When she started work as an assistant at a chemist in Tuross Head on the NSW south coast after finishing high school in 2005, Melissa Cowley had no idea that seven years later she would be on the way to becoming a fully fledged pharmacist.
Miss Cowley is one of the first 26 students to start the University of Canberra's new bachelor of pharmacy course.
The university previously offered only a masters-level pharmacy course.
Miss Cowley worked as a pharmacy assistant in Tuross and Canberra before being promoted to front-of-shop manager and then landing a job last year as a pharmacy technician at the Canberra Hospital.
"I kind of stumbled into it, I'd never thought of pharmacy as a career. But ever since I've started, I just love it,'' she said. ''I love the healthcare side of things, the patient orientation and there's always something to learn.
"I never thought I was the kind of person to go to university. But when this B.Pharm came up, I just went for it and before I knew it I was enrolled.''
Miss Cowley said she was interested in working as a hospital pharmacist after she completed her degree and internship.
Associate Professor Greg Kyle, head of the university's pharmacy discipline, said the new degree would allow aspiring pharmacists to begin studying for the qualification as soon as they finished high school.
Previously, local high school graduates had to study interstate or complete an appropriate undergraduate degree to gain entry to the masters program.
"They can come in straight from high school as opposed to having to do another course first … and then come in and do a top-up pharmacy degree,'' Associate Professor Kyle said.
The bachelor of pharmacy has been granted accreditation (with conditions) by the Australian Pharmacy Council and is under consideration by the Pharmacy Board of Australia for approval as a qualification leading to registration as a pharmacist in Australia.