The Pharmaceutical Career Track
A career in the Pharmaceutical industry offers many benefits. For one, it’s a stable industry to be a part of. There will always be people who need medicine and medical companies have continued to thrive over the years, no matter the economic climate. A career in pharmaceuticals can be more than just your friendly neighborhood pharmacist who hands you your prescriptions every month. The pharmaceutical industry is also responsible for the research and development that go into making these products, manufacturing them and marketing them for sale to pharmacies, drugstores, and doctors. You can be a pharmacy assistant with a high school diploma or GED, and even a pharmacy technician with a high school diploma or associate degree, but any other position in the pharmaceutical industry requires a bachelor’s degree or higher.
What can you do with a bachelor's degree?
Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
The BSPS program, as the name suggests, is where students will focus on the scientific aspects of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. After the core classes required by your school, some of the courses you can expect to take when following this track are organic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, calculus, statistics, and of course, pharmacology. This is a 4-year program and during your final year you will complete an internship where you will receive hands-on experience, hopefully helping to land you a job after graduation.
With the BSPS degree, students can focus on a few different careers within the pharmacy and healthcare industry. Some of these career options are research & development, manufacturing, product marketing, pharmaceutical administration, or research & regulatory oversight in government agencies. Graduates of the BSPS program can also qualify to further their education in graduate school for veterinary medicine, dental, and optometry.
An average salary for a graduate with a BSPS degree starts at around $45k and can go up to $55k, depending on your position and company to which you are employed.
What can you do with a Master of Science degree?
Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
The MSPS degree program focuses even more closely on the science of the industry. You can pursue a master’s in pharmacology, a master’s in pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems, or a master’s in toxicology. The MSPS focuses on the applied research in drug delivery and target audiences, using both medicinal and computational chemistry, pharmaceutics, pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within the body), pharmacodynamics (the biochemical and physiological effects of drugs), immunology, and molecular and cell biology. You can apply to this graduate program if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in pharmacy, bio, chemistry, or other disciplines closely related, as well as an acceptable GRE score.
Students pursuing a MSPS will have to do extensive lab work and research during the program, as well as a final thesis. This program of study will take about 2 years. Students who choose a master’s in pharmacology can expect to take courses such as research skills, drug design, biochemistry, biometrics, and physiology. If you are interest in the masters of pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems, some course work may include biometrics, biochemistry, physical pharmacy, pharmacokinetics, and drug metabolism. Finally, if you are pursuing a master’s in toxicology you will find yourself studying molecular cell biology, biochemical toxicology, environmental toxicology, and organ systems toxicology.
Some careers available to a graduate with a master’s in pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems are drug evaluation expert, research assistant, and even as an assistant professor. Most of your career options in this focus are drug and research related. If you have a master’s in toxicology, you may find yourself as a researcher or lab technician in any of the following areas of employment: state and federal government, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, or in environmental consulting.
The average annual salary for a graduate with an MSPS is $58k, according to payscale.com. The average salary is dependent upon your actual job title within the industry, and the company you are employed with.
How to become a pharmacist
Doctor of Pharmacy
Finally, in order to become an actual pharmacist, and not a tech or another position in the science of pharmaceuticals, you must obtain a PharmD degree. As a pharmacist, you are required to have extensive knowledge of all the different types of medications you will be dispensing to patients, as well as how they work and how they affect people, how to take them, and any interactions with other drugs. You will not only be dispensing medication to patients as a pharmacist, you will be counseling them on how to safely take or administer them. In order to practice as a pharmacist, you will have to obtain your license by taking both the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).
Some of the disciplines of the PharmD program are pharmaceutical chemistry (designing and evaluating drugs with the use of chemistry), pharmacognosy (the study of drugs obtained from plants, animals, or other natural sources), and pharmacology (the study of the uses and effects of the drugs on the human body). Along with those focuses, you will also learn about how to dispense medications and counsel patients on their medications. During this program, you will be assigned long-term clinical rotations to give you the opportunity to work with patients, doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
A PharmD program without undergraduate studies can take up to 6 years to complete. You do not need a bachelor’s degree to get your PharmD degree, but if you do have undergraduate studies, you can expect about 4 years tacked on to your 4-year bachelors’ program to obtain your Pharm.D.
As a pharmacist, you will not only have the career option of working in a drug store or standalone pharmacy, but you can also work in hospitals, for government agencies, and elsewhere in the pharmaceutical industry.
The average annual salary for a pharmacist in 2019, varies by state. It ranges anywhere from $90k in North Carolina to $124 in New York, with most states in the middle at about $100-103k.
If you are interested in a career along the pharmaceutical track, there are many options available to you and many different concentrations of study depending on what you are interested in and how long you plan on attending school. It might even be a great jumping off point for even more advanced levels of study in the medical field, but either way, it seems that a career in pharmaceuticals is a stable and fairly lucrative one. Each college and university will have their own program, but most are generally as described in this article, but your general outcome, career, and salary will be what YOU put into it. Good luck!