There are a multitude of reasons why pharmacy students choose to pursue a career in specialty pharmacy. While some may want to work with orphan drugs and others may wish to treat patient populations with rare disease states, many are drawn to the specialty pharmacy by it’s potential for growth.

As an aspiring specialty pharmacist, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare yourself. Pharmacy schools are filled with opportunities to grow, network, and differentiate yourself, and by engaging in some of these activities, you’ll be well on your way to transforming yourself into an ideal candidate.

Work Experience
One of the best things you can do is gain work experience while you are in school. A good first step is to check for specialty pharmacies around your area. Once you’ve made a list of potential employers, check their websites to see if they have a career section or an area to submit an application. They may have postings for internship positions on their website or listed on job search sites.

An internship within a specialty setting will provide students a wide range of experiences, including exposure to specific products only seen in this area of practice, a chance to observe the high-touch monitoring and clinical information that specialty pharmacies provide, an overview of how reimbursement works within this specific space, and an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the day-to-day workflow in all areas of a specialty pharmacy. 

Make sure your resume is polished before reaching out to these companies. For those who are interested in optimizing their resume, most universities have an office of career services. This is a great resource to gain feedback and improve your resume. You may even have a faculty mentor or an upper classman review. Don’t hesitate to ask them to look over your resume, they may be able to give you more specialized tips than the career services office, who are not practicing in the field of pharmacy.

If specialty pharmacies in your area don’t have any jobs listed online, reach out to their leadership directly and ask if there are any available intern positions. You never know if an opportunity will arise. 

Networking
Building connections is among the most important things you can do during your time in pharmacy school. A great resource for networking opportunities is to join your pharmacy school’s chapter of Academy of Managed Care Pharmacists (AMCP). This organization encompasses all aspects of managed care and includes many individuals in the specialty industry. If your school for some reason does not have a local chapter on campus, consider taking the opportunity to start one.

The benefits of AMCP membership are numerous. You can add leadership positions to your resume by becoming a student officer for your campus’ local chapter. For those looking for even more experience, you can volunteer to work as a member of AMCP’s national committees, a number of which include student representatives. You can check the AMCP website for the available committee slots, requirements, and instructions on how to apply.

The AMCP also has national conferences with the AMCP Annual Meeting occurring every March-April, and the AMCP Nexus Meeting held in the fall, which are terrific places to network with pharmacy leaders from all over the country. Even more interesting for students, the AMCP holds a yearly P&T competition with AMCP student members competing at local level before potentially moving on to the national finals. The final competition occurs at the AMCP Annual Meeting.

For those who are interested in interfacing and networking on a more regional level, the AMCP also has numerous regional and state chapters. These localized branches include even more opportunities for students to meet and connect with specialty pharmacists.

Advanced Practice Rotations
For those about to head into their last year of pharmacy school, there are even more opportunities to continue your development. Most students will have the option to select at least one or two elective rotation sites during their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) year.

Rotations will provide you with an introduction to aspects of specialty pharmacy that you may not even see at your normal internship site. This includes exposure to workflow management, medications not found in other practice settings, clinical management of these complex disease states, and insurance concerns with these products. As such, advanced practice rotations are another great way to further get your name out into the specialty world.

Some students may also have a part of the year set aside for research or independent study during the professional phases of the curriculum. You may want to seek out faculty members of your school who have experience in the specialty field, and ask if they have any opportunities you could use to fill this rotation block.

Research experience looks great on a resume and is a mechanism to differentiate yourself from other candidates. This research can also be submitted and presented at national meetings.

Post-Graduate Preparation
There are residencies and fellowships available for graduates who are looking to become specialty pharamcists.

For those who want to learn more about these opportunities, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and AMCP both hold residency showcases where specialty pharmacy programs appear.  The ASHP residency showcase is held each December during their midyear meeting, while AMCP’s residency showcase is held in the Fall during their yearly Nexus meeting.

Conclusion
Overall, the amount of ways you can engage in the specialty world as a student are numerous. There are a multitude of opportunities to both build your network and a strong resume. By keeping yourself engaged and active during your time in pharmacy school, you have the chance to make important connections, and gain valuable experience that can help you achieve your goals. 
 
Matthew Sullivan, PharmD is a 2017 graduate of the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy.

Jonathan Ogurchak, PharmD, is Vice President for Business Operations at PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy.