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Their titles may sound and look similar to each other, but pharmacologists and pharmacists have different roles. Pharmacologists study the effects that medications have on the human body, and pharmacists fill the prescriptions that medical doctors write. Students considering pharmacology vs. pharmacy careers should consider the day-to-day responsibilities of each. Working in a research lab for a pharmaceutical company or in a university makes for a very different career than working in a public-facing pharmacy.
Difference Between Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Both pharmacists and pharmacologists work with medicines, but in different ways. Pharmacologists work primarily in research facilities, studying the ways that different drugs and therapies work, and also in developing new drugs to effectively treat medical conditions, with minimal side effects. Pharmacologists generally study the effects of drugs on people, although some of these scientists specialize in drugs and therapies used on animal or plant life.
As pharmacologists ensure that there are safe and effective drugs on the market, pharmacists connect real patients with the drugs that they need. They fill prescriptions, counsel patients about how to safely use their prescriptions and consult with physicians about the appropriate types and dosages of medications that patients should be given.
Salary to Expect in Pharmacy
Pharmacists earn generous salaries, in general. The median annual pharmacist salary was $124,170 in May 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Median means that half of pharmacists earned more than $124,170 and half earned less.) The median hourly pay rate was $59.70. The top 10 percent of earners made annual salaries of more than $159,410.
Salary to Expect in Pharmacology
The BLS doesn't report salary data specific to pharmacology, so pinpointing an accurate average pharmacologist salary is challenging. A 2017 survey done by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists reveals some useful information, however. Responding pharmaceutical scientists who work in the United States had an average base salary of $151,700. The top 25 percent earned salaries above $189,000.
Becoming a Pharmacist
Becoming as a pharmacist is much more complicated than simply learning to count out pills. In the United States, the process typically takes around eight years: four years for college and four years in a graduate pharmacy program, culminating with the granting of a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (commonly abbreviated as Pharm.D.). Some universities offer "0-6" programs, in which students complete two years of undergraduate work before moving directly into the school's graduate pharmacy program, thus graduating with a Pharm.D. in six years. All graduates must pass a state licensure exam before working as a pharmacist.
Becoming a Pharmacologist
Like the pharmacy field, pharmacology is complex and highly scientific – but unlike a pharmacist, a new pharmacologist isn't absolutely required to obtain a doctorate and doesn't have to pass any licensing exams. An aspiring pharmacologist should start by earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, genetics, biology or a similar field before applying to graduate programs. Many major universities offer graduate programs in pharmacology. Depending on a candidate's career aspirations and other factors, he or she may pursue a master's degree or Ph.D. in pharmacology.
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- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pharmacists
- American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists: AAPS Salary Survey
- University of Illinois at Chicago: What Is Pharmacology?
- UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy: Careers in Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Oregon State University College of Pharmacy: Pharm. D. Frequently Asked Questions
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Pharmacy Admissions
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images