It seems like you know every OTC and prescription drug for various symptoms and health issues. And now you are wondering if earning a degree in pharmacy should be your goal in college.
Pharmacy is a good degree for students who plan on taking career paths that allow them to partake in research, education and interaction with people. Unfortunately, a bachelor’s in pharmacy is not enough for the holders to work as pharmacists as earning a post-baccalaureate degree is a requirement.
But before anything else, let’s answer this question many aspiring pharmacy majors are too shy to ask…
Pharmacy vs. Pharmacology: What’s the Difference?
Pharmacy is the science of preparing and dispensing drugs to patients. It also involves providing advice on drug use. On the other hand, pharmacology is a science concerned with the study of the sources, uses and actions of drugs. Pharmacologists make drugs that pharmacists prepare and dispense.
They may sound the same, but pharmacy and pharmacology are two different disciplines. Knowing the things that set the two apart is a must before deciding on majoring in pharmacy (or pharmacology) in college.
As mentioned earlier, pharmacy is all about dispensing drugs and giving instructions on drug use.
Majoring in pharmacy is a good idea if you prefer a career that entails interacting with patients and customers — as a pharmacist, regardless if working at a drugstore or a hospital or any other healthcare facility, you will have to fill prescriptions and discuss important matters such as a drug’s use, action, potential side effects and others.
After earning your pharmacy degree, however, you will have to earn a PharmD as well as take and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), which is just one component of the licensure process.
So, yes, pharmacy majors have to obtain another degree and be licensed to be able to work as pharmacists.
Meanwhile, if you prefer working in a lab, conducting research or performing experiments, then earning a pharmacology degree may be a much better option for you than a pharmacy degree.
Pharmacology, just like what was stated earlier, focuses on the study of drugs and how their chemicals affect those who consume them. Needless to say, pharmacologists typically work behind the scenes, except for some who specialize in conducting clinical trials where they have to interact with the participating individuals.
BS in Pharmacy vs. PharmD: Which Should You Take
A bachelor’s of science (BS) degree program in pharmacy, like most BS degrees, takes around four years to complete. Meanwhile, a PharmD program takes three to four years to complete. At most schools, a bachelor’s degree (in pharmacy or another discipline) is required for PharmD program admission.
You can choose to major in pharmacy in college, which will allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.
Once you have your hands on the said degree, you have a couple of options to take: get a job or earn a PharmD. Please keep in mind that a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy will not enable you to take the NAPLEX and/or the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE), which is also a requirement for PharmD holders to take in many states.
And since you won’t be able to take and pass the said licensure exams, needless to say, you won’t be able to work in the US as a pharmacist legally. But fret not because there are many jobs available for pharmacy majors.
In a few, we will talk about some of those jobs — so don’t stop reading now!
Prefer to work as a pharmacist at a drugstore, hospital or any other facility where drugs are dispensed? Then it’s a good idea to work on a PharmD after obtaining a bachelor’s in pharmacy. In the US, says the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), there are over 140 colleges and universities offering accredited PharmD programs.
As mentioned earlier, a PharmD program can be completed anywhere from three to four years. This brings the total length of time needed to become a pharmacist up to eight long years.
But working on a PharmD allows you to be eligible to take the NAPLEX and/or MPJE, which, should you pass, will enable you to become one of the more than 300,000 licensed pharmacists in the land.
Do Pharmacists Need a License to Practice?
In all US states and all US territories, pharmacists are required to have a license in order for them to be able to practice legally. While the requirements may vary, some are commonly shared by all states. Prior to licensure application, pharmacists must have completed an accredited PharmD program.
Typically, it takes around eight long years for students to earn a PharmD. After obtaining the degree, they will have to take the NAPLEX. They may also have to take the MPJE, depending on where they reside or their career goals.
PharmD holders can take the NAPLEX and MPJE a maximum of five attempts only.
But fret not if you fail all five exams or refuse to take any of them. It’s for the fact that you can still work without being a licensed pharmacist. For instance, PharmD holders who work for clinical research companies or insurance firms do not necessarily need to be NAPLEX or MPJE passers — but they are not allowed to work as pharmacists.
A computerized exam, the NAPLEX is designed to evaluate general practice knowledge and the test taker’s competence to practice pharmacy. It consists of a total of 185 multiple-choice questions, which the test takers have to answer in four hours and 15 minutes. Despite having 185 questions, only 150 are used to determine the score.
In order to pass the NAPLEX, you will have to get a score of at least 75.
Like the NAPLEX, the MPJE is also a computerized exam. Test takers have to answer a total of 120 questions in two hours and 30 minutes. And similar to the NAPLEX, the passing score for the MPJE is 75 or higher.
The MPJE is designed to assess the knowledge of PharmD holders of laws and regulations for specific states or jurisdictions. It goes without saying that the questions of the exam vary, depending on the test taker’s location. The hardest MPJE to pass, according to general consensus, are those that are administered in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
Is Pharmacy a Difficult Major?
The pharmacy major is challenging in general. It’s for the fact that it involves hard sciences such as biology and chemistry as well as math. Most courses pharmacy majors should take can be difficult, too, such as pharmaceutical calculations, pharmaceutical biochemistry, clinical toxicology and pharmacology.
Because there are tons of information to process such as drug names, drug ingredients, drug interactions, potential side effects, modes of administration and others, having a sharp memory is a must for pharmacology majors.
So, if you hate memorizing, you may have a hard time completing a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.
Many of the most difficult college majors are a part of the STEM and healthcare fields. And since pharmacy falls under the healthcare majors together with biochemistry, biology, chemistry, microbiology, organic chemistry and physics, it isn’t surprising why many degree-seeking students may find pharmacology tough.
In order to have an idea of just how challenging the pharmacy major can be, check out the following core courses that you might be required to take for the purpose of earning your undergraduate degree:
- Drug metabolism and bioanalysis
- Formulation and manufacturing laboratory
- Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products
- Introduction to pharmaceutical research
- Pharmaceutical pharmacology
- Pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics
- Principles of medicinal chemistry
- Regulation of drug products and biopharmaceutics
- Techniques in medicinal chemistry and molecular biology
Want to land your dream job? Then make sure that you let potential employers know you are what they are looking for exactly. You can do so by choosing a major that not only complements your pharmacy major but also makes you marketable in the professional area or field of your liking.
Among many undergraduate students majoring in pharmacy, the following are the most popular minors:
- Computer science
- Foreign language
- Information technology
- Management and leadership
- Technical writing
If you are planning on earning a PharmD after getting your bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, make sure that you carefully choose your minors and electives, too. That’s because the ones you go for may have an impact on your admission to a school offering a PharmD program.
Just a quick tip: check the requirements of the PharmD program of your liking beforehand.
8 Jobs With Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy
Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy can’t work as pharmacists unless they earn a PharmD and take the necessary licensure exams. Despite this, there are many job opportunities across various industries available for pharmacy majors, the vast majority of which are in the healthcare industry.
Whether you don’t plan on obtaining a PharmD at all or work on it some other time, you can use your undergraduate degree in pharmacy to take a number of career paths.
Here are some of the jobs your bachelor’s degree in pharmacy can help you land:
- Median annual salary: $36,740
- Job outlook in 10 years: 4%
Just because taking the NAPLEX and/or MPJE is a requirement for pharmacists and only PharmD holders can take the said exams doesn’t mean that those with a bachelor’s in pharmacy cannot dispense drugs.
Having an undergraduate degree in pharmacy allows them to work as pharmacy technicians. Simply put, pharmacy technicians help pharmacists in preparing and dispensing drugs to patients. Naturally, it’s also a part of their task to answer questions patients may have regarding the drugs they are about to take.
- Median annual salary: $30,100
- Job outlook in 10 years: -7%
What medical transcriptionists do is listen to voice recordings made by physicians and other professionals in the healthcare industry and convert them into written reports, often using a special software tool.
Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences, including pharmacy, are eligible to work as medical transcriptionists since they are familiar with various medical terms. However, some employers may require them to take a refresher course or obtain a certificate offered by community colleges or vocational schools.
- Median annual salary: $78,060
- Job outlook in 10 years: 12%
Besides turning voice recordings into written reports, pharmacy majors may also choose to write about clinical research results, medical product use and others for promotional, educational or informative purposes. As medical writers, they have to work alongside scientists, doctors and other professionals in the healthcare sphere.
While many entry-level medical writing positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree in the medical and allied health sciences discipline, some employers prefer those with advanced degrees.
Clinical research technician
- Median annual salary: $45,692
- Job outlook in 10 years: 11%
Earlier, we mentioned that some pharmacologists focus on carrying out clinical trials. Individuals with an undergraduate degree in pharmacy may partake in those as clinical research technicians. What they do is assist pharmacologists or other medical professionals to ensure that clinical trials run as smoothly as possible.
Some of the tasks clinical research technicians do include collating and organizing data, monitoring the health of the participants and making sure that protocols are followed strictly throughout the duration of clinical trials.
Drug safety officer
- Median annual salary: $73,437
- Job outlook in 10 years: 7%
Also sometimes referred to as pharmacovigilance officers, drug safety officers are tasked with monitoring and reporting the effectiveness, adverse side effects and others regarding pharmaceutical products. The drugs they monitor can range anywhere from those used for clinical trials to those that are already out on the market.
Besides being detail-oriented and observational, it’s also important for drug safety officers to possess good communication and team-playing skills since they have to work closely with scientists, doctors and other experts.
Medical science liaison
- Median annual salary: $66,167
- Job outlook in 10 years: 17%
Helping to ensure that medical products are used correctly and effectively — such is the task of medical science liaisons. They provide experts with information vital for the improvement of drugs and treatments.
There are many areas within the healthcare field in which medical science liaisons can work. Some common examples include pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries. And within their specific areas, it’s not uncommon for medical science liaisons to have specializations — gastroenterology, cancer drugs, etc.
Health education specialist
- Median annual salary: $48,860
- Job outlook in 10 years: 17%
Simply put, health education specialists are tasked with providing people with information on health and wellness promotion. Besides teaching individuals or communities, it’s also a part of the role of health education specialists to come up with wellness-related strategies and programs as well as make referrals to healthcare and social services.
Although healthcare facilities employ health education specialists, many of them can also be seen working for public health departments and various non-profit organizations that cater to the community.
Pharmaceutical sales representative
- Median annual salary: $62,890
- Job outlook in 10 years: 6%
In a nutshell, pharmaceutical sales representatives are hired by pharmaceutical manufacturers or distributors to inform physicians and many other professionals in the healthcare field about their products.
Because of their educational background, individuals with a bachelor’s in pharmacy make for some of the most qualified pharmaceutical sales representatives. Other than a degree in pharmacy or a related field, it’s also a must for them to possess excellent interpersonal, communication, negotiation and sales skills.
Best Colleges for Pharmacy Degree
There’s an assortment of public and private colleges and universities offering bachelor’s degree programs in pharmacy. For students who are planning on working on a PharmD, it’s a must for them to check that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
As of this writing, there are only more than 100 institutions for higher education in the US that offer accredited degree programs in pharmacy, which can make the college selection process easier.
Here are some of the best schools for pharmacy majors to help you start building your college list:
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||$51,555|
|University of Michigan – Ann Arbor||$31,484 (in-state) and $67,802 (out-of-state)|
|St. Louis College of Pharmacy||$52,038|
|Purdue University||$22,782 (in-state) and $41,584 (out-of-state)|
|University of the Sciences||$49,444|
|University of Georgia||$27,658 (in-state) and $46,698 (out-of-state)|
|University of California – Irvine||$36,041 (in-state) and $65,795 (out-of-state)|
|University of Pittsburgh||$35,146 (in-state) and $49,174 (out-of-state)|
|Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||$57,042|
|Ohio State University||$28,664 (in-state) and $50,648 (out-of-state)|
|St. John Fisher College||$50,300|
|University of Wisconsin||$27,158 (in-state) and $55,046 (out-of-state)|
|University of Mississippi||$25,762 (in-state) and $42,034 (out-of-state)|
|Concordia University Wisconsin||$47,452|
|Western New England University||$56,522|
|University of Hawaii at Hilo||$21,354 (in-state) and $34,314 (out-of-state)|
|University of California – Davis||$37,651 (in-state) and $67,405 (out-of-state)|
|University of South Carolina||$29,121 (in-state) and $50,361 (out-of-state)|
|University of Kansas||$25,476 (in-state) and $42,344 (out-of-state)|
|Long Island University||$55,198|
Best Online Schools for Pharmacy Degree
Already have a regular job or got kids to look after daily and want to earn a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy? You can do so without the need to step foot on a traditional campus. That’s because there are some schools offering online bachelor’s degree programs in pharmacy that you may choose from.
Unfortunately, not a lot of them are around.
Before you decide to enroll in a particular online school in order to major in pharmacy, make sure that it’s a legitimate institution that offers a legitimate undergraduate degree in pharmacy. You can do this by checking whether or not it has accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency, preferably one that’s the regional type.
I have found one institution where non-traditional students may enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in pharmacy. I have also included some information that can help you make a smart choice.
Here’s the online school:
Grand Canyon University
- Location: Phoenix, Arizona
- Cost: $485.00 per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 81%
- Graduation rate: 31%
- Average starting salary: $38,400 per year
- Accreditor: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- College ranking: #125 in the Most Diverse Colleges in America (Niche)
Just Before You Obtain a Degree in Pharmacy
Earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy is not easy because of the discipline itself. Similarly, the degree is not enough for the holders to be able to work as a pharmacist legally — they will have to earn a PharmD first.
Whether or not you are intending on working on a PharmD, however, an undergraduate degree in pharmacy will suffice in meeting the minimum educational requirements of numerous fulfilling and rewarding careers, many of which are in the healthcare field, from pharmacy technician to health education specialist.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.