Prescription for Success: How to Get a Job as a Pharmacist

Pharm Student Ly Tran
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Are you a problem-solver with a scientific mindset? If you’ve got people skills and awesome attention to detail in equal measures, you might want to consider a career in pharmacy.

University of Texas graduate Ly Tran is in his final year of pharmacy school at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy at Texas A&M Health Science Center. Guest blogger Melissa Nguyen interviews Ly to get the lowdown on how to get into pharmacy school and what it takes to make it as a pharmacist.

How did you decide on pharmacy and prepare for pharmacy school?

I decided on pharmacy because when I was 14 years old, I had brain surgery to remove a benign brain tumor and developed a close connection with my local pharmacist after my operation. The pharmacist was really helpful and more than willing to help my family and me out; and because of that I gained interest in becoming a pharmacist.

My college major at the University of Texas was Bachelor of Sciences in Nutritional Sciences. I chose this as a major because it had all of the pre-reqs for pharmacy school. Applications are stressful because you have to take the standardized entrance exam, the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), to apply and you have to meet a certain score. Applications also consist of letters of recommendation and an interview if the school is considering accepting you.

What is a typical day for you as a pharmacy student?

I attend the Texas A&M Health Science Center at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. It is pretty stressful: The first year of pharmacy school is mainly just classes and they last from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day and then labs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. We would have exams every Monday and Wednesday, and sometimes Fridays at times, along with various projects/assignments/quizzes during that week.

As a pharmacy student, we are required to do 30 hours of community service including taking patients’ blood pressure, blood glucose, and monitoring their cholesterol levels. Second year of pharmacy school consists of classes/labs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays we are assigned to go on rotations at either a hospital or retail setting for 8.5 hours. Third year consists of all classes, and the fourth year requires us to do six cycles of six-week rotations in different pharmacy settings such as “general medicine,” which takes place during clinical practice and focuses on disease states; “ambulatory care” at a primary physician’s office, for example, helping manage diabetes treatment and anticoagulant therapy; and “the hospital pharmacy,” where you would fill pharmacy orders.

What have you enjoyed most about pharmacy school?

I really enjoyed learning the basic sciences such as pathophysiology and different disease states and being able to understand different medications and how they would help. Also, it was during pharmacy school that I met some lifelong friends.

What were the biggest challenges of getting into pharmacy school, and the hardest part once you got in?

The biggest challenge of getting into pharmacy school is basically all the pressure. It requires the PCAT, grades, recommendation letters, volunteer/work experience and—then the biggest part—the interview. The hardest part once you’re in is learning how to balance the workload in your life. Pharmacy school requires a lot of work and time.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I am really interested in pharmacy management, so I would like to start off working as a pharmacist for a little while to get used to the work flow, and then move up to pharmacist-in-charge, and hopefully become a pharmacy supervisor in the future.

What advice do you have for students looking to get into pharmacy?

Gain work experience. Work experience is very crucial because during the interview, 80–90% of the questions are based on what you learned while working, how it has shaped your perspective, and what valuable lessons you gained that can be applied to your career as a pharmacist.

P.S. If you’re currently a pharmacy student, be sure to check out (and apply to!) the AfterCollege Pharmacy Student Scholarship, which is awarded on a quarterly basis. If you haven’t already, you can also connect with pharmacy students and learn about job opportunities in your field through your school’s chapter of The Rho Chi Society.

As a sickly child with an overactive imagination, Melissa Nguyen found herself propped up on her elbows in front of her local pharmacist often. She is thankful that pharmacy schools churn out such thoughtful professionals that listened to her long list of ailments. Find that detailed list and more of Melissa’s freelance writing at writingsbymelissanguyen.wordpress.com.

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