Pharmaceutical Sciences Careers: Salary Info & Job Descriptions

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Are you considering a pharmaceutical science career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a pharmaceutical science professional is right for you.
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Pharmaceutical Science Careers

Careers in the pharmaceutical industry include fast growth and high salaries for some positions. Common positions in pharmaceuticals include pharmacist, pharmacy technician and medical scientist. See below for a glimpse into these common pharmaceutical careers:

Pharmacist Pharmacy Technician Medical Scientist
Career Overview Pharmacists dispense medications to patients according to physician prescriptions. Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense medications to patients. Medical scientists in the pharmaceutical industry perform clinical trials for medications and develop drug-manufacturing processes.
Education Requirements Doctor of Pharmacy Some states require a certificate Doctorate or medical degree
Program Length Up to eight years One year or less Six to eight years after an undergraduate degree
Certification or Licensing All states require a license to practice as a pharmacist Most states require a license or certification to work as a pharmacy technician Medical license required to administer drugs to patients
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Slower-than-average growth (3%)* Faster-than-average growth (9%)* Fast as average growth (8%)*
Median Salary (2014) About $120,000* About $29,000* About $79,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmacist

Pharmacists work in hospitals, pharmacies and department stores dispensing medications to patients with a physician's prescription. The pharmacist verifies the information on the prescription, such as the type of medication, dose, physician instructions and the total amount of drugs to dispense. Pharmacists provide advice to patients on side effects, instructions for taking the medication and check for potential drug interactions with other medications. Patients may seek the advice of a pharmacist on general health topics.

Requirements

Pharmacists generally must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program to qualify for a state license. To meet the qualifications for a doctorate program, students should complete a bachelor's program that includes coursework in anatomy, chemistry and biology; however, some doctoral programs will accept students who have completed only two or three years of undergraduate school. In addition, pharmacy colleges require that students take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. Pharmacy programs usually require four years of study to complete and include courses such as pharmacology, patient counseling, biochemistry, pharmacy law and pharmaceutical calculations. States require that pharmacists pass one examination in pharmaceutical knowledge and another in state pharmacy laws to become licensed.

Below are some examples of pharmacist positions available in December 2012:

  • An Arizona health center is looking for a pharmacist with a degree from a college of pharmacy and a current Arizona pharmacist's license. The employer also requires applicants to have experience in pharmaceuticals and a CPR certificate.
  • A pharmacy in Kentucky is seeking a pharmacist who has a bachelor's or Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited pharmacy college and a Kentucky pharmacist's license.
  • A long-term care pharmacy in Massachusetts is searching for a pharmacist to provide services to patients in assisted living facilities. Applicants must have a bachelor's or Doctor of Pharmacy degree and a Massachusetts pharmacist's license. In addition, the employer prefers candidates with experience in long-term care.

Standing Out

Some pharmacists enter residency programs after completing the Doctor of Pharmacy degree to qualify for research positions as a pharmacist. Such residencies take 2-3 years to complete and can qualify you for advanced careers in pharmaceuticals, like a clinical pharmacist or research position. Additionally, you might pursue certification to demonstrate proficiency in pharmaceuticals. The American Pharmacists Association offers certification-training programs in topics like medication therapy management and immunization delivery.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work in retail or hospital pharmacies assisting the pharmacist in dispensing medications and providing services to patients. Under the supervision of the pharmacist, technicians count tablets, mix medications, label prescriptions and process insurance information. Pharmacists review the prescriptions the pharmacy technician prepares for accuracy and quality.

Requirements

Some employers and state pharmacy boards require you to complete a high school education to qualify for work as a pharmacy technician. Employers and state boards may also require you to complete a training program at a community college or vocational school to meet the requirements of the job. Such programs usually last a year or less and culminate in a certificate. State requirements for pharmacy technicians may also include a criminal background check and an examination to qualify for a license or certification. Some states require technicians to complete continuing education courses to maintain the certification or license.

Below are some examples of pharmacy technician positions available in December 2012:

  • A retail pharmacy in Maryland is looking for a pharmacy technician to fill prescriptions, operate a cash register, assist in the ordering of merchandise and perform data entry. Applicants must have at least two years of experience as a pharmacy technician and a valid Maryland technician's license.
  • An Ohio retail pharmacy is looking for a pharmacy technician with a minimum of one year of experience as a technician and certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.
  • A pharmacy in Colorado is looking for a pharmacy technician to assist in filling prescriptions, perform data entry and label medications. Applicants must have certification as a pharmacy technician or a minimum of one year of experience in the position.

Standing Out

Earning certification from the National Healthcareer Association or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board can help you stand out in the field, particularly if you live in a state that does not require formal certification for pharmacy technicians. Additionally, if your state does not require completion of a training program, you might stand out among the competition by completing a pharmacy technician certificate program at a community college.

Medical Scientist

Medical scientists work in the pharmaceutical industry to develop new methods for manufacturing drugs. They work in laboratories, conducting clinical trials on new medications and standardizing medicinal doses. These scientists develop theories and design experiments to prove or disprove the theories. Pharmaceutical research scientists analyze the data from clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of a drug.

Requirements

Medical scientists often enter the field with a PhD in the biological sciences or a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some medical scientists earn a combined PhD/MD. The PhD generally takes six years to complete and allows you to choose a specialty in which to focus, such as bioinformatics or pathology. The PhD/MD program can take up to an additional two years, though this program will provide you with more comprehensive training in both the clinical and research facets of medicine. Additionally, medical scientists who conduct certain procedures on patients, such as gene therapy, drug therapy or invasive procedures, must be licensed as physicians by their state, and such licensure requires completion of medical school in addition to passage of an exam.

Below are examples of medical scientist positions available in December 2012:

  • A worldwide pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey is looking for a pharmaceutical research scientist to work in the company's quality control services group. Applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree and a minimum of eight years in the pharmaceutical industry as a research scientist.
  • A North Carolina pharmaceutical company is searching for a clinical scientist to manage studies and data collection. Applicants must have a bachelor's or PhD and several years of experience as a clinical scientist.
  • A pharmaceutical company in Ohio is seeking a research scientist to develop and test dosage forms, write proposals, manage scientific studies and write reports for the company. Applicants must have a master's or PhD in pharmaceutics or chemistry and at least seven years of experience in pharmaceuticals.

Standing Out

Employers may require research scientists to write proposals and reports in non-scientific language. Some employers may also require that scientists give presentations on the results of their research findings. As such, including writing and communication courses in your degree program can help you stand out in the field.

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Kaplan University

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The George Washington University

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Colorado State University Global

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Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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Regent University

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American National University

  • Pharmacy Technician - Diploma

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Trident University

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Pharmacy Technician

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