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Registered nurses and pharmacists both fill vital roles in health care, but they follow different educational paths. A nurse who wishes to become a pharmacist needs additional education to receive a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, known as a Pharm.D. Although nurse's training typically provides most of the prerequisites for pharmacy school, a nurse usually needs at least four more years of education to become a pharmacist.
Both nursing and pharmacy degrees require completion of classes in general education, math and science. For example, in many colleges, students in the first two years of both specialties take classes in anatomy, physiology, biology and biochemistry. After these courses, the two programs typically take different paths. At some colleges, nurses who have completed the first two years and taken all the pharmacy entrance requirements may transition directly into the Pharm.D. program. However, other pharmacy schools require students to complete a four-year college degree before admission.
Nurses can qualify as RNs through different types of programs. An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, normally takes approximately two years, while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, usually takes four years. However, the two additional years in a BSN program focus on nursing practice and administration -- not on the science and pharmacology classes typically required for pharmacy school. Both ADN and BSN graduates may need to take additional prerequisites before beginning pharmacy school, depending on the professional school's admission requirements. In most cases, they will also need four years to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Advanced Nursing Degrees
RNs with an advanced nursing degree such as a master's or doctorate may or may not have taken classes that satisfy some of the pharmacy school graduation requirements. Even though classes may have similar titles, the depth of the work may not satisfy the requirements for a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The best sources of information on transferring coursework are the admissions and counseling offices of each school of pharmacy.
Nurses with Special Experience
Some registered nurses have worked in an intensive care unit or other unit where titrating intravenous fluids and administering numerous drugs is part of the daily workload. Nurses with this experience probably have a head start over other pharmacy students who are unfamiliar with different classes of drugs and their actions.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Pharmacists
- North Dakota State University: Pharmacy Fact Sheet
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Registered Nurses
- Case Western Reserve University: Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing -- BSN Program
- UCLA Career Center: Pre-Health Career Services -- Pharmacy
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.