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Choosing a Career in Pharmacy? Here’s a guide to get you started with your planning

As medication therapy experts and professionals, pharmacists offer invaluable patient care and are an integral part of the healthcare industry.

Pursuing pharmacy entails cultivating a comprehensive knowledge of prescription and non-prescription medication, not to mention the key skills needed to succeed in the field. This includes problem-solving, attention to detail, communication, commitment to lifelong learning, and broad knowledge of scientific disciplines.

The Canadian pharmacy market has known a significant influx in the past few years, especially considering the increase in demand for pharmaceutical products and services. Choosing a career in pharmacy comes with excellent job opportunities and exemplary education.

If you’re wondering what it takes to earn that white coat, here’s a quick guide to get you started with your planning.

What should you consider before applying?

Although no pharmacy volunteer or work experience is required to qualify for a pharmacy or undergraduate program, most universities recommend learning about pharmacy practice to gain a fundamental understanding of the profession. So, you may want to consider scheduling one or more informational interviews with local pharmacists to get to know the skills, values, and knowledge this role requires. Most pharmacists will be happy to meet with you and answer your questions as a prospective applicant.

Which High School Courses Should You Take to Become a Pharmacist?

Since most pharmacy programs require a strong background in sciences, you should take advanced-level classes in math, physics, biology, and chemistry. In addition to this, you should also have good verbal and written communication skills. You can even go the extra mile and pursue extracurriculars like working or volunteering in a nursing home or joining organizations like HOSA for Future Health Professionals, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America.

Direct Entry vs. Undergraduate Program and Pharmacy School

There are two paths to consider as a prospective pharmacist.

One path requires pursuing a traditional science-based undergraduate program while the other consists of a direct entry to a pharmacy program. While an undergraduate program usually lasts 4 years, you can apply to the pharmacy program of your choice after only 2 years if you complete the courses required for admission. Going the undergraduate way means you will be applying to a Bachelor of Science or BSc.

While the subject of the program is not relevant, you should still choose one that offers an education in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, and toxicology to register for all required courses. Both paths take 6 years, and once you finish your degree, you have to complete a national board examination through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada. To become a licensed pharmacist, you also need to be fluent in English or French and have practical experience either through an internship program or an apprenticeship.

What Schools in Canada Offer Direct Entry vs. Undergraduate Path?

Canada has 10 schools of pharmacy including, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, the University of Alberta, the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University, the University of Saskatchewan, and Université de Montréal and Université Laval (that offer Pharmacy programs in French). You can find the requirements for each pharmacy school here and eligibility here.

The top three universities for a Canadian pharmacy program are the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta, and the University of British Columbia.

If you are contemplating choosing a career in pharmacy, carefully review the key considerations discussed in this guide and try to use your time in high school to get familiar with the profession’s demands.

Research and thorough planning can help you determine what subjects to prioritize and what experience to seek before you send out your applications.

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