What is a pharmacist?

A pharmacist works with drugs in their preparation and use to cure, control, and prevent illness. The majority of pharmacists work in retail pharmacies with the remainder working in such areas as hospitals, nursing homes, manufacturing, biopharmaceutics, or research. In the health care system, retail pharmacists dominate in the dispensing of drugs prescribed by physicians. A pharmacist must work hand-in-hand with the doctors to make sure that each patient receives the correct medication for his/her condition. Pharmacists help patients understand how their medications will control or cure their illnesses as well as how to properly take and store the medications.

A research pharmacist works with chemicals that possess desirable drug effects and the challenge of putting these chemicals into finished products such as tablets, injections, suspensions, suppositories, or patches. The final drugs must meet the Federal Drug Administration requirements related to stability, safety, and effectiveness.

A pharmacist may choose a hospital or clinic setting where she deals directly with doctors and nurses by showing them how to prepare and administer drugs safely. She is also included on patient-care teams that evaluate the patients’ conditions and recommend drugs for their treatment.

What makes a good pharmacist?

A good pharmacist is interested in the study of drugs and their effects on the human body. She must love chemistry, biology, and mathematics. A pharmacist must have the desire to work with people and be able to communicate effectively with physicians. Most importantly, a good pharmacist must have the desire and the patience to work with the elderly and with very ill patients.

What is life as a pharmacist like?

Working as a pharmacist is a very exciting experience. Knowing that you play a role in helping a patient prevent or treat illness is very rewarding. A retail pharmacist is well-respected, and is, according to a recent Gallup Poll, “…the most trusted professional in America.” That’s quite a challenge to live up to! Patients tell you intimate details of their lives and illnesses, and you must respect their privacy and truly care about them. Pharmacists help patients understand how their medications will control or cure their illnesses as well as how to take and store medications properly.

How do I become a pharmacist?

If you are interested in pharmacy, you should take as many chemistry, math, and science classes as possible in high school, including physics, biology, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. A pre-pharmacy program of two years of select college classes is required before you can apply for admission to the College of Pharmacy at the University of New Mexico. Classes in the College of Pharmacy are limited to forty to forty-five students per year, and you will be competing with several hundred students for admission, so good grades are a must. Once you are accepted into the College of Pharmacy, you must complete four years of pharmacy classes. After graduating with a Pharm-D degree, you have to pass a national board examination and a state laws exam. You must then apply for registration in the state where you want to practice. Each state requires a law exam, but the pharmacy portion of the exam will transfer among most states.

What/where are the jobs?

Pharmacists work in retail stores, drug manufacturing, research hospitals, nursing homes, and education. A retail pharmacist may choose to work for a national chain or own her own store. Hospital pharmacists may choose a small clinic hospital or a large, complex health care facility to work in. The armed forces offer pharmacists an officer’s commission.

New Mexico has a lot of great opportunities for employment in the rural areas. A pharmacist can work full-time or part-time, or simply do relief work when she wants to. Some pharmacists in the larger cities have full-time jobs and pick up extra hours at a chain store that is open twenty-four hours a day. There are a large variety of jobs available in pharmacy—something for everyone.