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How To Become a Pharmacist

Starting Your Career as a Pharmacist 

If you want to work on the cutting-edge of healthcare while also building relationships with the people in your community, a career as a pharmacist should be at the top of your list. "That connection with the patients really resonates with prospective students that get into the profession,” says Kyle Schmidt, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at Ferris State University.

In addition to that unique connection with patients, pharmacists are highly compensated (the median pay for a pharmacist was $128,000 per year in 2020) and have the option to work in settings ranging from small community pharmacies to advanced pharmaceutical labs. It's a rewarding career where you can have a positive impact on the world.

So how do you get there? Here's are the steps you need to take. 

5 Steps to your Pharmacy Career

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1. Earn a bachelor's degree or complete a pre-pharmacy program

Your first step is to earn your bachelor's degree or complete pre-pharmacy curriculum. "A lot of students go into pharmacy because they're interested in science, they're interested in chemistry, they're interested in the medical field and cultivating relationships with patients and caregivers to positively impact community health," says Professor Schmidt. Building a strong background in those subjects - including in high school - will help you as you pursue your Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree and your career in the pharmaceutical industry.

At Ferris, we recommend students complete one of our Pre-Pharmacy programs before they apply to the College of Pharmacy. If you've earned or are earning a different degree, check our list of pre-requisites needed to apply.

2. Apply to Pharmacy School

Admission to pharmacy school is competitive. Ferris State University is one of only 147 Doctor of Pharmacy programs accredited by Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education in the United States. The University participates in PharmCAS, a centralized application system that allows you to apply to multiple pharmacy schools at once

To get started with your application, create a PharmCAS account, then submit your transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Professor Schmidt says the personal statement is a key portion of the application. "That's your opportunity to tell us who you are, and we're interested in who you are as a person and what you're going to bring to the profession, more than we are just looking at nominal measures.

After submitting all items, you will be invited for an admissions interview. Ferris admits up to 140 students each fall. 

Explore the Ferris application process

White coat ceremony for Ferris' College of Pharmacy

3. Obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree 

Once admitted to a pharmacy program, you will complete coursework towards your PharmD. At Ferris, the PharmD program consists of four professional years. The structure of the program may vary depending on the school you attend.

The College of Pharmacy at Ferris offers many scholarships to help you on your journey to your PharmD. For the 2022 - 2023 academic year, the college plans to award $1.2 million in scholarships. "Our goal is that 50% of each incoming class should be eligible for a $5,000 award that would be disbursed the first and second year of the program. I think that's something we do really well. That's a lot of support for students in our program," says Schmidt.

4. Pass The NAPLEX and MPJE Exams and ReceivE Your License

After receiving your PharmD, you will need to get licensed. There are two different licensure exams, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE).

Graduates of Ferris' College of Pharmacy have a 93% first-time pass rate for the NAPLEX and a 85% first-time pass rate for the MPJE. After being licensed, you are able to start working right away. 

Five students working in pharmacy lab

5. Consider Professional Opportunities

"You'll be able to work in a number of roles once you are licensed. Truthfully, the options of what you can do with the PharmD are really vast," says Schmidt. One option is in pharmacies located in drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores. An average of 50-60% of Ferris' graduates go this route and work in community practice.

While a majority of graduates chose local or community practice, that's not your only option. There's much more to pharmacy than just what you see in your corner drugstores and there's a lot of pharmacists that are working in very unique environments and doing a lot of cool stuff," adds Schmidt. The pandemic opened up many new opportunities for someone with a PharmD degree. "Some pharmacists had a huge role managing the pandemic. Not only with vaccinations, but writing NIH guidelines, the IDSA guidelines. There's really a wide array of opportunities in a career in pharmacy."

You can also work in a hospital or other healthcare facilities, and 20-30% of graduates go into residency training. The College of Pharmacy helps prepare students who chose this path and uses their network to help place students.

Explore the College of Pharmacy 

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For more than 100 years, the Ferris State University College of Pharmacy has set itself apart with its focus on hands-on, practical pharmacy education. "Ferris is focused on developing each student to be a professional. We provide a practical, application-based approach to training. Students at Ferris regularly interact directly with faculty in classes, rather than teaching assistants or administrative personnel, throughout the curriculum. I think that makes us unique,"  says Professor Schmidt.

Because of the long-standing reputation of Ferris' College of Pharmacy, you can find a Ferris pharmacist just about everywhere, from hometown pharmacies in the Upper Peninsula to the president of Michigan's Pharmacy Association. "Joining that network of alumni provides connections that you wouldn't get from other schools across the nation," says Schmidt.

Take the next step toward your pharmacy career. Complete your application or request more information.

Apply on PharmCAS Request More Info