7 Steps to Rock and Roll Your Way to Graduation From Pharmacy School

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Winter 2018
Volume 12
Issue 1

At first glance, a pharmacy student nearing graduation might think that he or she can just cruise through to graduation; the hard work is done, right?

At first glance, a pharmacy student nearing graduation might think that he or she can just cruise through to graduation; the hard work is done, right?

Wrong. Checking out right before graduation or going on autopilot is a terrible approach to becoming a pharmacist. With 6 months or less to graduation, now is the time to crank up the volume in order to land an ideal gig upon graduating.

It is essential to make the last few months of pharmacy school count. Below are 7 major steps on how to make the final months of your pharmacy school experience the best they can be so you can become the rock star pharmacist you were always meant to be! Follow these, and you’ll be well on your way to the pharmacy hall of fame.

1. Rock Your Final Rotations

Success on your final few rotations is absolutely a must, as you may need references for your residencies, fellowships, and job applications, and now is the time for you to be shopping and interviewing for your first postgraduate experience. Make sure, however, you don’t blow off your final few rotations, as they are likely to have an impact—positive or negative—on your career launch.

Because you may also need some time off to interview during your final few months of rotations, make sure your relationships with your preceptors are well managed. Be proactive and honest with your final few preceptors about interviews; if you work extra hard and fully dedicate yourself to your final rotation sites, your preceptors may be more flexible with you.

2. Rock the Favorite Career Route

It’s likely that you have already decided whether you want to pursue a residency or a fellowship after pharmacy school. You hopefully crushed it at Midyear or AMCP Nexus last year, and now it is time for the match process to continue with longer interviews. Because fellowships tend to accept applications and conduct interviews earlier than do residencies, you may have already nailed this down if that was the path you chose; if so, congratulations!

If you prefer to take the residency route, make sure that you do not accept a different job offer prior to the match process completion. It is critical not to burn a bridge even before you become a licensed pharmacist, and accepting an offer only to renege later is a bad way to start a career. Pharmacy is a small world, and employers have long memories, so it is important to be honest with everyone with whom you are interviewing during your final few months of pharmacy school. If you really want to go toward the residency but have a job offer, try to see whether the potential employer can wait until the match process has completed; some may not allow you to wait that long, but at least they’ll appreciate your honesty and professionalism.

3. Rock Your References

If you’re bound for a residency or fellowship, chances are that you have already locked in your references; if not, now is the time. Ask for letters from the professors and preceptors with whom you clicked, making sure to tell them your general time frame. Additionally, provide them your top 5 strengths, and give them a sense of what you’d like them to focus on in their letters.

For example, students who have asked me to provide references know that I’m not going to be able to comment on their clinical skills with patients because I don’t work in a patient care setting, nor do I have an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences rotation in patient care. It is important to cover all facets of the job post graduation and find references who can back all your skills up to the job description.

4. Rock Your Network

Hopefully you’ve already been collecting your references, connections, preceptors, and professors over at LinkedIn; if you haven’t, start now. Get a professional head shot, work with a savvy preceptor in social media on polishing your LinkedIn profile, résumé, and curriculum vitae, and get your network growing right away. Building social capital and gathering your network now can plant seeds of opportunity for the future. You want to build your connections and your network over the course of your career so that people can find you later on when they might be looking for you.

5. Rock the Boards

The pass rates for the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) have not been stellar overall since the change to the competencies of the examination, and the coming changes to the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) may be a challenge as well.1,2

Take both examinations—the law examination (MPJE or other law examination based on your state or jurisdiction) and the NAPLEX—seriously. The last thing you want to do is accept a job offer and then have to take the board examinations multiple times to become licensed. Take study review courses in the state or states you are attempting to get licensed in, and consider review books and resources as you near graduation. These examinations are not something you can easily breeze through; do it once, do it right, and be done with them!

6. Rock Your Student Loans

Debt is a lack of freedom, so make it a goal to fully understand how much student loan debt you’re going to have upon graduation, to know the interest rates you’ll be paying, and to figure out a way to pay the debt off as quickly as possible. Until that debt is gone, you should also consider living frugally—much like a student—for a couple of more years so you can pay off the loans. Meet with your university’s financial or student loan department before graduation so you’ll fully understand the plan to pay back this debt.

7. Rock the Unexpected

If your school didn’t already require you to obtain a professional liability insurance policy, it’s time to look into one. They’re generally more affordable for new graduates, and even though most employers will cover you up to a certain point for a professional liability lawsuit, it’s never enough. Do yourself a favor and look into a policy now before you enter the vortex of graduation, studying for boards, and working in the real world.

Congratulations on making it this far! Just be sure to keep the energy up. With the steps above, you should be off and running as a first-time pharmacist in no time at all. Good luck!

Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, PAHM, is a health outcomes pharmacist, Pharmacy Podcast Network cohost, writer, entrepreneur, attorney, preceptor, career coach, and STEM advocate. She has written several books on careers in pharmacy, including The Life Science Lawyer and The New Pharmacist: 46 Doses of Advice. More on Dr. Albert can be found on her website, erinalbert.com.


  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Multistate pharmacy jurisprudence examination passing rates for 2014-2016 graduates per pharmacy school. nabp.pharmacy/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2016-MPJE-Pass-Rates.pdf. Published February 15, 2017. Accessed December 30, 2017.
  • 2. Catizone, C. Historic trends provide context to 2016 NAPLEX and MPJE performance data. Pharm Times®. pharmacytimes.com/practice-insights/historic-trends-provide-context-to-2016-naplex-and-mpje-performance-data. Published January 10, 2017. Accessed December 30, 2017.

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