So you've graduated from college with your degree in Pharmacy -- the study of matter -- which is, well... basically everything.
After all of the hours you've sacrificed finishing lab reports, pouring over tedious texts, knocking out undergraduate research and generally hating your life you emerge from that academic daze.
You're left with one big question: now that you've got a degree in the study of matter, how can you employ it in your career in a way that matters?
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Pharmacy Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find
- Some quick tips for the job search
- Options for furthering your education
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Pharmacy Majors
While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, you've learned more from your Pharmacy degree than balancing chemical equations. You'll most likely be going to pharm school,
A Pharmacy degree is well-rounded and cultivates a number of different skills and traits that can be applied to environments outside the laboratory and classroom -- beyond personal development and simply learning how to learn, employers will want to see how you can reflect, realize, and grow.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should talk up when trying to get a job with your Pharmacy degree.
Analytical skills. Pharmacists must provide safe medications efficiently. To do this, they must be able to evaluate a patient's needs and the prescriber's orders, and have extensive knowledge of the effects and appropriate circumstances for giving out a specific medication.
Communication skills. Pharmacists frequently offer advice to patients. They might need to explain how to take a medicine, for example, and what its side effects are. They also need to offer clear direction to pharmacy technicians and interns.
Computer skills. Pharmacists need computer skills to use any electronic health record (EHR) systems that their organization has adopted.
Detail oriented. Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the prescriptions they fill. They must be able to find the information that they need to make decisions about what medications are appropriate for each patient, because improper use of medication can pose serious health risks.
Managerial skills. Pharmacists--particularly those who run a retail pharmacy--must have good managerial skills, including the ability to manage inventory and oversee a staff.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Pharmacy Degree
Pharmacy is a broad subject with equally diverse specifications --
and what's more, you can choose to carry out research at universities, private laboratories, or for the government.
That's a lot to figure out even if you already know you want to work as a pharmacist, but we've got some ideas for narrowing it all down -- even if you want to branch out.
An internship will provide you with an understanding of the skills that a career in Pharmacy requires, not just what your university demanded -- and with all of the options you have available, the opportunity to learn what it is that you don't want to do in your career is invaluable.
Here are some common types of internships for Pharmacy Majors to help you make an informed decision about your career path:
Skillfully completing an internship with a governmental agency, research company, or university is a strong pathway to securing employment with them upon graduation -- but also, you'll be able to discern the areas where you need to build your skillset.
Use an internship or pharmacy job as an opportunity to take the lead on your competition
Your professors mean well, but academia is drastically different from real world applications.
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you as far as your career trajectory. But also, ask yourself these practical questions:
- Will this internship grow me as a person or is it just checking off a box?
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What type of organization do you want to work for -- government, university, private?
- Would you take an unpaid internship in exchange for experience, references, networking, and further education?
- Is relocation an option?
An easy place to start is within your university -- just reach out to your department head or search the website. Another option is through the government's STEM internship program.
3. Available Jobs
And now, the step you've probably been waiting for: getting a job.
The first step is deciding whether or not you want to stick to Pharmacy at all -- it's a tough job market out there, as Pharmacy is considered a knowledge-based degree and not skill-based.
The next step is deciding whether you're interested in a research setting or not. You've got options.
Pharmacy is applicable to careers beyond the pharmacy in healthcare, environmental management and conservation, or education. These types of professions include veterinarians, doctors, teachers, or even park rangers.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Pharmacy major grads.
Just like you.
Here are some common entry-level jobs for recent grads like you:
Why are there so many Laboratory Technicians?
A lot of Pharmacy students choose the major because it coincides with pharmacy (and other healthcare professional) school requirements.
And since it often takes more than one round of applications to get accepted, this is a popular job for building up their applications. As a medical lab tech, you'll collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians and surgeons or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists -- which require more education -- perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do.
For example, technologists may prepare specimens and perform detailed manual tests, whereas technicians perform routine tests that may be more automated. Medical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of medical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.
What about that cold hard cash, though?
Pharma jobs are on a relative boom, with the expiration of a lot of name-brand drugs expiring. You can get an entry-level job with just a BS, typically as research assistants or research technicians.
Scientists, as well as medical professionals, can also focus on related administrative roles, including data entry, survey interviews and as research associates. Decide what your key motivators are. It your focus salary, stability or personal fulfillment?
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Pharmacy Majors
Let's pretend you don't go to get your Pharm.D.
Get some serious lab experience. The most important thing a chemistry major can do is gain exposure in the lab. Showing a potential employer that you've worked in, and are familiar with lab equipment -- which will be your chief tool -- can greatly increase your chances of landing a job.
An internship will help you here, but any type of experience you can get with lab procedures, LIMS, and report writing is critical.
Check out the NSF REU Sites search tool for research experience opportunities.
Familiarize yourself with computers... beyond Office
If you're not planning on going to pharm school, consider other healthcare options.
Bioinformatics, biotechnology and other data-based fields are booming with career opportunities. People working in these field must have a solid background in chemistry, math and computer science with an emphasis on quantitative reasoning -- so go get some.
Two of the biggest umbrellas being agriculture and the environment, which gives you the opportunity to do "wet bench" research, meaning researchers do much of the at-the-lab-bench research work. Those jobs are generally available to scientists with an undergraduate degree, with many companies providing career ladders to help with advancement.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications
All states license pharmacists. After they finish the Pharm.D. program, prospective pharmacists must pass two exams to get a license. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a state-specific test on pharmacy law is also required. Applicants also must complete a number of hours as an intern, which varies by state.
Pharmacists who administer vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states. States typically use the American Pharmacists Association's Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program as a qualification for certification.
Pharmacists also may choose to earn a certification to show their advanced level of knowledge in a certain area. For instance, a pharmacist may become a Certified Diabetes Educator, a qualification offered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, or earn certification in a specialty area, such as nutrition or oncology, from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Certifications from both organizations require varying degrees of work experience, as well as passing an exam and paying a fee.
Going for your Doctor of Pharmacy
Prospective pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, a postgraduate professional degree. In July 2014, there were 130 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
Admissions requirements vary by program, however, all Doctor of Pharmacy programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology, and anatomy. Most programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate study, although some require a bachelor's degree. Most programs also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
Pharm.D. programs usually take 4 years to finish, although some programs offer a 3-year option. Some schools admit high school graduates into a 6-year program. A Pharm.D. program includes courses in chemistry, pharmacology, and medical ethics. Students also complete supervised work experiences, sometimes referred to as internships, in different settings such as hospitals and retail pharmacies.
Some pharmacists who own their own pharmacy may choose to get a master's degree in business administration (MBA) in addition to their Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Others may get a degree in public health.
Following graduation from a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists seeking an advanced position, such as a clinical pharmacy or research job, may need to complete a 1- to 2-year residency.
Pharmacists who choose to complete the 2-year residency option receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.
If lab jobs aren't falling into your lap and you're interested in healthcare -- as many of you bio majors are would-be doctors -- consider becoming a medical technologist.
The certification can take another year if you don't have the prerequisites -- which are similar to pre-med's -- but it places you in a medical lab setting, typically in a hospital. The BLS predicts double-digit job growth for technologists, so this is a safe bet for your career.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree or could use some help making yourself even more competitive, here are some external sites to help you with your decision:
NSF REU Sites
If your school wasn't helpful in placing you with some research opportunities, try the government's site.
Enter "chemistry" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Pharmacy Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.