“Ask your doctor or pharmacist about risks and side effects.” Hundreds of people in Germany comply with this request every day.
Duties of the pharmacist
The pharmacist is often the first point of contact when it comes to the correct use of a medication. Even with a cold, many first ask the pharmacist for advice. In order for the customer to receive optimal advice, he must know the composition of the prescription-only and over-the-counter medicines exactly. There are almost 58,000 preparations on the market, from antibiotics to zinc tablets. So not an easy task. But the pharmacist can do even more than advise customers. If necessary, he carries out simple tests such as measuring blood pressure himself and also produces his own ointments and herbal teas.
The subject of pharmacy
The pharmacy degree prepares prospective pharmacists extensively for their later professional activities. In terms of its structure, it is similar to studying medicine: the basic and main courses of four semesters are followed by the state examination and the practical year. In the basic course, the scientific and pharmaceutical basics are on the program. Students study biology and chemistry and learn about various herbal and pharmaceutical active ingredients. In the laboratory, they determine medicinal plants under the microscope and mix active ingredients together.
An eight-week internship in a pharmacy or a company in the pharmaceutical industry provides initial insights into professional practice. At the end of the fourth semester, the knowledge learned so far will be asked in four multiple-choice exams.
After passing the first state examination, the students deepen their knowledge in the five fields of pharmacy.
- In pharmaceutical chemistry, they deal, among other things, with how to obtain drugs.
- In pharmaceutical biology, for example, students learn to extract active ingredients from medicinal plants.
- In pharmaceutical technology, they deal with the industrial manufacture of tablets and other medicinal products.
- Clinical pharmacy is about the optimal treatment of patients.
- In pharmacology, students learn how which drugs work in the body.
The main course concludes after four semesters with the second state examination in the form of five oral exams.
The practical year
After the second state examination, the practical year is coming. This includes an internship in a public pharmacy for at least six months. The remaining six months can either be continued in a pharmacy or in a pharmaceutical company, a specialty pharmacy or a drug testing facility. Block seminars on pharmacy law complete the practical training.
At the end of the year there is the third state examination or pharmacist examination. It tests what the students have learned in the internships they have completed. After successfully passing the test, they receive the license to practice medicine or are allowed to practice as a pharmacist.
Studying pharmacy – study opportunities and requirements
Pharmacy studies are only possible at universities. Just like studying medicine, studying pharmacy remains a state examination. Some universities also offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the pharmaceutical field. However, these are aimed exclusively at students who want to enter the pharmaceutical industry.
A license to become a pharmacist is only possible after the third state examination. Licensed pharmacists, on the other hand, have the opportunity to continue their training in a master’s degree and thus open up new professional fields. Among other things, Master’s programs with a focus on drug development or drug approval are offered.
Academic and personal requirements
One of the greatest difficulties on the way to becoming a pharmacist is already applying for a degree. All applications are submitted through the Foundation for University Admissions (formerly ZVS). Some of the study places are allocated based on the Abitur average. In the winter semester 2012/2013 this was between 1.2 and 1.7. Another part of the study places is allocated after waiting time, the majority according to the selection process of the individual universities. Here, too, the average school leaving certificate is usually decisive, but the NC is not quite as high.
Prospective students should above all have good knowledge of scientific subjects such as chemistry, physics and biology. In later professional life, social skills such as communication skills and empathy are also required.
Studied pharmacy abroad
Studying abroad offers pharmaceutical students the opportunity to get to know the health system and medical care better in other countries. A study visit to Asia, for example, gives students an insight into alternative healing methods, which are also increasingly in demand in Germany.
In addition to the specialist knowledge, the students also train their foreign language skills and intercultural skills during a stay abroad. You can use these well in later everyday work.
Occupational fields for graduates of a degree in pharmacy
Most graduates of the pharmacy course later work as employees in a pharmacy or open their own pharmacy. A distinction is made between public pharmacies and specialty pharmacies, for example in hospitals.
Only around 20 percent of the graduates are not behind the pharmacy table later. Another possible job is the pharmaceutical industry, where licensed pharmacists manage production or work in the areas of quality management, marketing and sales. Also, health insurance ask a pharmacist. For example, they decide which medicines they will pay for or advise doctors and insured persons. Other employers are drug testing agencies and patent offices. The step into research is also possible. Prerequisite for this is a doctoral degree.