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How do I get Started in a Career in Pharmacy?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Getting started in a career in pharmacy involves receiving the proper education, training, and experience needed to perform the various complicated duties of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians, who primarily perform administrative duties, usually complete formal training programs and certification before finding work. A prospective pharmacist must typically receive a PharmD, take part in a postgraduate residency program or fellowship, and gain licensing before beginning a career in pharmacy.

For many people, preparing for a career in pharmacy begins in high school. Hopeful pharmacy workers often choose to take advanced high school courses in the biological sciences, such as chemistry, to prepare them for pharmacy work. Many students choose to engage in paid or unpaid internships at retail pharmacies and private practices as pharmacy aides. Their responsibilities may include answering phones, stocking shelves, and performing clerical duties. Firsthand experience generally increases students' chances of being accepted into a pharmacy school and finding work in the field.

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To become a pharmacy technician, advanced schooling is not always necessary. Most employers do, however, prefer to hire technicians with formal training and nationally recognized certification. Six month to one year training programs are offered by many community colleges, vocational schools, and hospitals, and involve both classroom and laboratory instruction. Prospective pharmacy technicians learn about laboratory techniques, different types of medication, and customer service. In the United States, a technician may take a certification exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board to increase his or her chances of finding a career in pharmacy.

Prospective pharmacists must complete at least two years of undergraduate studies at an accredited college before enrolling in a pharmacy school. Many undergraduates choose to take advanced courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics. Students are usually required to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) to be considered for admission into pharmacy school. Accredited colleges of pharmacy consider education performance, PCAT scores, pharmacy experience, and personal essays and references when selecting applicants.

Pharmacy school usually involves about four year of intensive coursework and laboratory training. Upon completion, a graduate receives a PharmD and often begins a one to two year residency or fellowship. Working alongside experienced pharmacists and performing independent research prepares a graduate for a successful career in pharmacy.

Finally, new pharmacists must receive the proper licensing to work in hospitals or retail pharmacies. In the United States, pharmacists must pass a pharmacy skills test called the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). Many other countries have national boards which administer licensing tests similar to NAPLEX.

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