How to Become a Pharmacist

So you've decided you want to become a pharmacist, and you're wondering where to begin. To be a pharmacist, you will need a graduate degree, a Pharm D. But there are several steps you will need to take before earning that much coveted status. Read on for specific information to help you work in the field of your choice.

Start Early

If you are still in high school, make sure to take plenty of science and mathematics courses, especially chemistry. If you are an undergraduate and have not declared a major, good tracks to follow are chemistry or biology. How well you do in science-related courses can be a strong indicator of whether you will be accepted to pharmacy school and whether you will do well in school once admitted. If you are struggling in core classes, be sure to seek tutoring with a reputable service in your area. Now is also a good time to start investing financially in your future. Try to save as much money as you can now to alleviate the stresses of paying back student loans later.

Keep in mind that pharmacy is one of the few fields that do not require a bachelor's degree for higher-level education. Applicants may be accepted to pharmacy school after completing just a two-year associate's program. However, all applicants, whether with an associate's or bachelor's degree, must take and pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test.

Register for and Take the PCAT

Like nearly all graduate programs, pharmacy school requires applicants to pass an entrance exam. The PCAT can usually be taken four times a year, starting with a rotation in June, followed by three more in August, October and January. Be sure to take several practice tests and start preparing early. Many test-prep experts recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days per week studying, at a minimum of 2 or 3 hours per day. As of August 20101, the cost for taking the PCAT is $125 for those who register on time, and the exam takes 4 and a half hours to complete. If you do not succeed at passing the PCAT the first time, do not be discouraged. Just study up and take it again.

Apply to Schools

Look for pharmacy schools that fit your budget and goals. Keep in mind that in-state tuition will be much more affordable than out-of-state tuition. It's no small feat to go to college, much less earn a graduate degree, without incurring student loans, but it's also not impossible. Do not forget to look for scholarships on websites such as FastWeb.com or even locally. However, don't let money stand in the way of earning your Pharm D either. Most pharmacists directly out of school earn a yearly average of about $100,000, so paying back student loans while living a short-term modest lifestyle should not be too burdensome.

Land a Job

Before becoming the primary pharmacist at a given company, you'll probably have to serve in an internship or assistant role for a while, which you can usually do while still in school. Consider approaching your own neighborhood pharmacist to get a foot in the door there, or search for open positions on reliable career websites.