How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?

If you’re looking to become a healthcare professional or work with healthcare professionals, becoming a pharmacist is an excellent career to consider. Pharmacists are most well known for handling prescription medications, but their role has evolved over the years, and it involves a lot more than just dispensing medication.

While trying to decide if this is the right career path for you, an important factor will be how much money you can stand to make as a pharmacist. Of course, different factors play into how much pay you’ll receive, such as the setting you work in, the state you work in, how much experience you have, your credentials and whether you’re part-time or full-time.

As a pharmacist, you can still make an average rate of $62 per hour, even working part-time, if you find the right position with the right company. Another important factor is how long it takes to become a pharmacist.

What Do Pharmacists Do?

These days pharmacists work in different areas and have different responsibilities, such as conducting health screenings, giving vaccines and immunizations, as well as offering patients advice on over-the-counter medications for ailments that aren’t severe enough for a doctor.

As a pharmacist, you’ll also have to advise and educate patients on the correct usage of the drugs you prescribe. This is something to take into account as you consider this career. Do you like dealing with people?

Pharmacists also aren’t only restricted to working in drug stores; you can also work as a pharmacist for government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, online pharmacies and outpatient facilities. The specific duties of the pharmacist will depend on where they’re working.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?

If you have an interest in pharmaceutical science or becoming a pharmacist, there are a few paths for you to consider. There are also traditional and online pharmacy schools and pharmacy programs that’ll suit you and your circumstances.

It generally takes about six to eight years to become a pharmacist. You can choose to take a six-year Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy degree) straight out of high school, which will typically include professional pharmacy coursework and pre-pharmacy studies. This is also an option for you if you have completed two years of an undergraduate degree.

Alternatively, you can also get a bachelor’s degree, which will take four years, and then apply for a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. That will take another four years to complete, bringing your total up to eight years of school.

However, it can take a little longer if you desire to specialize in a specific area of pharmacy. You might need to factor in an extra year or two if you’re required to do a residency at a clinic, hospital or community pharmacy. Of course, personal factors can also determine how long it takes for each individual.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry, all you have to do is complete the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. So technically, it would take about 4 years for you to become a pharmacist.

Educational Requirements

The next thing to do is to make sure that you have everything that you need to qualify for a pharmacy school or PharmD program.

All pharmacy schools don’t necessarily have the same educational requirements, but they are pretty similar. It’s important to be aware of what exactly is required for you to gain admission into your chosen pharmacy degree program.

Pre-pharmacy requirements

Pharmacy schools don’t necessarily require you to have a bachelor’s degree, but many pharmacy schools do have prerequisite courses that you need to complete.

These are courses like calculus, anatomy and biochemistry; the course you’re required to take depends on the school and program you’re looking at. But there is a strong focus on physics, biology and chemistry courses.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related school, you may also qualify for a pharmacy program. You will be expected to have a fairly good GPA of about 3.0 or higher.

Pharmacy school

The first step when looking at potential pharmacy schools is making sure that you’ve done the necessary prerequisite coursework and then making sure that the school is accredited by the ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education).

A program will typically take four years to complete, but some schools do offer expedited programs if you meet certain requirements.

Depending on the school you’re applying to, you might be required to take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) as part of the admissions process. The PCAT has sections that test your writing skills, reading comprehension, biology, chemistry, verbal abilities and quantitative ability.

Your PCAT scores can definitely bolster your application and secure your place if they’re good enough. It also won’t hurt your application if you can show that you’ve done some work experience in a pharmacy.

A pharmacy program will include both experiential and didactic learning, which means that you’ll supplement what you learn in the classroom with hands-on, practical training in a real pharmacy. Your first-year lectures will include classes in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical science and biochemistry.

During your coursework, you will probably study public health, pharmacy law, pharmaceuticals, community practice, pharmacology and body systems and pharmacy management.

The hours spent doing practical training can also count towards the 1500 clinical internship hours that must be completed. This isn’t the exact figure of required clinical internship hours for every pharmacy school or pharmacy program. Typically, these rotations begin in the second year of the program.

Specialization

While choosing to specialize will add time to the length of your pharmacy degree, it can also make this a more lucrative career path for you. With PharmD programs, one can specialize in a number of fields, including; cardiology, neurology, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and so much more.

Getting licensed

After receiving your Doctor of Pharmacy degree, the next step is to become a licensed pharmacist. There are different requirements for each state in the U.S., so make sure that you’re aware of what’s necessary for the state you choose to practice in.

Here are some requirements that you may have to meet:

  • A Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an ACPE-accredited school.
  • Successful completion of a certain amount of clinical internship hours.
  • A passing score on the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam).
  • A passing score on the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam) or any other state pharmacy licensure exam.

If your desired career path is working as a pharmacist in a hospital or another specialized environment, then you might need additional specialized training.

Job Prospects for Pharmacists

Pharmacy can be a competitive field because there’s always a need for pharmacists; in hospitals, retail pharmacies and even in the pharmaceutical industry. You can boost your career profile by networking throughout your time in pharmacy school as well as getting work experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacist employment is projected to grow by 2% from 2021 to 2031, with about 13 600 new job openings projected for each year. This is a decline in comparison to the 5% projected growth seen in other industries, but this is still a good job prospect.

A possible reason for this decline is that there were fewer pharmacists retiring, and this coincided with an 85% increase in pharmacy graduates.

Despite these figures, there will still be a need for over 300,000 pharmacists to work in a variety of healthcare settings. The role of pharmacists is currently changing, having them in more healthcare settings than drug stores and retail pharmacies. This will result in more pharmacist jobs.

The median annual salary for a pharmacist is $128,710 or $61.88 per hour. The top-paying states for pharmacists, in descending order, are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Maine
  • Vermont

The setting in which a pharmacist works can also impact how much money they make annually. The top wages per workplace, in descending order, in 2020 were:

  • Ambulatory Healthcare
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies and drug stores

On top of the salary, pharmacists also generally get other perks such as; paid sick leave, paid time off, paid personal days, bonuses, health insurance and sometimes, even tuition reimbursement. It all just depends on where you end up working.

FAQs

How can I be sure being a pharmacist is for me?

While there’s no way to be 100% sure that you’ll enjoy your job or find it fulfilling if you become a pharmacist, you can still do some research to make sure it’s a path that interests you.

You can contact any pharmacy schools that you’re interested in directly and find out more about their pharmacy programs. You can also consider talking to your local pharmacist or pharmacy students about their experience.

Use the resources at your school and see if it’s possible to shadow a pharmacist or join clubs and organizations for pharmacy students. Speak to a guidance counselor to see if they have any information that might be helpful in making a decision.

What are the continuing education requirements for pharmacists? 

Every state in the U.S. requires pharmacists to complete continuing education. The specific requirements, like the number of hours and frequency, are dependent on each state. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the regulations in your state.

Generally, though, most states require renewal every two years and at least 30 hours of continuing education.

Are pharmacists doctors?

The answer is yes! Technically, pharmacists are doctors because they are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Most pharmacists don’t go by the title of Doctor, but they could.

Can you study pharmacy part time?

The answer is yes! Many pharmacy schools offer part-time programs, which can accommodate students with varying levels of work and family commitments. Part-time students typically attend school for four years, rather than the traditional three years for full-time students.

Bear in mind that most pharmacies require that you be a licensed pharmacist in order to work there. Licensing generally requires that you complete a certain number of hours of practical experience (usually 1,500 hours). So if you’re not able to complete your practical experience as a part-time student, you may need to consider completing your education on a full-time basis.

How can a pharmacist become a doctor?

There are a few different ways to become a doctor. One way is to first become a pharmacist and then complete medical school. Another way is to complete an undergraduate degree in any field and then do four years of medical school. After medical school, you would need to do three years of residency training.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to become a pharmacist, it will take you anywhere from six to ten years, depending on the educational pathway that you take and whether or not you’re looking to specialize.

What’s required of you to start on this path depends on which of the many pharmacy schools and educational programs you pick and commit to. Being a pharmacist is a fulfilling and lucrative career if one makes all the right choices.