Clinical Pharmacist Education Requirements and Career Info

Clinical pharmacists have an in-depth knowledge of medications and often consult with physicians and other health care professionals on the drug dose control and drug usage. Generally, a clinical pharmacist holds a Doctor of Pharmacy (D.Pharm) degree and works in hospitals and private clinics of physicians.

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Clinical Pharmacist Educational Requirements

There is a specific degree path prospective students must follow if they want to pursue careers as clinical pharmacists. The first step on the path involves completion of an undergraduate degree in pharmacy, biochemistry or some other closely-related subject, and the second step is earning the Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences

A Bachelor of Science degree program in Pharmaceutical Sciences is interdisciplinary in nature and does not qualify graduates to work as registered pharmacists. Rather, it provides graduates with opportunities in clinical drug research and development or serves as the basis for further graduate level study. Many undergraduate degree programs in the pharmaceutical sciences offer areas of concentration. Some of these common areas of emphasis include industrial pharmacy, molecular pharmacology or medicinal chemistry.

However, before students can choose concentration areas,, they must first complete foundation courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. After completing the introductory courses, students cover topics such as drug design, drug action mechanisms, toxicology, pharmacology and regulatory compliance. An industrial internship or research project often concludes the degree and is highly recommended for students planning to pursue Doctor of Pharmacy degrees.

Doctor of Pharmacy

A Doctor of Pharmacy (D.Pharm) degree is similar to other professional health care degrees such as Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Dental Surgery. Admission into a D.Pharm program requires at minimum the completion of a pre-pharmacy curriculum; although, most applicants hold undergraduate degrees in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry or biochemistry. A majority of programs require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. Much like an undergraduate program in pharmaceutical sciences, Pharm.D. students must choose areas of concentration.

Many concentrations will lead towards pharmaceutical research and development careers and those in areas unrelated to clinical pharmacy. However, students wanting to pursue careers as clinical pharmacists are likely to choose the pharmaceutical care concentration. Students who choose this concentration learn patient physical assessment, drug reactions that may have adverse effects, family and patient consultation techniques and how gender and race impact methods of pharmaceutical care.

Students enrolled in the D. Pharm program take courses in areas such as geriatrics, nonprescription drugs, critical care pharmacotherapy, health psychology and many other areas. A clinical component is part of the degree program, as it allows students the opportunity to attend hospital pharmaceutical rotations and have one-on-one interactions with patients while under supervision of licensed pharmacists.

Career Info

The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) defines the primary difference between clinical pharmacists and registered pharmacists by the ability clinical pharmacists have to interact with patients and to recommend drugs and drug dosages that can improve overall patient well-being. Clinical pharmacists primarily work in health care settings, such as hospitals or private medical clinics, whereas registered pharmacists work in pharmacies and fill prescriptions written by medical doctors.

State licensure is required before a Doctor of Pharmacy degree holder can begin work. Currently, this process involves many different types of examinations. The most common exam, which is also required by all U.S. states and territories, is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). Other states may also require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), or another exam that tests pharmacy law.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), employment of pharmacists is projected to increase by 25% for the period 2010-2020. The increased need for pharmacists depends largely upon a growing elderly population who are being prescribed multiple drugs in addition to scientific advantages leading to new drug developments. Pharmacists will be needed to consult with these patients on how to take these drugs and to make sure that taking many different drugs will not result in adverse health effects for the patient. The median annual wage of a pharmacist in May 2010 was $111,570, according to BLS data.

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