Getting Into the .EDU: Tips for Entering Pharmacy Academia

Career Manager By Deanna Tran, PharmD

Pharmacy academia is a rewarding experience, with a wide range of possible focuses including social and administrative sciences, medicinal sciences, biological sciences, pharmacy practice and clinical sciences, continuing education, experiential education, and pharmaceutics. There is also diversity within the day-to-day schedule of an academician, which may encompass any of the following: teaching; research; and service to the college of pharmacy, community, and profession. There are also many opportunities to make an impact on the future of the profession.

The three “legs” of academia
To be a successful academician, an individual must maintain a balance of the three “legs.” Some examples of these three categories are below. It is best to check with each college of pharmacy about what qualifies as scholarship, teaching, and service.

  • Scholarship: Research, grants, publications, poster presentations, podium and invited presentations, and innovative services within the practice site.
  • Teaching: Lecturer, preceptor, facilitator, and lab coordinator.
  • Service: Providing services at the practice site, as well as professional involvement and leadership within the university, college of pharmacy, practice site, profession, and community.

Academic positions may require the following prerequisites:

  • PharmD, PhD, or master’s degree in the relevant field of pharmacy.
  • Completed PGY1 or PGY2 pharmacy residency and/or fellowship in the relevant field of pharmacy.
  • Licensure in the state in which the position is held.
  • Strong communication skills in order to effectively interact with students, faculty, patients, fellow pharmacists, and other health care professionals.
  • Experience in teaching and research.

Job postings
Available academic positions may be found through the following resources:

  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Career database
  • American College of Clinical Pharmacy Career Connection database
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ CareerPharm database
  • Local state association job postings
  • College of pharmacy website
  • Mentors, colleagues, residency preceptors, and directors

The timeline
Positions may open at any time throughout the year, but are most commonly starting in  November. Applications are typically due between December and January, and interviews usually occur January through March.

Applications may require any of the following:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Teaching philosophy
  • Research philosophy/research interests
  • Letter of intent/cover letter
  • References

It is also advisable to direct any questions related to the position to the Chair of the Search Committee. The Search Committee is a group of faculty members that reviews all application materials. They often conduct preliminary interviews, invite candidates for interviews, and provide a recommendation about who should be hired to the department chair and/or the Dean. The Chair is the best person to ask about the timeline of the application process including deadlines and when interviews will take place.

Below is a brief list of suggestions to consider or ask about. It is important to find a position that best matches your short- and long-term goals, as well as your abilities and interests. 

  • The institution
    • What is the institution’s mission and vision?
    • How much involvement does the faculty have on the strategic direction of the school?
    • What is the curriculum style? Does the institution emphasize team-based learning, structured lecture style, small group discussions, etc.?
  • The position
    • What is the breakdown of responsibilities for scholarship, research, teaching, and service? It is best to learn about the breakdown and whether or not this aligns with your career goals. The institution may also have an emphasis on a certain area, but the exact percentages of the breakdown may be negotiated after hire. This question would be directed to the individual evaluating you, which could be the department chair and/or the Dean.
    • Is this position tenure or non-tenure track? Tenure-track faculty have a specific timeline that they must follow for promotion and tenure review. They also often have higher scholarship requirements. Non-tenure track faculty may have more practice-based responsibilities and may have no timeline for reaching promotion.
    • Practice site (if applicable). What is the assigned practice site(s), and has the site already been established? What are the responsibilities associated with the university and the practice site How is the position funded? Is it fully funded by the school, or co-funded by the practice site?
  • Career development
    • How much mentorship is available for junior faculty in your area of focus?
    • How will you be evaluated for success and promotion?
    • What support will you have for professional development?

An academician has the opportunity to lay the foundation of knowledge for future pharmacists and give them the inspiration to help propel the profession. You could contribute to new innovative practices and scientific knowledge!

Deanna Tran, PharmD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore.