Majors for Aspiring Pharmacists
While pre-pharmacy programs are available to prepare students for a graduate degree, there are a number of majors that can help prepare interested individuals for careers in this field. A hands-on element is usually required, depending on the desired work environment.
Students considering pharmacy careers should look for universities that offer pre-pharmacy degree programs. Students registered within pre-pharmacy programs often earn their bachelor's degrees in chemistry or general science, but they may take pre-pharmacy specific electives in preparation for graduate studies.
Not all schools offer designated pre-pharmacy degree programs, but individuals can check out typical undergraduate course requirements for Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) graduate programs. Students can select a major that best meets these requirements, which is often a major in one of the general sciences.
Pre-pharmacy programs differ by college and university, but most programs require classes in general chemistry, organic chemistry, chemistry laboratory classes, biology, statistics, physiology, microbiology, physics, and economics. In addition to these classes, the student will likely be taking general education courses associated with a bachelor's degree program, such as English, history, and electives.
These programs are designed for future pharmacists, and students typically cannot enter them before their junior year of college. The Pharm.D. program should not be confused with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmacy, which is meant for students who aspire to work as researchers and professors at the university level. Pharm.D. programs prepare students for careers as pharmacists.
The courses in Pharm.D. programs are designed around the sciences, math, and aspects of drug therapy, which will be required knowledge for working as a pharmacist. Other topics of study may include ethics and pharmacy law, cardiovascular pharmacology, physiology, and pharmacy administration.
During the pharmacy student's final year, he or she may be required to complete a series of rotations at a pharmacy and other healthcare facilities associated with his or her major. Some Pharm.D. graduates go on to residency and fellowship programs, as well. These are often required for those wishing to work in a clinical setting.
In addition to drug distribution, pharmacists may conduct patient advising and deal with physicians to help them understand the interactions, dosages, selection, and side effects of the prescription drugs they've prescribed. Besides these main responsibilities, pharmacists may specialize in specific areas, such as nutrition, cancer, geriatrics, and psychiatric pharmacy, which is used to treat mental illnesses and disorders.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists earned a mean annual income of $120,270 in May 2016. Job growth for pharmacists between 2014 and 2024 is only predicted to increase by 3%, which is slower than most other industries.
While a graduate-level Pharm.D. degree best prepares students for futures as pharmacists, many science-based majors can help lay a foundation. Coursework, clinical work, and rotations may vary slightly according to the desired area of appointment.