Pharmacology is an integral part of modern medicine, but it is not the most commonly talked about career choice. Pharmacology is an excellent option for so many students, but, like any field in medicine, it is challenging to learn. In this article, we hope to give you some tips and tricks to make it easy to learn pharmacology.
What is the Study of Pharmacology All About?
Pharmacology is the study of the drugs we use. Studying pharmacology includes how the drugs function in the body, their intended outcome, and any potential side effects. Pharmacology, like any medical study, can be challenging, but it is an important field.
To be an effective pharmacology student, you will be expected to know the classifications of many common drugs and how they function within the body. Pharmacology can seem like a lot of information to retain, but all of this information is super important to society. It may seem exact, but it is still a medical field, and you don’t want mistakes there.
Why Study Pharmacology?
Studying pharmacology is an excellent option for someone who loves biology and chemistry but isn’t sure that they want to be a doctor or nurse. If you would rather not be the one directly treating the patients for all sorts of crazy injuries, perhaps pharmacology is for you.
Pharmacology is a great field for someone interested in the body and the systems in the body since you will be expected to have a good understanding of how different drugs interact both with the body and with other medications. It can be a gratifying field, as with any medical field, but it also takes a great deal of work to become a good pharmacologist, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find it challenging at first.
Another option within the overarching field of pharmacology is to go into pharmacological research or to work on the development of new drugs. Research plays an essential role in society and modern medicine. Pharmacological research is a great path for someone interested in biology and chemistry but may not want to be directly interacting with patients themselves at all.
Studying Pharmacology: Where to Start?
If you think that pharmacology might be the path for you, it’s best to start early on in your higher education. That way you have time to specialize in pharmacology without needing to go back and catch up on prerequisite courses.
If you think that you might be interested in pharmacology in high school, think about taking any medically focused courses that your school offers. Some high schools offer courses like biomedical science, which can be a great option if you think that a career path in the medical field might be for you. Don’t worry if your high school doesn’t have many options like this. Most people don’t start worrying about what they will be studying until they reach college.
In college, go for a pre-med track with your undergraduate degree. For some schools, this means majoring in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, or something similar. Other schools allow you more freedom with what major you choose, as long as you can still complete the required courses for the pre-med track.
Although a master’s degree is not a requirement to go on to your doctoral level in pharmacology, many pharmacology students choose to get a master’s degree. If you think that you would like to work in a pharmacy in the future, it may be a good idea to get a master’s degree in business or a related field. This can help you in managing a pharmacy later on down the line.
Pharmacology students are expected to get a Doctor of Pharmacology, commonly known as a Pharm.D., in order to practice pharmacology. This degree will typically take about four years and will include classroom study as well as your clinical rotations. This is the pharmacology equivalent to medical school, so it is an intense program.
Since pharmacologists can work in a variety of settings ranging from clinical to research, your rotations are likely to be quite varied. This is a great time to begin to narrow down exactly where within the broad field of pharmacology you want to work. Your rotations allow you to try out a particular part of the field for a short amount of time so take advantage of every opportunity that you are given.
After finishing your Pharm.D., you will need to pass your licensing exams before you are allowed to practice. The most common exam in the US is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination or NAPLEX. There are other exams that you can take depending on where you are looking to work, but the exams all function the same. They test your knowledge and determine if you know enough to be given a license to practice.
If you need prep books for the NAPLEX, we have an article to the best NAPLEX review books here.
What is the Best Way to Study Pharmacology?
The best way to study pharmacology will depend on what level of school you are currently in. The best practice to get into for any schooling level is to study a little bit every day so that you don’t get overwhelmed and allow your brain to fully process all of the information. We recommend that you make a good study schedule and stick to it.
If you need help creating a study schedule, we have an article that can help you out with that too.
Studying pharmacology in undergrad is just like studying any other science in undergrad. You just have to study a little every day. There are so many resources available to undergraduate students to help you transition from high school to college, so make sure you take advantage of things like office hours or tutoring sessions. These can be super useful, and many students don’t go because they don’t think that they need help.
By the time you get to your doctoral degree, you will likely have developed some good study habits and practices that work for you. Studying pharmacology in medical school can be challenging, but it still comes down to studying a little bit every day. At this point in your education, you will likely be thinking about your licensing exam, so this is a great time to start studying for that too.
Studying for your licensing examination isn’t something you can do overnight. This takes time and should be done gradually. Make sure you study all the drugs that you will be expected to know, but we’ll talk more about that later on in the article. The best way to study pharmacology for NAPLEX or whatever licensing exam you are taking is by going through practice questions.
There are some great resources online to help you study as well as some great study books that you might want to invest in. Think about scheduling a few practice exams that you give to yourself, grade, and then review. Practice exams the best way to get a good representation of what you do and don’t know leading up to your exam.
One of the best ways to help you learn pharmacology online is by using Evolv. Evolv is a great website that is designed to help out healthcare students. You can register your textbook and see any supplemental resources that might be available to go along with it. Evolv also has a collection of practice exams that you can use to help quiz yourself as you get closer to your licensing examination.
How to Memorize Drugs Quickly?
There are some tips for memorizing drugs, but this will take time. There is no shortcut to understanding all the different classifications of drugs and how they interact with the body. It will take you time to thoroughly memorize them all. Here are some helpful ways to remember pharmacology drugs.
Since memorizing drugs is just that memorizing, this is a great place to utilize flashcards. Flashcards can be a super useful tool to aid in learning large amounts of information. The best way to use flashcards is a little bit every day. Take some time each day after class to make any new flashcards and add them to your daily rotation of cards to study.
Studying a little bit every day is the best trick out there for memorizing any type of information and having it stick with you. If you try to memorize things, like drug types, in one day, you are much more likely to forget the information a week down the road. Keep studying a little bit every day, and the information is much more likely to be retained.
Another tip for making memorizing drugs easier is to focus on the classes. Classes of drugs typically have some similarity in their names, making them easy to identify, and all function in a similar way in the body. For example, beta-blockers all function in a similar way, and all end in -lol. Sorting drugs into classes can help you organize the information you are learning to make it easier to recall later on down the line.
5 Easy Ways to Study Pharmacology
Study early and frequently
Don’t wait until the week or even weeks before an exam to start studying. There are lots of things to memorize in pharmacology, and if you wait until the last minute to start, you will likely be pretty stressed. Pharmacology is a cumulative field, meaning that you will be required to retain information that you learn, so studying over time can be really beneficial to your long-term retention of the knowledge.
Pharmacology is the perfect place to utilize flashcards. Flashcards are a great resource for studying vocabulary, classifications of drugs, and the drugs themselves. The other great thing about flashcards is that you can save them from one year to the next and continue reviewing as you progress through your education.
While this tip can be used for your licensing exam, this is also a great tip to get you through your education as well. Quizzing or testing yourself is an excellent way to get an idea of how you are likely to perform on a test. Quizzing yourself can be a good indicator of if you understand the material or need to study more.
Once you reach high-level tests, there are plenty of practice tests out there for you to use, but until then, feel free to make your own practice tests. Even the act of creating your own practice tests will help you study for your upcoming test, so take your time and try to challenge yourself. Create your mock exam one day, and then wait a few days before you take your exam. That way, you can test how well you are likely to retain the information.
Mind map out everything
Mind maps or concept maps are a great tool in any field of science. Since there are so many related concepts, creating a concept map of the ideas can be a handy visual tool to connect the ideas that you’ve been learning together. Concept maps can be implemented as a study tool leading up to large exams as well.
Use every resource available to you
Don’t overlook your textbook just because it’s boring to read. Use every tool that is available to you to help prepare yourself for tests. Talk to your professors to see if they recommend any online resources or have any recommendations for study books to invest in. Although it can be challenging to learn pharmacology solely online, there are some great resources out there to help you learn pharmacology online. There is no limit to the number of resources that you can use to help you study.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Study Pharmacology
Pharmacology is an exact science, but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary. If you break it down into smaller chunks and use the resources you have available to you, pharmacology can be an immensely rewarding field to work in. The best tip we can give you to study pharmacology is to study a little bit every day.