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Studying Pharmacy in Germany

Pharmacists are experts in medicines.
An article by Katharina Wagner in collaboration with Cornelia Weber

Studying Pharmacy in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Not every headache tablet is suitable for everyone, children need other medicines than adults and some drugs have serious side effects: this is where the expertise of pharmacists lies. In their academic studies, they learn what drugs exist, how they work, how to produce them and what risks may arise in their application, but also how the human body works and what makes it ill. "Pharmacy is a multidisciplinary science that consists of various scientific and medical disciplines," says Bernd Clement, professor at the Uni Kiel, Germany, and chair of the Pharmacy conference. The degree course takes five years. In the stage I studies which conclude with the first state examination, students learn basic principles of the natural sciences and medicine. Pharmaceutical analysis, pharmaceutical biology and pharmaceutical technology are also part of the studies. The stage II studies revolve around the development and effects of medicines. Students deepen their knowledge in the five fields of Pharmacy: Pharmaceutical/medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical biology, pharmaceutical technology, pharmacology/toxicology and clinical pharmacy. The knowledge gained in the lectures is applied by students in the laboratory as early as the first semester. They spend around one-third of their time there, identifying and analysing drugs, producing medicines and writing lab reports. During the semester break in Germany, students do work placements for a total of eight weeks, of which at least half the time in a pharmacy. They must pass the second state examination before pursuing the last part of their studies: the practical year. For at least six months, students work in a pharmacy and for the rest of the time in industry, for example, or in a drug testing laboratory. They then take the third state exam and apply for the licence to practise as a pharmacist. "You can only work as a pharmacist if you've passed all three state examinations," says Bernd Clement.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

Students who expect to press tablets from the beginning will be disappointed: the first two semesters focus on the basic principles – also in the practical exercises. "In the laboratory, for example, iron or magnesium ions that occur in the body are detected," says Clement. What students have learned is then applied to drugs from the third semester. Good knowledge of the natural sciences helps students get off to a good start, even though lectures like "Chemistry for pharmacists" are offered at the beginning to refresh knowledge from school. The degree course in Pharmacy is highly structured and very time consuming because, in addition to the lectures and seminars, there is also practical work in the laboratory. It requires skill and endurance: experiments must often be repeated several times until they are successful. Pharmacists should also enjoy working with people and be interested in related disciplines such as medicine. The subject of Pharmacy in Germany has restricted admission nationwide; most courses require grades in the one range.

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