Description of pharmacy and opportunities for pharmacists:

Pharmacists are experts in the science of medicine and the art of medication therapy. A pharmacist works as a part of a team of health care providers to improve patient health and increase public awareness of changes in medical treatment. Pharmacists are a primary source of health information by educating customers of new pharmaceuticals, prescription, and over the counter medications. Pharmacists educate patients on proper drug use, drug side effects, and harmful drug interactions. Likewise, pharmacists ensure drug purity and strength. In 2000, pharmacists filled over 3 billion prescriptions in the U.S. The average salary for pharmacists in 2002 was $78,000. Future earning potential is considered to be excellent. Pharmacists as "medication experts" rank at or near the top in public trust and confidence.

Several factors are responsible for a very positive job outlook for pharmacists. The use of prescription drugs increases with age and within the next decade the over age 65 segment of the population will increase. The initiation of the Medicare Prescription Program will expand access to prescription drugs. Also, the drug pipeline from the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries is increasing dramatically, making more drugs and drug products to treat more conditions. The pharmacist has increasing responsibility for monitoring drug-drug interactions, drug-food interactions, drug-dietary interactions, adverse reactions, therapeutic outcomes, immunizations services, public health policy, system management, disease management/collaborative practice, and medication therapy for high risk patients. The practice settings for pharmacists have increased. The specific interest opportunities of pharmacists have increased to include associations with more targeted interests, such as nutrition, cardiology, infant care, pediatrics, geriatrics, veterinary, and oncology.

The demand for pharmacists grows as our in-depth knowledge of emerging medications grows. The Human Genome Project and the field of proteomics will greatly increase the number of potential targets for drug therapies. Hundreds of new medications now arrive on the market each year. For cancer alone, there are 316 drugs in clinical trials with thousands more expected to enter the pipeline. With advances in pharmacogenomics, drug therapies will become more effective as we account for differences in the way patients respond to different drugs.

Pharmacists are people-oriented. Patients see their pharmacist on the average of 12-15 times a year compared to less than 5 times a year for physicians. Thus, pharmacists have become the primary sources of drug and health care information.

The specific duties of a pharmacist vary according the place of practice:

Community Pharmacists run or work in small neighborhood businesses. These businesses may be independently-owned units, major drugstore chains, or pharmacy departments in larger retail establishments. Community pharmacists fill drug prescriptions and advise clients on treatment regimens.

Hospital Pharmacists provide patients with accurate drug dosages, educate medical staff on the uses and effects of medications, monitor patients' progress, and make appropriate changes in treatment as needed.

Home Care Pharmacists supply patients with their medication in their homes, and serve as consultants and sources of information.

Other Career Opportunities include employment in the pharmaceutical industry, pursuing a career in academics, working in managed care, working as a research scientist in pharmaceutical or biotechnology research, or entering the field of pharmacology. An excellent reference source that outlines over 25 different practice areas in Pharmacy is found in Full Preparation: The Pfizer Guide to Careers in Pharmacy, 2002, that is available for checkout from your pre-pharmacy advisor.

Pharmacology is defined as the study of the interaction of drugs with living systems. A degree in pharmacology does not prepare graduates to practice pharmacy. Other careers closely related to pharmacy include pharmacoeconomics, pharmacogenomics, and pharmaceutics.

Educational requirement for pharmacy

A license is required to practice pharmacy in all states and is achieved by graduating from an accredited training program, passing a state examination, and completing an internship in the field. There are about 83 institutions that award pharmacy degrees. After 2002, the once-standard B.S. degree in pharmacy has been replaced by the Pharm.D. degree (Doctor of Pharmacy). All pharmacy schools admitting students after the fall of 2004 will be for the Pharm.D. degree as the only professional degree awarded. Sixty-four of the colleges and schools offer graduate programs in the pharmaceutical sciences at the M.S. or Ph.D. level. At most schools, the Pharm.D. requires a minimum of two years of college plus four academic years of pharmacy study or three calendar years of pharmacy study. The majority of students entering pharmacy school with 3 or 4 years of college study and the number with undergraduate degrees has been steadily increasing.

In 2004, there were 89 schools and colleges of pharmacy in the U.S. with an additional four in the planning stages. These schools offer the Pharm.D. as the first professional degree. Of these, 31 schools offer the Pharm.D. as a post B.S. degree for practicing pharmacists who desired to advance to the doctorate level.

Currently, four of the 89 schools have multiple locations and students apply to a specific campus when applying to such programs. Pharmacy schools differ in the organization of their programs of study. Some pharmacy schools admit students right out of high school for a total six year program. Most other schools require completion of two to four years of pre-professional study that must include a number of specific prerequisite courses. This is followed by four years of professional study for a total of six to eight years after high school. A growing number of programs require applicants to complete a B.S. degree to be eligible for admission. Over 30% of all students admitted into a pharmacy program now have baccalaureate degrees. The application to position ratio varies depending on the school. In some cases, the ratio of applicants to positions available is 10 to 1. Most of these students must complete the full four academic years (or three-calendar years) of professional study to earn the Pharm.D. degree.

The specific course requirements for pharmacy programs vary considerably at the 84 accredited schools and colleges of pharmacy. Applicants should contact these institutions directly for admission requirement information, or applicants may wish to order a copy of the latest Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) handbook by contacting the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) at

College preparation for a career in pharmacy

Like most other pre-professional programs, "pre-pharmacy" is a career objective, not an academic major. A comprehensive science major, such as cell and molecular biology, that requires a strong background in chemistry, biochemistry, and physiology provides most of the requirements and suggested electives for pharmacy applicants. Pharmacy students, however, come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, including those who majored in English, business, communications, chemistry, biology, etc. If the pharmacy prerequisite courses are not required as part of your undergraduate major, you will need to complete these courses as electives. Some pharmacy schools make distinctions between prerequisite courses taken at a community college and a four year college. Students are urged to contact pharmacy programs directly to determine whether the admissions office distinguishes between prerequisite classes taken at a community college versus a four-year university or college. Specific courses such as statistics, physics, and quantitative chemical analysis are required by some schools

Approximately half of all pharmacy programs require applicants to submit scores from a standardized test known as the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). To determine which colleges and schools require the PCAT, review Table 9 of the PSAR handbook. A new PCAT is planned for the 2004/05 cycle that includes a critical thinking and writing component. Fees for the PCAT begin at $105 for one school and range $30-$35 for each additional school.

Colleges and schools of pharmacy, in considering applicants for admission, may give attention to the relative position of students within their class, whether students are near the top, in the middle group, or near the bottom. Although colleges of pharmacy are interested in enrolling students who have demonstrated exceptional work in school, they are also interested in students who demonstrate potential for contributing to the profession.

In addition to academic preparation, you should evaluate your personal qualifications to meet pharmacy's demands for judgment, dependability, and conscientious performance. Pharmacists must be able to pay attention to detail. As with others on the health care team, the pharmacist's decisions and actions effect human life and well being. Pharmacists, by law, are entrusted with the proper handling and dispensing of potentially dangerous and habit-forming substances. They must have high ethical standards, communicate well with patients and other health care providers, maintain reliable records, and be knowledgeable about existing and new medications on the market to ensure each patient has optimal drug therapy results.

Characteristics of pharmacy school matriculants

In 2004, there was a 10.7% increase in the number of applicants to pharmacy schools over the previous year. The average undergraduate GPA of matriculants in pharmacy schools in 2002 was 3.1 to 3.3. About 66% are female and 30% of the first year students had their B.S. degrees before entering the pharmacy program. The overall applicant to position ratio in 2003 was 4.8 applicants for every available position. Underrepresented minority student matriculants totaled 13.9%. Female pharmacy school matriculants totaled 66.9%, and of the 200,000 total practicing pharmacists in the U.S., the majority are now female. Of the 3,331 graduate student enrollment in 2003, women accounted for 49.7% of the full time graduate students. Attrition rates range at about 6% per class over the last five years.

Pharmacy college application service

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy or AACP has a centralized application service for applicants to U.S. colleges and schools of pharmacy. The Pharmacy College Application services is known as PharmCAS and allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple Pharm.D. programs. PharmCAS is available in May or June for students enrolling for the following year's class. The PharmCAS application is "on-line" and no paper applications were received in 2004. The PharmCAS application fee is about 150 with a $25 discount if applications are submitted before September 1. Additional increments are required to apply for each additional school. Regular PharmCAS application deadlines are from November 1 to March 1. After April, PharmCAS no longer accepts materials or Updates from applicants. As with many other health professions programs, some materials will be submitted to PharmCAS while materials required for secondary applications will be sent directly for the pharmacy school or college. Supplemental fees may be charged for secondary applications. For more information, see PharmCAS. About half (43 in 2004) of the colleges and schools of pharmacy will be using PharmCAS for fall 2005 enrollment. These include 19 private and 24 public institutions. The average student using PharmCAS applies to 3.1 schools. Students should check the schools to which they are applying to determine if they subscribe to PharmCAS.

Pharmacy-related fields

Pharmacy-related fields include the pharmacy technicians who assist pharmacists and even assume some of their daily duties and responsibilities. At an advanced level, the field of pharmacology provides excellent job opportunities. Pharmacologists create and test new medications that enable physicians to treat diseases more effectively.

Pharmacy schools in Missouri

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy has several tracks for admitting students into programs that require six years of study. These include a high school graduate admission program, a 1+5 year track, and a 2+4 year track. The PCAT is required and the deadline for application is February 15th for entry in the fall semester.

St. Louis College of Pharmacy accepts students in their senior year of high school. Only 40-50 openings are available for students wishing to transfer into the program at the beginning of their junior year. Admission as a transfer student is very competitive and courses must match the specific courses offered in the first two years of the pharmacy program. The overall and science GPA are calculated on the basis of those courses offered in the first two years of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy program.

Other schools in states adjacent to Missouri include: University of Arkansas; Midwestern University at Chicago, IL; University of Illinois; Drake University in Iowa; University of Iowa; University of Kansas; Creighton University in Nebraska; University of Nebraska; SW Oklahoma State University; University of Oklahoma; University of Tennessee.

For more information

Dr. Joshua J. Smith
Pre-Pharmacy Advisor, 417-836-5321, Professional Bldg., Room 333

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897