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How to Become a Drug Information Specialist

Learn how to become a drug information specialist. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in pharmaceutical research. View article »

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  • 0:01 Drug Information Specialist
  • 1:07 Career Requirements
  • 2:00 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Drug Information Specialist

Pharmacists are trained to provide clients with general information about medications. However, drug information specialists generally receive additional residency training focusing on drug information research, evidence-based evaluations, policy design, disbursement methodologies, and formulary management. Drug information specialists often communicate with patients and medical professionals about soon-to-be-developed medications, new research, drug trial findings, and potential side effects of drugs that are currently for sale.

Drug information specialists may work for pharmaceutical development companies, for individual pharmacies, in hospitals, or in drug information centers. Many who specialize in drug information work primarily as pharmacists and provide information services as needed. Some travel may be required in order to attend committee hearings, conferences, and other drug information events. Most pharmacists, including those who specialize in drug information, work full-time.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctor of Pharmacy
Degree Field Pharmaceutical studies
Licensure State pharmacist license required
Experience Completion of drug information residency program
Key Skills Able to analyze and compare medications, pay attention to details, be comfortable working with patients and have good management skills; enjoy conducting research, possess strong writing skills and be comfortable giving presentations; familiarity with using electronic patient records and pharmaceutical databases; extensive understanding of pharmaceutical laboratory and testing equipment
Salary (May 20145 $121,500 per year (Mean annual salary for all pharmacists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Drug Information Residency Programs.

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Career Steps

Now let's check out the career steps for drug information specialists.

Step 1: Complete Pre-Pharmacy Studies Coursework

The BLS states that students must usually complete prerequisite undergraduate coursework prior to being accepted into Pharm.D. programs. To complete this coursework, students can choose to earn a bachelor's degree in pre-pharmacy studies. The curriculum of these programs usually include the general prerequisite requirements for admission to most Pharm.D. programs. Common courses in these programs include anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, calculus, microbiology, statistics, general biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics. Some programs may also include courses that provide descriptions of the pharmacy industry and its many professions.

Step 2: Pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)

The BLS reports that students must score well on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) to be accepted into most Pharm.D. programs. The PCAT verifies skill levels in areas such as biology, chemistry and reading comprehension as well as verbal, analytical and writing skills. Individuals take the exams on computers at designated testing areas. Students register for exams by paying fees and selecting the closest testing center available at which to take the exam.

Success Tip

  • Buy the practice exam. Although it's an additional expense, the cost of taking one, two or even three practice exams is far cheaper than taking the actual exam, failing, and having to pay to take it again. Each practice exam includes questions that are similar to the types of questions found on the real exam. Furthermore, individuals who purchase the practice exams receive tips about how to write strong responses to the exam's essay questions. Each practice exam is graded online, allowing students to know their score immediately after completion.

Step 3: Complete A Doctor of Pharmacy Program

It takes four years to complete the majority of Pharm.D. programs. Students in these programs spend the first one to two years of study taking core classes before moving on to elective classes that are specific to each student's career goal. Common core classes often include drug delivery, biostatistics, pharmaceutical calculations, patient assessment, pharmacokinetics, immunology and pharmacy procedures. Some degree programs offer concentrations designed for specific career paths, such as research, pharmaceutical care, leadership or pharmaceutical sciences.

Graduation requirements for Pharm.D. programs often include completing clinical experience hours at different pharmaceutical settings. Some programs may also require students to write and publish research papers. Several programs also require students to pass comprehensive exams before graduation.

Success Tip

  • Choose a research-based concentration. Not many schools offer concentration options related specifically to the drug information field, but they do offer concentrations in general pharmaceutical research. Drug information specialists need top-notch research skills and to know how to locate and review current research studies. Research-based concentrations are more likely to provide students with these skills.

Step 4: Become a Licensed Pharmacist

Each state requires pharmacists to become licensed, the process for which usually includes passing at least two exams, according to the BLS. One exam includes questions about pharmaceutical laws and regulations that are unique to the state offering the licensing exam, while the other contains more general, career-based and basic pharmaceutical knowledge questions.

Step 5: Go through a Special Residency Program

After becoming licensed pharmacists, professionals must complete residency programs. Pharmacists seeking to be drug information specialists usually must complete drug information residencies because general pharmacy residencies usually do not provide the right type of training. Drug information residency programs usually last one to two years. These residency programs teach Pharm.D. students, provide drug information to patients, conduct drug trial research projects, write educational pharmaceutical pamphlets and present research to other professionals.

Step 6: Maintain Pharmacist Licensure

Drug information specialists must renew their pharmacist license every few years, depending on state law. Many states have continuing education (CE) requirements that pharmacists must fulfill as part of the renewal process. Pharmacists may complete CE courses online or in person, although some states have rules that limit the amount of online CE credits that can be earned per year. Besides earning CE credits, other license renewal requirements may include filling out forms and submitting fees.

Step 7: Advance as a Medical Professional

Drug information specialists may be eligible for promotion to a senior or supervisory position within their respective medical facility after accruing enough experience or demonstrating leadership qualities. An information specialist may also be a candidate for senior management or administrative positions with business experience or education.

To recap, with a Pharm.D, licensure, and completion of a residency program, a drug information specialist can earn about $122,000 a year to communicate with patients and medical professionals about soon to be developed medications, new research, drug trial findings, and potential side effects of drugs that are currently for sale.

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