Can a PharmD Be Called a Doctor?

The medical field has a wide range of roles, which include well-known pharmacists and doctors. If you want a career in medicine, it’s best to understand the two fields and if a PharmD earns you the title of a doctor.

A pharmacist has a PharmD degree but cannot legally practice medicine. Most pharmacists introduce themselves by their first names, although they can use the prefix, Dr.

Where Did the Term ‘Doctor’ Come From?

Historically, the degree of doctors was the product of medieval universities, which meant the right to teach. This included teaching law, theology, medicine, philosophy, and other areas. The medical terms for practitioners were either apothecary, surgeon, or physician.

Physicians who went to university were considered ‘doctors,’ and the apothecaries and surgeons who were trained by apprenticeships were considered ‘misters.’ However, dissecting the word ‘doctor’ means changing something, whether it is an object or in the body.

This meaning is why medical practitioners now have doctor titles. This term was mostly used from the mid-18th century in the future. These doctors delivered babies, treated illnesses, dispensed drugs, and did other surgical tasks, which paved the way for what we know now as the ‘general practitioner.’

When Can Pharmacists Use the Doctor Title?

If the degree comes with the ‘Doctor’ title, then you can use the doctor’s title with your name unless specified otherwise. In the past, a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree was enough to become a pharmacist.

However, the complexity of pharmaceutical care and pharmacotherapy, authorities thought it was best to make the PharmD the entry-level bachelor’s degree for pharmacists. Therefore, you can be called a doctor (Dr.) if you have a PharmD qualification.

Using the Dr. prefix will be beneficial to pharmacists, as it will set them apart from other pharmacy degree holders. PharmD degree holders also feel recognized with the Dr. title in the job market due to their hard work in obtaining their qualifications.

How To Get a PharmD Qualification

To earn a PharmD, you must have your bachelor’s degree, get accepted into a pharmacy college, and have the required coursework. While there are variations in requirements, the following steps should be similar throughout.

Complete undergraduate prerequisites

You may major in any subject; however, it’s best to have some experience in the courses needed for pharmacy education. The coursework you would complete for a science major is like the courses required by the pharmacy school.

You can also major in pre-pharmacy studies to prepare for the coursework when getting your PharmD. Other requirements by the school are a good GPA, a clear criminal check, and an intern pharmacist license.

Pass the PCAT (pharmacy college admissions test)

The PCAT is an entrance exam used by certain schools to evaluate your abilities. Some schools expect you to take this test and pass it with a good score; however, others don’t really need it. The exam tests your knowledge of critical reading, writing, quantitative reasoning, and biological and chemical processes.

Submit your application

Many schools accept online applications through Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) or through the school’s website.

Using PharmCAS allows you to apply to various schools at the same time. The service is only available for first-year pharmacy students. If you are transferring to another school, you would have to apply directly with the school.

When looking for a school, ensure they have an accredited bachelor program by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Make sure to look over the admission requirements and check if you need to pay a fee. Usually, you’d need letters of recommendation and references when submitting.

PharmD coursework

Pharmacy students have to complete the coursework for the degree. This includes the following:

  • Principles of Pharmacy Law & Ethics
  • Becoming a pharmacist
  • Integrated Biochemical Sciences
  • Principles of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology
  • Principles of Patient-centered Care
  • Pharmacy and Population Health

Hands-on experience as a pharmacist

It’s beneficial to have a general understanding of a pharmacist’s life. Before applying for this degree program, you may have to get experience shadowing a pharmacist or finishing an externship.

You can also be a volunteer in the hospital pharmacy or a retail pharmacy. Learning the ropes of being a pharmacy technician will greatly help you get accepted into pharmacy colleges.

Required pharmacist licenses you may need 

Getting a license to be a pharmacist depends on the state. Each state has different licensing requirements; however, the basics are your degree, passing an exam, and having the minimum internship hours.

Check the state where you plan to work so you know which exam to take. It may be one of these three:

  • Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC)
  • Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)
  • North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX)

Does Getting a PharmD Make You a Doctor?

A PharmD takes 4 years to graduate with a degree in pharmacy. Most medical schools need you to have an undergraduate degree before going to pharmacy school. In certain cases, a community college can save as the entrance to the program.

Becoming a pharmacist takes about 6 years from the time you get your high school diploma. Some schools offer combined degree programs that need 3 years of undergraduate and 3 years of graduate study.

However, a straight PharmD program takes 4 years of hard work in coursework and guided learning. The pharmacy curriculum also gives you valuable clinical experience. During this program, you will work with a group of highly experienced pharmacists who will guide you through the program.

The program prepares you for the next step in your professional life and gives you the skills and experience to study further to become a researcher in pharmaceuticals. While this is impressive in the medical field, the PharmD degree does not give you the right credentials to be called a doctor.

Medical doctors need a doctoral degree to practice medicine and tend to patients. They have the necessary skills and education on their belt.

The Difference Between Doctors and Pharmacists

Although pharmacists with a pharmacy degree can be addressed as doctors in some cases, doctors and pharmacists are very distinct professions.

Some of the differences between the two include the following:

The education and training

The required training and education for pharmacists and doctors are different. While both fields deal with patients and extensive medical knowledge, pharmacists can complete their PharmD in 6 years at a pharmacy school. They usually complete a preprofessional degree before getting the PharmD.

Undergraduate studies are done for two years, and the pharmacy degree takes four years. You can complete your residency to get your pharmacy license and choose to go to a specialty area of pharmacy. Some include oncology, pediatric medicine, and nuclear pharmacy.

On the other hand, the education to become a doctor takes a lot of work and is longer, with some education and training taking about 11 to 14 years, depending on how qualified you want. Doctors’ education and training are four years in undergraduate and six weeks in graduate studies.

Afterward, doctors must do their residency, which can take about eight years, depending on the specialty.


A medical doctor to earn several licenses before practicing medicine. When they are in medical school, they have to take and pass the two steps of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which then allows them to practice under supervision.

They get a license after completing the third step during their residency. Doctors can also get specialized board certificates paired with a state license.

However, a pharmacist only needs to take and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) after getting their bachelor’s degree. Depending on the state they work in and the local/regional requirements, they might also need to get a license.

Responsibilities and duties

This is one of the biggest differences between a doctor and a pharmacist. Medical doctors work with patients to check, diagnose and treat injury, illness, or disease. They look at the patient’s symptoms and come to a conclusion on the most effective treatment approach.

Depending on their qualification and specialty area, some doctors can perform surgeries. This ranges from operations such as a heart transplant to putting in a stent. On the other hand, pharmacists work mainly with medications and pharmaceutical compositions to create and prescribe the best medicines to patients.

The doctor and pharmacist may work closely, as the doctor will pinpoint the cause of the disease and derive a treatment, while the pharmacist either compounds the treatment or provide it to the patient.

In some cases, you may find pharmacists evaluating a patient, which is why they can be called doctors; however, evaluations are very simple and don’t go beyond their knowledge.

Skills needed for each field

Pharmacy education provides pharmacists with the skills and knowledge that allow them to fully understand how medications or pharmaceutical formulations affect the body. They study the pharmaceutical industry and other things such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, and a bit of human anatomy.

However, pharmacists only relate their expertise to pharmaceuticals’ use, study, and improvement. They also need to confirm drug safety and know drug interactions to ensure treatments are effective.

Doctors use their expertise in coursework to work with patients to evaluate, diagnose and treat whatever they have. Medical doctors will monitor symptoms and assess the outcome after giving treatment. Doctors often consult with pharmacists when prescribing treatments.

Work environment

Both doctors and pharmacists may work in hospitals. However, pharmacists also work in retail pharmacies and drug stores, whereas doctors work in clinical settings, private practices, surgery practices, and other facilities.

The work schedules and load for both fields also differ. Pharmacists who work in a retail store may have normal shifts around traditional business hours, whereas doctors will work long hours in hospitals.

Pharmacists work closely with pharmacy assistants and technicians in small settings. On the other hand, doctors work with a whole healthcare team of nurses, medical technicians in different specialties, surgeons, and doctors of other specialties.


The potential earnings greatly differ between doctors and pharmacists. Doctors can earn an average income of $242,524 annually, compared to pharmacists, who may earn $116,886 annually. However, these figures vary, depending on where you work, specialization, qualification, and experience.

The Similarities Between Doctors and Pharmacists

There are some similarities between these two professionals.

Patient care and teaching

Pharmacists do not work directly with patients; however, they answer various questions regarding side effects, dosages, and other information when they purchase over-the-counter medicine.

Doctors also advise patients on a larger scale, and some may also make themselves available for special consultations with certain patients. Both professions tend to patient care and maintain patient confidentiality to give them a secure place to take care of their health.


Both pharmacists and doctors perform many research studies in their specialized fields. This contribution to research helps pharmaceutical and medical practices improve patients’ health through new advances.

Doctors’ research is done from various fields and has different patient care strategies and techniques, diagnostic methods, and other things to improve health outcomes. A pharmacist contributes to research by experimenting and studying chemical therapies. They can create new medicines to help public health.

Medical knowledge

Pharmacists usually learn anatomy, physiology, and chemistry skills, which a doctor is also educated on. Both professionals use this knowledge to help to evaluate and observe patients and help them reach an effective treatment outcome.

Both pharmacists and doctors also have experience managing and directing others in performing particular tasks. For example, a pharmacist will direct a pharmacy technician on how to fill and mix prescriptions.

Doctors would direct their assistants and nurses to help with certain tasks when attending to patients.

Can pharmacists and doctors work together?

Yes, cooperation between doctors and pharmacists leads to the following:

  • Improved patient care- When pharmacists and doctors work together, they can reduce the complexity of managing patients’ health problems. Even if both professions work in a different approach, the end goal is still the same: improving patients’ health.
  • Promoting knowledge- Collaborating optimizes the time and medical resources. It is useful because it lets pharmacists and doctors work with a specific method without external interference. By working in this network, professionals provide vital healthcare knowledge, which improves health in the long run.
  • Efficiency- Working in a team usually improves any process; this is the same with pharmacists and doctors. Working together improves the operation of the Healthcare System and specific processes as well. This efficiency leads to a higher quality of healthcare given to patients.


Should I become a pharmacist or a doctor?

Your choice between these two fields depends on your interests. A doctor focuses on identifying conditions, surgeries/procedures, examining patients, and monitoring medication conditions.

However, there are some instances where a pharmacist knows more than doctors regarding health and wellness because they know exactly what’s in your medication.

Are pharmacists doctors?

Although pharmacists with a PharmD degree can be addressed as doctors in some cases, medical doctors and pharmacists are very distinct professions. So, Pharmd can be called as doctor as a title but pharmacists are not medical doctors.

Is a pharmacy degree worth it?

Yes. The pharmaceutical industry is recently seeing high levels of market growth. As the industry expands, the demand for pharmacists will also increase. Pharmacy graduates find that they can go into various career paths with many benefits.

For example, they can go on to get their pharmacology degree, which mostly deals with research, drug development, testing, and performing clinical trials.

Is pharmacy school hard?

The pharmacy profession needs you to know topics such as pharmacotherapy, pharmacology, and pharmacokinetics, so it is not easy for just everyone.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, about 10% or more who got into pharmacy college did not graduate. This doesn’t mean that you would not succeed in pharmacy. You must be dedicated and prepared to learn hard to pass with good results.


A pharmacist with a PharmD can make use of the doctor title. However, these professionals are worlds apart and should not be confused with one another. They work closely together to provide the best patient outcomes in the healthcare industry.

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