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Pharmacist or Pharmaceutical Scientist

Should you be a pharmacist or a pharmaceutical scientist? To help you decide which career path and degree might be best for you, ask yourself these questions:

Do I Want To…

Work with patients as part of a health care team?

If yes, be a pharmacist!

If yes, be a pharmacist! Pharmacists provide direct patient care and work with existing medications and other health care professionals in a variety of practice settings. They may specialize or focus on a specific patient population (e.g., pediatrics) or disease state (e.g., diabetes). To practice pharmacy in the U.S., you must earn a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and pass a state licensure exam. Only licensed pharmacists are permitted to work with patients. Explore this website to learn more about pharmacist education and careers!

Focus on research?

If yes, be a pharmaceutical scientist!

Pharmaceutical scientists work in labs or offices to develop new medicines or improve the way medicines are delivered. They may focus on one or more areas of research, such as biotechnology, drug manufacturing, health outcomes, medical technology, pharmacology, and cosmetic sciences to name a few. You may need to complete a graduate (master’s or Ph.D.) degree after college to work as a researcher in a pharmaceutical company, university, regulatory agency (e.g., FDA), or national laboratory (e.g., NIH).

Work with patients and do research?

If yes, you can do both!

Pharmacists can serve in both practice and research roles, including clinical trial research with patients. Students who are interested in pursuing both career pathways may wish to consider a dual-degree program (e.g., Pharm.D./Ph.D.) or additional training or experiences after completing a Pharm.D. degree.

Want to learn more about pharmaceutical science?

Are you a high school student interested in becoming a pharmacist or pharmaceutical scientist? Check out the BS Pharmacy Science List (Google Sheet) to view pre-pharmacy and other feeder programs offered by AACP member institutions.

Visit the Pharmaceutical Graduate Education page to find common areas of study, degrees, and careers for pharmaceutical scientists. If you are a college student or graduate, check out the Graduate Program Directory to find the master’s or Ph.D. programs that are best suited for you.