How to Become an Academic Pharmacist | Academia

by | Dec 10, 2020 | Career, Career Path

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This article is a part of a series of The Many Paths of Pharmacy, which has 48 other pharmacy career paths.

Summary – Pharmacists in Academia

Academic pharmacists have the ability to develop and influence the next generation of healthcare professionals. The category often refers to those who belong to a university faculty, specifically a college of pharmacy, though it can include serving as a college dean and teaching in an off-campus or classroom setting. When considering faculty positions, an important consideration that should be taken into account is what percent distribution of responsibilities for each of the following three parts of academic positions: 

  1. Scholarship – research, publications, presentations, and grants.
  2. Teaching – lecturer, preceptor, facilitator, and lab coordinator.
  3. Service – university leadership, committee and accreditation work, professional involvement with the profession, community service

A fourth “leg” would be administration when applicable to the role. 

Many academic jobs combine teaching with clinical practice. Research and scholarship are important components of academic jobs, however, the amount of time one spends on conducting and disseminating research or ideas may vary by position. Research in academia may focus on patient care or focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning. 


Responsibilities of an Academic Pharmacist

Academic pharmacists may also be responsible for the following:

  • Fulfilling administrative duties – course directing, leading committees, managing a team of individuals (in academic leadership positions)
  • Conducting scientific or academic research
  • Teaching student pharmacists in lecture or discussion formats
  • Supervising and peer-reviewing research
  • Speaking in large or small group settings
  • Publishing their research
  • Advising students
  • Overseeing experiential practice sites
  • Participating in the design or conduct of assessments

Those in clinical practice may also work with other healthcare professionals to select and adjust medication regimens for patients. They may also engage in medication therapy management. 

Requirements of an Academic Pharmacist

Academic positions often demand a BSPharm or PharmD, a PhD, or a master’s degree in a relevant field, however not every position demands higher education beyond a pharmacy degree. Additionally, a PGY1 or PGY2 residency in the relevant field is typically preferred, as well as experience in teaching and research. 

Discover how Elizabeth St. Louis used our coaching program to transition into Academia without a Residency:Making the Transition to a Role in Academia with Elizabeth St. Louis

Academic pharmacists must have strong communication skills to interact with student pharmacists, patients, faculty, other pharmacists, other students, and other healthcare professionals. You’ll also likely need licensure in the state you’re operating in.

Although there are exceptions to every rule, many pharmacy professors build their instruction around personal experiences and examples, so those pharmacists who have experience in the field may have better odds at success in the classroom. 

This Pharmacy Academia Career Description is a part of The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Career Opportunities, part of our future book POTENTIAL.

Salary of an Academic Pharmacist

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reports that the average salary for a full-time professor is $166,600 for the 2016-2017 academic year. Assistant professors average about $106,900 to start, which is well below the starting salary for other areas of the industry. However, this salary estimate does not take into account faculty who are hired by their practice site, in which case a starting (and the average) salary is comparable to other pharmacists in similar roles. 

Pros and Cons of Being an Academic Pharmacist

Those in the field point to a number of pros, such as the ability to work in a variety of locations, a significant need for innovation, frequent opportunities for advancement and leadership, and ample benefits like vacation time, health insurance, tuition reimbursement for family members, professional development funds,  and retirement. Additionally, those in academia enjoy a high level of autonomy and prestige. 

Academia also offers continued professional growth opportunities and flexibility in setting the direction of your career. Additionally, there are many opportunities for mentoring and collaboration. 

The job frequently includes high workloads and few part-time employment opportunities, but the explosion in pharmacy schools has created a need for additional pharmacy professors. Many universities offer adjunct positions that may have fewer requirements and a lower time commitment than standard academic positions.  

How to stand out as a job candidate in Academic Pharmacy

The most successful academic pharmacists are those who have a passion for teaching and a commitment to a specific research area.

  • They are independent, self-motivated, and collaborative. 
  • They have a strong work ethic, which may lead them to volunteer for additional tasks and responsibilities.
  • Those who enlist the help of a mentor and who study the promotion process will be the most successful candidates. 
  • Academic pharmacists enjoy both a direct and indirect impact on patient care as well as frequent opportunities to influence future pharmacists

Reviewed by Alex Barker, PharmD and Jackie Boyle, PharmD (Asst. Dean Northeast Ohio Medical College of Pharmacy)

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Creating Happy Pharmacists

If you really want to build the career and life that you’ve dreamed of, one where you are helping people and working in the field that you love, you need to do something different than what you’ve been doing.

Re-discover why you became a pharmacist and find your passion again.