Category Archives: PharmD Careers

Are board of pharmacy specialty certifications worth it for pharmacists?

The Board of Pharmacy Specialty (BPS) certifications are considered to be the mark of achievement for pharmacists in specific clinical specialities. State pharmacy laws do not mandate the obtainment of these certifications to practice pharmacy, but they are preferred and desired by most employers and even patients.

The organization that oversees these certifications, the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), was created in 1976 and has certified over 21,000 worthy pharmacists in their desired specialties (2). BPS is an independent, non-partisan organization that objectively tests and certifies interested pharmacists.

BPS certification is considered an important statement of an individual’s competence. Certified pharmacists are viewed as the most qualified to deliver a high-level of healthcare(2). There are currently eight specialties that BPS offers: ambulatory care pharmacy, critical care pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pediatric pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, and psychiatric pharmacy.

In order to adequately prepare for each exam, candidates should become familiar with the current content outline for their specialty that is posted on the BPS website (www.bpsweb.org). Candidates should also thoroughly study any relevant textbooks, journal articles, and other texts that are referenced in the content outline or related to the content outline. For each application, the fee at this time for first-time American and Canadian applicants is $600 U.S. dollars. The fee is $685 U.S. dollars for first-time non-American and non-Canadian applicants. For candidates who have failed a specialization examination within the past year, reduced fee of $300 U.S. dollars is available(2).

The final score of the exam will determine whether the candidate passed or failed and ultimately, whether they receive the certification or not. The minimum passing score is 500 and the maximum score is 800. A candidate’s report will be sent electronically about 60 days after the close of their testing window. Candidates can access these scores by logging in to their MyBPS account.

Candidates considering tackling their BPS certification examinations should be serious and dedicated to putting in the required time and effort. At the very minimum, two months should be devoted to studying for the exam(1);  however, more time for preparation. may be needed to successfully pass the exam. Unfortunately, the exams are quite expensive so a no-nonsense approach is necessary when studying and preparing for them.  There are specific windows for registering and taking the exam each year, so be sure to check the BPS website for more information.

Some argue that the outcome of board certification is not worth the extreme effort needed in order to successfully receive certification. Yet patients seem to greatly value BPS certified pharmacists with 95% of patients rating board certification important or very important(3). As patients demand a higher level of quality care, board certified pharmacists may become more and more necessary.

There are many other benefits that are part of successfully receiving a BPS certification. Most employers look for certified pharmacists during the hiring process since these certifications create greater employer confidence(1). The extra knowledge that candidates must learn in order to receive a BPS certification almost guarantees a higher level of patient care and a higher percentage of positive outcomes.

Certified candidates have more opportunities for growth since they are capable of taking on collaborative drug therapy management positions(1). They may have a higher level of competence and current updated knowledge than other candidates that have not received a BPS certification. This, in turn, allows for more opportunity for promotions through avenues such as prescriptive authority, monetary compensation, and management roles.

Other health care professionals highly regard certified pharmacists, which often leads to other professional opportunities. Overall, these candidates are highly recognized in the pharmacy profession and individuals that receive these certifications are often considered a step above other pharmacists.

1. American journal of health-system pharmacy: AJHP: official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists react-text: 50 67(14):1146, 1150-1 /react-text react-text: 53  ·  /react-text react-text: 54 July 2010.

2. Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). “Fall 2016 Candidate’s Guide”. https://www.bpsweb.org/wp-content/uploads/16072-BPS-Fall-2016-Candidates-Guide.pdf

3. Haines, Stuart T. “Does Board Certification Really Matter?” Pharmacotherapy 34.8 (2014): 799-801. Web.

Where Are The Jobs?

You may have heard from time to time that PharmD school graduates, and even seasoned pharmacists, are increasingly having a difficult time finding a pharmacist job, the severity depending on where one lives. With the vast number of PharmD programs available in this country pumping out scores of new pharmacists, as well as more PharmD programs being developed and seeking accreditation, it may be safe to assume that many current and future pharmacists view the supply and demands curves for pharmacists painting a dismal picture. This market saturation is well described in an article, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119634/pharmacy-school-crisis-why-good-jobs-are-drying. For those interested in a career as a pharmacist, this is something one cannot ignore when assessing the current and future job market for pharmacists in the region(s) where one seeks employment, the potential salaries being offered, the expenses and loan interest rates one has to pay to attend such a program, and many other variables. As with most other things, one has to do a lot of research to compare the return-on-investment (ROI) when selecting a career, and comparing it to other potential careers. Everyone is unique in their personal and financial situations, their life goals, and how much support they may have. PharmD programs are usually rigorous, and in some cases very long. Tuition and loan interest rates can be difficult to pay off, as well as the potential for more expenses accrued throughout life such as raising a family, paying a mortgage, new car, insurance, gas, utility bills, providing basic necessities. For those interested in a career in pharmacy, it may be beneficial to take some time to research whether this is the right career fit, and whether you could afford the costs for financing an education, and if the current/future job market for pharmacists is acceptable. It is a good idea to take the time to do this earlier rather than later, and for any career path you may choose. There are many resources one could use…such as the internet. Obviously, one would have to use their best judgement and ultimately perform the screening on their own as to whether to truly believe the blogs, articles, and websites, and to read at one’s own risk. It is a good idea to parse through and research multiple sources of information. One could perform basic searches on the internet, reading pharmacist career blogs or pharmacy student blogs. Some other good ideas include asking family members, current pharmacists , students, and pharmacy graduates from various different regions, asking career counselors, and also performing job searches from time to time for ‘Pharmacists’ and filter it to the region where one is seeking employment to view how many job postings that are available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm, and http://www.pharmacymanpower.com, are other resources one may use for information. In the end, it is up to the person to decide whether a career in pharmacy, all things considered, is right for them. Taking the time to research now will save lots of time and burden if being a pharmacist is not the right fit. To change careers isn’t the easiest for many people, considering mounting debt, and the need to provide for one’s family. Finding the time and energy to return to school at a later age requires lots of focus and fortitude in light of all of the responsibilities one may have at an older age. Another important factor in considering a pharmacist career is to assess whether you truly enjoy the work. Volunteering, interning, or even working in a pharmacy in various settings will provide a good experience for this assessment, and opportunities to network with other pharmacy employees and ask them questions.

Post Graduate Opportunities – Update

Planning ahead even as an underclassmen in pharmacy school will save you a lot of time. There have been many of those who spent considerable time as a post-graduate pharmacy resident, fellow, or even pursuing a PhD, and go completely around and work in a retail pharmacy. They could have saved a lot of time doing research in pharmacy school to have avoided the years spent in post-graduate training if they were to end up as a retail pharmacist, which typically does not require a post-graduate residency or fellowship. There are those of course who enjoy trying different things firsthand before settling down in one position. Below are some common career routes for pharmacy students.

—The obvious—

Retail Pharmacist: The most common job of a newly christened pharmacy graduate. With many new medications available in the market, increasing retirement of baby-boomers, and the longer lifespan of retirees, the retail pharmacist will always be an essential and immediately available source of reliable health care professionals in this country.

Hospital Pharmacist: Hospital pharmacist review medication orders for appropriateness, drug-drug interactions, provide support to nurses and doctors, and mix medications. They are an extremely helpful resource to other healthcare providers and are a valuable team member in the hospital performing critical tasks such as providing an additional checkpoint for medication safety.

Residency/Fellowship: One or two years of intensive training within a hospital, managed care, or retail organization. One year of residency may sometimes be equated by employers as two to three years of non-residency pharmacy experience.

—The rare—

Regulatory Analyst/Consultant: Pharmacists provide regulatory support for drug manufacturers in support of their clinical trials or drug applications for marketing purposes. Regulatory Analysts or Consultants may receive training as a fellow within an industry pharmaceutical program where they may learn all the nuances associated with drug applications and clinical trials.

Drug Information Specialist: Drug information specialists provide information support to other healthcare providers and patients. They advise on subjects such as interpreting journal articles, reviewing a medication’s adverse effects and interactions, and performing drug presentations to other healthcare providers and even students.

Academia: Pharmacists and those with advanced pharmaceutical degrees (PhD) who have a passion of teaching the future generation of pharmacists may teach at pharmacy schools and even other healthcare schools such as medical and nursing schools. Many of the teachers experiences that range from clinical/retail experience, drug industry, or pharmacology.

Information Systems Pharmacist: These pharmacists have a knack for fixing computers, printers, software, or other information technology issues related to pharmacy medication order entry systems, automated dispensing cabinets, etc. Training for a career in this may require taking classes with vendor products, courses in computers at the college level, or just being good with computers. They are also involved with managing or creating medication reports for management, adding or deleting drugs in the medication database, working with other IT departments, and managing medication alert settings within the pharmacy IT systems.

Medical Liaison: Pharmacists are obvious well known for their knowledge of drugs. Therefore, putting that to good use, they may be employed as medical liaisons on behalf of a drug company. These positions require a level of knowledge beyond those of a typical drug representative. They meet with medical doctors to provide resourceful drug information, as well as provide presentations during drug conferences. Lots of travel is usually necessary, but much flexibility in one’s own schedule is usually allowed. Not a typical office drug as your office may be within your car or home. If you are an extrovert that likes meeting new people, providing presentations, and are a travel warrior this may be the job for you!

Why pharmacy might not be for you

Is being a pharmacist something you have always wanted to be? Do you know what they actually do? Are you willing to take years of pharmaceutical and chemistry related courses to achieve your goal? These are some questions you may want to ask yourself and find the answers to. You do not want to jump head first into the world of pharmacy without knowing what is ahead and waiting for you. Doing your homework now will save you plenty of time, frustration, and money later on if you decide this path is not for you. Some questions you need to ask yourself and ponder upon are listed below.

I only have to count pills and take home a nice paycheck, right?
No, counting pills isn’t all that a retail, community, outpatient pharmacist does. In fact, many pharmacies employ technicians to do the counting and order entry while the pharmacists review the prepared medications and perform the final check. Unless the pharmacy does not have specially trained staff, pharmacists may be involved in the order entry of prescriptions, resolving insurance claims with insurance companies, record keeping management, controlled substance and non-controlled substance inventory management, account management, compounding medications, prescription record management, training and managing staff, etc. Pharmacists also provide patient counseling on medications by informing customers of side effects, drug interactions, proper dosage and administration, monitoring, and what to do if there was a missed dose or an overdosage. Counseling sessions, medication therapy management (MTM), vaccine administrations (eg flu vaccine), and community events are also important community programs the pharmacist may be involved in. Pharmacists in the community setting are on the front lines of patient support as they are readily accessible and will need to keep up with the latest information about new drugs or new drug updates. Needless to say, pharmacists could receive a lot of blame and criticism from others for areas that are not under their control such as patient insurance coverage denials, slow service, medication refill problems, etc. Pharmacists thus will need to be able to communicate well with the public and remain calm while under duress from demanding customers and a line that doesn’t seem to get shorter. If you don’t like dealing with disgruntled customers and receiving the brunt of blame in which you had no part in, you may want to rethink this career. Having patience as a pharmacist is an essentail key to having a long successful career as a pharmacist.

Pharmacy school is not like medical school…so it should be a breeze?
While it is well known that medical schools could be more rigorous than many other graduate professions, comparing pharmacy schools to medical schools or dental schools is like comparing apples and oranges. They are similar yes, but in the fact that they deal with medications and are a health specialty, but they are very diverse curriculums. Pharmacy schools are for those who enjoy pharmaceuticals, chemistry, and pharmacology. Nearly four years is devoted to all things pharmaceutical such as medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmocokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacology, biostatistics, pharmacy calculations, pharmacotherapy, etc. Therefore, if chemistry isn’t for you, then this may not be the best career choice. Medical school trains students to properly diagnose and treat patients, and so a thorough study of the human body, diseases and medical conditions, and treatment options are topics heavily emphasized. Medical doctors have to endure years or residency and even fellowship for specialized fields of medicine, whereas residency and fellowships are only optional for pharmacy students.

Working in a pharmacy, whether in the community or hospital setting, is the best way to gauge whether you want to be a pharmacist or not.

Where do Pharmacists Work?

Many students who are considering entering the world of pharmacy may wonder where pharmacists work and what they actually do. They may hear hear from many others who briefly say it is a respectable field with great pay. This post describes two of the many more interesting and common opportunities available for future pharmacists. Pharmacy careers have evolved to becoming more diverse and specialized in many aspects. Traditionally, pharmacists were more than likely found in a neighborhood drugstore carefully preparing medications into individual patient containers or using deft compounding techniques and mixtures and dispensing the products to their intended customers. These pharmacists are commonly known as community pharmacists. Nowadays, new pharmacy students will be exposed to many other career opportunities that may interest them in the pharmacy world. They may find out more about these other areas of work from their pharmacy curriculum, talking to their peers or instructors, and from internships or rotations.

Other than the traditional community pharmacy vocation, pharmacists are also found in institutional settings such as hospitals. Whether it be hospitals, long term nursing homes, or specialized institutional settings such as rehabilitation or behavioral health centers, pharmacists in these settings may dispense and prepare medications for acute care or chronic care needs. The inventory of medications dispensed may differ from a community pharmacy setting in that medications given in the acute care setting may include different routes of administration that need to be handled by a trained and licensed professional such as a doctor, physician assistant, nurse, anesthetist, etc. Some of these include intravenous and epidural routes of administration. Pharmacists in these settings dispense, advise, recommend, counsel, and monitor proper medication handling and usage. Pharmacists may also consult and work with a team of healthcare professionals as the in-house drug information expert; these ‘consultant’ pharmacists may be more commonly known as clinical pharmacists. Clinical pharmacists specialize in a particular branch of clinical care (eg pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care). Clinical pharmacists may have received advanced training as a post-doctoral resident, or have years of practice experience. They may choose to validate their knowledge and adding titles to their name by earning advanced certifications in their specialities such as nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support, ambulatory care, pharmacotherapy, oncology, and psychiatry from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties or in specialities (Diabetes, Geriatrics, Anticoagulation) offered from other certification organizations. You could check with each of the certification board on the requirements to obtain these certifications.

Management is another area of interest to experienced pharmacists. Whether it be in community or hospital settings, pharmacists who are interested in administration and the overall mission of their department within their organization may choose to pursue a career in administration. Although not required, pharmacists may pursue another advanced degree such as a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or another related field (MPH) to further develop their skills. Many pharmacy schools offer dual-degree pharmacy programs where a student can earn two degrees in one program: Doctor of Pharmacy and another degree such as an MBA. Pharmacy administrators, managers or directors as they are more commonly known, handle the overall operations of a pharmacy. This could include more or less managing employees (pharmacists, technicians), reviewing their performances and schedules, managing department budget, handling inventory and product recall issues, complying with every pertinent state and federal pharmacy law as to the proper practice of pharmacy, attending meetings, and handling complaints. Managers usually have a higher pay in salary and a typical Monday thru Friday schedule. However, they may have to work on-call after hours and weekends, as well as cover for their employees in the event of staff shortages.