study. While the specific courses taken will depend on the type of degree a student pursues, pharmacy programs typically require the following courses:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Drug Interactions
- Pharmacy Law
- Pharmaceutical Technology
Students should be proficient in mathematics and science before enrolling in a pharmacy degree program.
Obtaining a Pharmacy License
Pharmacists in all states are required to obtain a license in order to practice. Pharmacists are awarded a license after passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam. Some states require pharmacists to pass an additional exam called the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam.
Many states also require pharmacy technicians to obtain certification. Students should consult with their program representatives to determine the certification requirements for their state.
Additionally, professionals must pass a background check in order to work in a pharmacy. Any recent convictions for drug-related offenses may disqualify a candidate for certification or licensure.
Careers in Pharmacy
According to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, pharmacy majors earned a median income of $105K. Earnings can greatly vary depending on the specific occupation and level of education attained by a program graduate. Pharmacy majors can seek employment at hospitals, nursing homes, mental health institutions, and local health clinics. Yet, 58 percent of pharmacists work in retail settings, including drugstores, grocery stores, or convenience stores.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights two pharmacy occupations that are in high demand:
With a median salary of $111K, job openings for pharmacists are expected to grow by 25 percent. Pharmacists are responsible for filling prescriptions and instructing patients on the proper use of their medications. Pharmacists may also work as consultants to healthcare organizations or to individual patients.
- Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy technicians receive a median salary of $28K, and the top 10 percent of technicians earn over $40K. Technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists to measure and mix medications while providing customer service to patients. Openings for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow by 32 percent.
The projected job growth for both pharmacists and pharmacist technicians is higher than average. Trained pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can expect a favorable job outlook as the number of senior citizens requiring ongoing medical care increases. Health care organizations of all sizes will need a well-staffed pharmacy to serve the diverse needs their patients.
Georgetown Public Policy Institute. (2011). The Economic Value of College Majors – Health.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Pharmacists.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Pharmacy Technicians.