When you think of Canadian winters, it’s not hard to understand why many students cast their eyes on the land Down Under as a desirable study location. Australia’s wonderful climate, picturesque beaches, and multicultural cities can be hard to resist for those of us susceptible to wanderlust.
For students, Australia pretty much has it all, which is why it is host to more than 250,000 international students, making it one of world’s most popular foreign study destinations. Australia is also home to some of the best universities in the world, and many Australian degrees are recognized in Canada, including the Bachelor of Pharmacy.
With only ten pharmacy schools in Canada, each with a limited number of places, it’s no wonder many Canadian students consider pursuing their dreams outside the country.
Currently, there are 18 Australian universities that offer Bachelor of Pharmacy programs, 17 of which are open to international students. As the Bachelor of Pharmacy is an undergraduate program, applicants are permitted to apply directly from high school.
For current Bachelor of Pharmacy student Roy Hu, his reason for choosing to study at the University of Queensland was simple: “The UQ School of Pharmacy has great facilities, including state-of-the-art equipment, and the professors are highly knowledgeable in their respected fields. I feel UQ really will prepare you for your professional career in the future,” he says.
Of course, the beautiful locale and vibrant outdoor lifestyle are considered bonuses.
“There is so much to do: whale watching, deep-sea fishing, outlet shopping, amusement parks, shows, and much more,” he says. “I can’t comprehend how amazing the weather is in Australia – especially coming from Canada.”
But even with the sunshine and beaches, three or four years of study on the other side of the planet can seem like a long time for someone so far away from his or her family.
UQ Pharmacy graduate and Ontario native Deedee Xu liked that the program was similar to the Canadian programs and that there were lots of Canadians at the university for her to connect with. “Not to mention that the entire studying-abroad-in-Australia experience was absolutely amazing. I miss it every day,” she says.
While Australian Bachelor of Pharmacy programs are open to high school graduates, many Canadians enter the program already holding a bachelor degree after realizing they possess an interest in not only science, but also in its application to the health care profession.
There’s no denying the role of pharmacists is expanding, and according to Service Canada, job prospects in this occupation are good. Pharmacists are considered medication management experts and are recognized as an integral part of the Canadian health care system. There is a wide variety of career choices open to registered pharmacists, including retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, research positions within universities or research institutes, or various positions in the pharmaceutical industry.
With so many career choices available, many Canadian students find participation inside and outside the classroom to be just as important as learning the material. What better way to find out which area of the pharmacy profession is for you?
“My best advice I could give to someone coming from overseas is to get involved with the school early; it will make school a lot more enjoyable,” Roy says, “and it’s a great way to meet people who share the same passion for pharmacy and helping others as you do. You’ll be surprised as to how many doors will open if you get involved with the field.”
In order to incorporate practical experience with in-class learning, pharmacy programs include placements, sometimes offering the student the opportunity to return to Canada. Very often, the biggest piece of advice Canadian students studying pharmacy in Australia have for future students is to encourage them to gain work experience – even by volunteering – on trips back to their homeland prior to graduation.
James Cook University Pharmacy graduate Jeremy Warner suggests that students make the most of these placement opportunities.
“JCU allows you to do a work placement in your home country. I would definitely take advantage of this. It really helped to learn the process of how things are done in Canada compared to Australia,” Jeremy says.
He also stresses the importance of practical experience via the workforce. “I would also suggest getting a job at a local pharmacy as soon as possible. It will help with studying as you will be forced to look at products and discuss them with a pharmacist as well as with customers. I found this really helped me learn about the over-the-counter products and boost my confidence in discussing health concerns and medications with random strangers.”
What happens after you graduate?
In Canada, the profession of pharmacy is regulated on a provincial and territorial level. The regulatory authorities are directly responsible for granting pharmacist licenses, assessing the competency of pharmacists, and ensuring public safety.
If you graduate from an Australian Bachelor of Pharmacy program, you are eligible to apply for Canadian certification through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC), and then for provincial certification through the provincial certification board in the province in which you wish to practice as a pharmacist.
“I recommend doing the evaluating exam as soon as you graduate, to get it out of the way,” says Deedee, who is now practicing in Ontario. She also encourages graduates to really focus on studying for the qualifying exams. “Some of the material from the PEBC qualifying exam requires self-learning. A lot of time and effort went into that, but it’s well worth it.”
Once you attain PEBC certification, each province has their own requirements such as practical experience, language proficiency, and jurisprudence examinations on pharmacy legislation and practice standards.
“Be patient with the licensing process,” says Deedee. “You can complete the entire process within seven to nine months if you use your time wisely!”
If you are considering pharmacy as your career choice, you have many options to choose from, including studying in the land Down Under.
Australia may be far from home, but the opportunity to shorten the distance is as close as connecting with the people around you.
“The best thing about the program is that you meet people from all across the world,” Roy says. “Together, you take part in classes, labs and rotations, and you hold each other accountable. You end up spending the next three to four years together and become essentially a family, or as we like to call it, a ‘pharmily’.”
Julie Reynolds, Communications Officer, OzTREKK educational services