A career in pharmacy is both challenging and rewarding. Pharmacists are critical healthcare professionals, who are essential in providing effective, safe medication therapy as well as accessible, quality patient care.
If you are looking to become a pharmacist, there are a variety of career paths to match your interests, working with other healthcare professionals in a range of settings, such as community pharmacy or hospital pharmacy. Whatever path you choose, when you practice pharmacy, you will use your pharmacy education to its fullest.
Key Attributes for Success
Some key attributes that are usually seen as critical for success in completing a pharmacy degree program and succeeding in the pharmaceutical industry overall are having excellent attention to detail, critical thinking skills, and an aptitude for science. You should also be committed to providing good care, and be an effective communicator who works well as part of a team.
Pharmacist Assistant or Technician Pharmacy Programs
If you wish to become a pharmacist assistant or pharmacy technician, there are pharmacy school programs that are available to take at a college or technical school in most major centres. These college diploma or certificate programs usually take less than two years, and there are some as short as six months.
The Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) has a Pharmacy Technician Qualifying Examination to assess your knowledge, skills and abilities to practice safely and effectively in an entry-level pharmacy technician position.
In recent years, all Canadian universities have now moved away from offering Bachelor of Pharmacy programs, now offering the PharmD program instead, which is designed to be an entry-to-practice degree program.
Initial Bachelor's Degree Study
Students complete a minimum two years of a bachelor's program, and must complete certain courses for an initial university study.
Prospective pharmacy students do not need to complete a bachelor's degree, but may apply to a PharmD program after two or more years. Completing a bachelor's degree in a related field will not expedite you or allow you to take the PharmD program in less time.
Universities that offer a PharmD program will have prerequisite courses that you must have taken during this undergraduate period in order to apply for their pharmacy program. While this varies by university, in general, courses in chemistry and organic chemistry are required to ensure a solid base of chemistry knowledge. Biology, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology courses are also often expected for familiarity with human biology. You can also expect to need to take physics, calculus, statistics, English, psychology or sociology, and possibly other courses. Check with any university you are interested in, to make sure you complete the prerequisites.
PharmD Program - Doctor of Pharmacy Degree
PharmD is a four-year program. You need to be accepted for entry; this will be based on grades and completion of prerequisites. Most universities also require an admission test, so most students will have to take this to get into their choice of school.
Hospital pharmacists work alongside medical doctors and other medical professionals in the hospital environment. They often dispense medications from the hospital pharmacy, but they can be involved in monitoring patient progress and preparing them for discharge. They work with the hospital team to oversee and decide on the best medication regimen for each patient. A hospital pharmacist may be involved in preparing IV medicines and may also recommend drugs and medications for a patient given medical history and conditions.
A pharmacy college admission test (PCAT) is often required; your results are considered as part of your application. The PCAT is designed for universities and colleges for admission purposes, and accurately predicts success in science-oriented courses. It is designed to test for the types of abilities, aptitudes, and skills that are considered essential in a good pharmacist.
Pharmacy students complete three academic years, completing academic courses and one year of experience for more practical, hands-on skills.
After attaining a pharmacy degree, there is a national board examination under the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC). Upon successful completion of two exams, the PEBC grants a Certificate of Qualification which is a licensing requirement in all provinces except Quebec.
In addition to the PEBC exams and certification, each province has further requirements, including practical experience, language standards of proficiency, and jurisprudence exams on pharmacy legislation and practice standards that need to be completed before you are a licensed pharmacist.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Pharmacist Altogether?
Starting after high school before any coursework is completed, it will take six years to complete the necessary education. Licensing requirements take additional time, and will depend on the province.
Some universities also offer a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) for Practicing Pharmacists now as a post-professional degree to further advance your education. This is an undergraduate professional doctorate that can be completed in 18 months.
Other Educational Options
There are other educational possibilities, including a Master of Business Administration and PharmD Combined Degrees program, and more, which are available in Canada.
Finished With Pharmacy School?
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