What Should Aspiring Pharmacists Major In?
Pharmacists are healthcare workers who distribute prescription drugs to individuals from a community, retail or hospital pharmacy. Aspiring pharmacists can study in an undergraduate pre-pharmacy program, or they can focus on the sciences.
Students considering pharmacy careers should look for universities that offer pre-pharmacy programs; however, the student's official major will likely be chemistry or general science. The pre-pharmacy program can prepare students to transfer directly into a 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) graduate program, which may be done after the student's sophomore year. Pre-pharmacy programs can also allow students to work toward their bachelor's degree in general science.
Pre-pharmacy programs differ by college and university, but most programs require classes in general chemistry, organic chemistry, chemistry laboratory classes, biology, statistics, physiology, microbiology, physics and economics. In addition to these classes, the student will likely be taking typical courses associated with a bachelor's degree, such as English, history and art electives.
These programs are designed for future pharmacists, and students typically cannot enter them before their junior year of college. The Pharm.D. program should not be confused with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmacy, which is meant for students who aspire to work as researchers and professors at the university level. Pharm.D. programs prepare students for careers as pharmacists.
The courses in Pharm.D. programs are designed around the sciences, math and aspects of drug therapy, which will be required knowledge for working as a pharmacist. Other topics of study may include physiology, medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, biochemistry and pharmacy.
During the pharmacist student's final year, he or she may be required to complete a series of rotations at a pharmacy and other healthcare facilities associated with his or her major. Some Pharm.D. graduates go on to residency and fellowship programs, as well. These are often required for those wishing to work in a clinical setting.
In addition to drug distribution, pharmacists may conduct patient advising and deal with physicians to help them understand the interactions, dosages, selection and side effects of the prescription drugs they've prescribed. Besides these main responsibilities, pharmacists may specialize in specific areas, such as nutrition, cancer, geriatrics and psychiatric pharmacy, which is used to treat mental illnesses and disorders.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), pharmacists earned a median annual income of $119,280 in May 2013. A 14% increase in jobs was projected for pharmacists between 2012 and 2022, per the bureau.
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