Degrees And Certificates That Lead To Careers In Pharmaceutical Industry

Updated on December 9, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.34.29 AMA 2013 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and Olmstead Medical Center found that 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug daily. The number of people taking at least two prescriptions stands at 50 percent, while 20 percent of patients take five or more medications. The Affordable Care Act, which began enrolling new customers via insurance exchanges on October 1, is expected to provide upwards of 20 million previously uninsured people prescription drug benefits.

Needless to say, pharmaceutical-related careers will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. There are several different paths one can take to enter the pharmaceutical field.

Pharmacy Technician

When you go to Walgreens or CVS to pick up your prescription, the first person you will likely come into contact with is a pharmacy technician. They are the ones who count tablets, measure liquid medications, label prescription bottles, process insurance claims and perform other duties as the supervising pharmacist requests. Some pharmacy technicians learn their craft on-the-job, but the best way to get your foot in the door is by completing a training program. Community colleges and vocational schools offer certificate and degree programs that typically last five months to one year. Prospective students can start their search for the right program at Most states have regulations for pharmacy technicians, and many employers will pay for their technicians to take the required exams.

Physician Assistant

The PA profession began in the 1960s when a military physician, Dr. Charles Hudson, recommended the American Medical Association (AMA) create non-medical personnel who were trained on-the-job. He got the idea from working in military medical facilities and having to quickly train medical personnel for emergency situations. Hudson’s work ultimately led to the AMA creating educational guidelines and certificate programs for PA’s in 1970, according to Dr. Reginald Carter of Duke University.

Today these assistants can do almost everything a doctor can with the right supervision and training. PAs are in high demand due to the role they have taken at walk-in retail clinics, such as those at Wal-Mart and Walgreens. Patient visits to these in-store medical facilities quadrupled from 2007 to 2009, and topped 10 million visits total in 2012, according to a Harvard Medical School report. PAs diagnose a limited scope of ailments and work closely with these clinic’s pharmacists to devise treatments.

A good number of PAs already have experience as EMTs or paramedics before entering the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. PAs can earn their license from the state typically after six to eight years of undergraduate and post-graduate studies. There are currently 173 programs in the United States accredited by the Physician Assistant Education Association, and 10 more in the developmental stages.

Nurse Practitioners & Caregivers

Nurse practitioners and caregivers are also in high demand for the same reasons as PAs: retail clinics. Nurse Practioners, like PAs, can treat and diagnose a limited scope of diseases with the right training and supervision. Most states require NPs to have a master’s degree or national certification in order to practice. There are currently 17 states that allow NPs to practice without physician supervision, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. The National Institute of Medicine interprets the laws of Maryland and Utah as NP-independent as well, bringing the total to 19 states.

The industry for caring for the elderly will never go out of style, and there’s always demand for caregivers and home health specialists. Home care services like NJ Senior Care are expanding, as they cover a wide range of services such as personal care assistance, home care assistance and personalized schedules. Just look into nursing programs that deal with elder care and home health, and you’ll be on your way.

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