How to Become a Pharmacist
Are you interested in a career as a pharmacist? Becoming a pharmacist requires dedication and hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Here you will learn about the professional requirements and the steps you need to take on the road to becoming a licensed pharmacist.
Key Takeaway: Steps to Becoming a Pharmacist
- Earn a bachelor’s degree: Most pharmacy schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, although some schools may admit students after completing at least two years of undergraduate coursework.
- Complete a pharmacy degree program: After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring pharmacists must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program, which typically takes four years to complete.
- Pass licensure exams: In order to practice as a pharmacist, individuals must pass two licensure exams: the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).
- Obtain a pharmacy license: Once an individual has passed the NAPLEX and MPJE, they must apply for a pharmacy license in the state where they wish to practice.
- Consider further education and training: Many pharmacists choose to pursue additional education and training, such as a residency program (online residency programs) or specialty certification, in order to advance their careers and increase their expertise in a particular area of pharmacy practice.
What do Pharmacists do?
Pharmacists play a vital role in the healthcare system, providing medication and advice to patients in a variety of settings. Drug stores, hospitals, and clinics all have pharmacists on staff to dispense medication and educate patients about their prescriptions. In addition, pharmacists often play a key role in research, collaborating with physicians to develop new medications and treatments.
As healthcare professionals, pharmacists must have extensive knowledge about the medications they dispense and be able to advise patients about potential side effects and drug interactions. They also play an important role in ensuring that patients take their medication as prescribed and monitoring for any adverse reactions. For these reasons, pharmacists play a vital role in healthcare and are an essential part of the healthcare team.
Requirements for Becoming a Pharmacist
Becoming a pharmacist usually takes six to eight years of schooling after high school—most pharmacy students complete a four-year bachelor’s degree followed by a four-year pharmacy degree, although some pharmacy schools offer a three-year program. pharmacy students must complete prerequisite coursework in chemistry, biology, physics, math and other sciences before being admitted to pharmacy school.
Admission to pharmacy school is competitive, and applicants are usually expected to have taken the pharmacy college admission test (PCAT). Upon completing pharmacy school and obtaining a pharmacy degree, graduates must then pass two exams—the multistate pharmacy jurisprudence exam (MPJE) and the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX)—before they can practice. Some states have additional licensure requirements.
After passing these exams and obtaining licensure, many pharmacists pursue additional training through advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) or residencies in order to specialize in a particular area of pharmacy practice such as hospital pharmacy or nuclear pharmacy. Some pharmacists also choose to pursue a doctoral degree in pharmacy—the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) program generally takes four years to complete. In summary, becoming a licensed pharmacist requires completing at least six years of schooling and passing several exams, but the rewards are many: pharmacists play an important role in patient care and contribute to improving public health.
Steps to Take from High School to Becoming a Pharmacist
- Graduate from high school with a diploma and complete any prerequisites for pharmacy school admission, such as chemistry, biology, physics and math.
- Take the pharmacy college admission test (PCAT).
- Apply to an accredited pharmacy program.
- Complete at least four years of undergraduate coursework in a bachelor’s degree program plus four years of professional pharmacy training leading to a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree.
- Pass the multistate pharmacy jurisprudence exam (MPJE) and North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX).
- Obtain licensure from your state board of pharmacy and any additional requirements for specialty fields.
- Consider participating in an advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE) or residency program to specialize in a particular area of pharmacy practice.
- Pursue a doctoral degree in pharmacy if desired.
- Maintain your license by continuing education credits as required by state boards of pharmacy—most require at least 20 hours of continuing education per year, with some states requiring more depending on the type and scope of practice.
Once you have completed these steps, you will be ready to join the ranks of licensed pharmacists and make a valuable contribution to healthcare!
Pharmacists have the opportunity to specialize in many different areas of practice. Common specialties include:
- Clinical pharmacology – managing treatment plans and advising patients on medications for specific conditions
- Nuclear pharmacy – preparing radioactive drugs for use in imaging, therapy and research
- Oncology pharmacy – providing specialized care to cancer patients
- Ambulatory care pharmacy – providing comprehensive medication management services in an outpatient setting
- Hospital pharmacy – managing medications and treatment plans in a hospital setting
- Pharmacogenomics – incorporating genetic testing into medication therapy to optimize outcomes
- Compounding pharmacy – customizing medications for patients with special needs
- Geriatric pharmacy – providing medication management services to elderly patients
- Veterinary pharmacy – compounding and dispensing medications for animals
- Consultant pharmacy – helping healthcare institutions develop policies and procedures to optimize patient care.
No matter which specialty they choose, pharmacists play an important role in promoting public health by ensuring that medications are used safely and effectively.
What are the Best Schools for Pharmacy in the U.S.?
The best schools for pharmacy in the U.S. depend on your individual needs and goals. Many universities offer highly ranked programs that prepare students to become licensed pharmacists, including:
- University of California-San Francisco
- University of Houston
- Purdue University
- University of Michigan
- St. Louis College of Pharmacy
- Oregon State University
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
It is important to consider cost and program requirements when comparing pharmacy schools, as well as the availability of clinical rotations or advanced practice experiences (APPEs). Additionally, you should consider the potential career opportunities available after graduation and how they align with your goals.
No matter which school you choose, completing a pharmacy program will prepare you to become a highly skilled and valued healthcare provider.
What will I learn on an Accredited Pharmacy Program?
An accredited pharmacy program will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a successful pharmacist. You can expect to learn about topics such as:
- Drug properties, interactions, and pharmacodynamics
- Pharmaceutical calculations
- Principles of medication therapy management
- Pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of common diseases
- Regulatory policies impacting pharmacy practice
- Patient assessment and communication strategies
- Documentation methods in healthcare settings
By completing an accredited pharmacy program, you will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to become a licensed pharmacist and provide evidence-based patient care.
What will I learn on a Doctor of Pharmacy Program?
A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program is the highest degree available in pharmacy education and requires two to four years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. In addition to more advanced clinical skills, you can expect to gain expertise in topics such as:
• Health outcomes research
• Managed care and health policy
• Drug information resources
• Designing and evaluating therapeutic plans
• Leadership and professional communication skills
• Quality improvement programs for healthcare organizations
Completion of a Doctor of Pharmacy program will prepare you for practice in specialized settings or research roles, allowing you to make a significant impact on patient safety and public health.
What are the best Doctor of Pharmacy Programs?
The best Doctor of Pharmacy programs depend on your individual needs and goals. Many universities offer highly ranked Pharm.D. programs, including:
• University of California-San Francisco
• St. Louis College of Pharmacy
• Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
There exist a number of online options also.
Settings where pharmacists work
Pharmacists are employed in a variety of settings, including:
• Retail pharmacies – dispensing medications and providing information on drug uses, interactions, side effects and other medication-related topics
• Hospital pharmacies – managing medication orders, supervising pharmacy technicians and providing drug information to healthcare providers
• Long-term care facilities – storing drugs and preparing specialized doses for patients with chronic conditions
• Research laboratories – studying the biological properties of drugs and monitoring their effect on humans
• Regulatory agencies – ensuring safe production and distribution of drugs
• Pharmaceutical companies – researching new medications or improving existing ones
• Consulting firms – helping hospitals and other organizations develop policies to optimize patient care.
Within the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists have the opportunity to pursue careers in drug development, business management, marketing and sales.
Pharmacists who wish to expand their education can complete graduate certificate training programs in specialized areas such as geriatric pharmacotherapy, ambulatory care and clinical research, or pursue a further graduate degree such as a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) or a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Who do Pharmacists work with?
Pharmacists work with a variety of people including physicians, nurses, patients, pharmacy technicians and other healthcare professionals. Pharmacy techs help pharmacists fill prescriptions, prepare intravenous medications and maintain medication inventories. Nurses may consult with a pharmacist about the best course of treatment for a patient or discuss potential drug interactions. Physicians rely on the expertise of pharmacists to accurately dispense medications and provide advice on appropriate dosages and side effects. Pharmacists also partner with patients to ensure that their medications are used safely and effectively.
What are the Steps for a Pharmacy Technician to Become a Pharmacist?
The path for a pharmacy tech to become a pharmacist begins with completing a pharmacy degree program. To be eligible for admission, students must have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete college-level courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. Certified pharmacy technicians will necessarily have completed the former, but may not have the pre-requisite courses for a degree in pharmacy. In which case, the technician will need to complete the pre-requisites before being considered for admission.
What Pharmacists Earn
In the United States, pharmacists earn a median salary of $120,950 per year. Salaries typically start from $77,290 and go up to $176,150. In Canada, pharmacists earn an average salary of C$75,000 per year. Salaries typically range from C$48,000 to C$104,000. In the United Kingdom, pharmacists earn an average salary of £37,500 per year. Salaries typically range from £25,500 to £50,500. In Australia, pharmacists earn an average salary of AU$85,000 per year. Salaries typically range from AU$58,000 to AU$115,000. Finally, in New Zealand, pharmacists earn an average salary of NZ$85,000 per year. Salaries typically range from NZ$57,500 to NZ$112,500.
The Job Outlook for Pharmacists
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for pharmacists is very positive. In fact, employment of pharmacists is expected to grow by 4% from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. There are a number of factors that contribute to this growth. Firstly, the population is aging, and older adults generally require more medications than younger people. Secondly, there is an increasing focus on preventative care, which has led to a greater demand for medications that can help people manage chronic conditions. Finally, advances in technology have made it easier for patients to access prescription drugs, and this trend is expected to continue. As a result of these factors, pharmacists will continue to play an important role in the healthcare system, and those who enter the profession can expect to find good job prospects.
Skills and Qualities of a Good Pharmacist
First and foremost, a good pharmacist must have excellent knowledge of drugs and their effects on the human body. They must also be able to apply this knowledge in a practical setting, accurately assessing patients’ needs and selecting the most appropriate medication. In addition, pharmacists must be excellent communicators, able to explain complex information in a clear and concise manner. They must also be compassionate and patient, as they often deal with patients who are experiencing stress or anxiety. Finally, pharmacists must be detail-oriented and organized, as they are responsible for keeping accurate records and stocking a large number of different products. By possessing these skills and qualities, a pharmacist can ensure that they provide the best possible care to their patients.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacist
Being a pharmacist has a number of advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, pharmacists are highly trained professionals who play a vital role in the healthcare system. They dispense medications and provide advice on how to use them safely and effectively. In addition, they often have opportunities to work closely with patients and help them manage their medication regimens. However, being a pharmacist also has its downsides. The job can be demanding and stressful, and it often requires long hours. In addition, pharmacists must constantly keep up with changes in the field of pharmacy, which can be difficult. Overall, being a pharmacist is a rewarding but challenging career.
Pharmacists are an important part of the healthcare system, and their skills and knowledge are in high demand. If you are interested in becoming a pharmacist, there are many schools that offer pharmacy programs. The job outlook for pharmacists is good, and they can expect to earn a good salary. However, being a pharmacist also has its drawbacks. It is important to consider all the pros and cons before making a decision about whether or not to become a pharmacist.