As recently as the 1960s, only about 10% of pharmacists in the United States were women. Today, that number is closer to 68%. There are many reasons for the sharp uptick in women working as pharmacists. These range from greater access to education to women wishing to pursue a career instead of or alongside motherhood. But what does it take to become a pharmacist?
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, pharmacists are essential members of the healthcare community, and they play a critical role in ensuring that patients receive the right medication at the right dosage at the right time. These individuals are responsible for dispensing medications, counseling patients on proper drug usage, and helping to monitor for side effects. Pharmacists also provide education and counseling on many different health topics, including disease prevention and medication management.
To become a pharmacist, Marla Ahlgrimm says that you have to earn a degree of pharmacy from an accredited pharmacy school. The Pharm.D. program is a four-year program that usually requires two years of pre-pharmacy coursework followed by four years of professional pharmacy study.
The next step is to pass the NAPLEX, or the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. You are also required to pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). These are national and state exams, respectively, that work to assess your knowledge of pharmacy laws and regulations.
Marla Ahlgrimm notes that the next step in becoming a pharmacist is to complete an internship or residency in a pharmacy setting. She explains that an intern is supervised by a licensed pharmacist and receives hands-on training. A residency is a post-graduate training program that offers specialized training in clinical, oncology, nuclear, or other special-interest areas.
Why Women Make Great Pharmacists
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, both men and women can make excellent pharmacists, but women tend to naturally have a passion for helping others. Women are also excellent communicators and typically have keen interpersonal skills. In addition to these, pharmacists must also have strong analytical and problem-solving skills and an unrivaled attention to detail.
Another great reason for women to pursue a career in pharmacy is the job outlook. The annual median salary for pharmacists as of 2020 was more than $128,000 per year. Just as importantly, employment in the industry is expected to grow 14% by 2020, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Marla Ahlgrimm says that this growth is perpetuated by an increased demand for pharmaceutical care as the number of aging Americans continues to increase.
Where Do Pharmacists Work?
Marla Ahlgrimm says that a pharmacist can work in many different types of settings. She chose the bulk of her career to work in women’s health as a compounding pharmacist. Pharmacists may also work in hospitals, clinics, retail, or other health care settings. Many pharmacists also choose to work in research and development within the pharmaceuticals industry. In this capacity, a pharmacist might help create new drugs.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, young women who are interested in a career as a pharmacist should begin steering themselves in that direction as early as high school. Courses in math, science, and chemistry are highly valuable. She also recommends volunteering at a pharmacy or hospital and shadowing the pharmacist, if possible.
Ultimately, while men also make excellent pharmacists, Marla Ahlgrimm says that women have many of the natural abilities needed to ensure they’ll thrive in the industry.