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While somewhat closely related, the studies of pharmacy and pharmacology are uniquely their own, and students of either program can expect to enter different career paths upon graduation. Pharmacy students can expect to dispense medication in their role as a pharmacist. On the other hand, pharmacologists explore and study the reactions related to use of medicine in the human body.
Pharmacists: Dispensing Medication
Students who wish to work in a pharmacy dispensing medication should aim for a degree in pharmacy. A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D.) along with passage of a state license exam allows graduates to practice pharmacy in the United States. In addition to dispensing medication, pharmacists provide patient and health care professional education about the uses of medications. They are considered medication experts, concerned with managing diseases with medication and distribution use. Pharmacologists do not perform any of these duties; instead, they focus more on the science behind medicine, including how it reacts in the body.
Pharmacists: Helping People Get Well
A pharmacist's main goal is helping patients get well through the use of medicine. They aim to diagnose disease, cure disease, prevent further spread of disease, eliminate or reduce symptoms and alter the physiological process of a patient’s health. Pharmacists achieve these goals by understanding the composition of drugs and their manufacture, as well as their use -- including drug purity and strength. With this knowledge, they make sure patients are treated with the right medicine to help them get well.
Pharmacologists: Studying the Effects Medicine
Well before medications are prescribed and dispensed, pharmacologists study the sources, chemical properties and the effects of medicine in the human body. The study can range anywhere from drug discovery to toxicology, with a wide range of disciplines available within the spectrum of pharmacology. Ultimately, regardless of specialty, a pharmacologist is most concerned with how human health is affected by the effects of drugs, therapies and medicinal products.
Pharmacology: Pharmacodynamics and Pharmacokinetics
Unlike pharmacy, pharmacology includes two closely related areas: pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacodynamics is the study of how drugs affect cellular systems through molecular, biological and physiological effects. Pharmacokintetics then analyze the absorption, delivery and excretion of the drugs from the system. These two components are essential to the study of pharmacology and serve of lesser importance when compared to pharmacy.
Ruth Altman writes on business, lifestyle and careers. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Pepperdine University in addition to a bachelor's degree from Harvard University.
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