Becoming a Pharmacist in Colorado
A career as a pharmacist can offer satisfying work and generous financial rewards. It can be an ideal vocation for those who are interested in medicine and want to help people protect their health but have no desire to pursue a career as a physician or nurse. In Colorado, employment opportunities for trained and licensed pharmacists are steady and consistent, and if you’ve completed a postgraduate PharmD program at an accredited university, the demand for your skills should be brisk.
What Does a Pharmacist Do?
Pharmacists who complete their PharmD programs are trained and licensed to dispense prescription medications to patients both inside and outside of healthcare settings. They are also able to advise patients on how to take such medications safely and effectively.
Licensed pharmacists are often employed in drug stores or general merchandise stores that are authorized to fill prescriptions and distribute medications. They may be employed in healthcare facilities as well, working in or managing medicinal dispensaries in hospitals, clinics, public health agencies, or specialized medical care facilities. Pharmacists frequently work in larger healthcare teams, alongside physicians and nurses, and other pharmacists or pharmacy technicians.
Salaries for Pharmacists in Colorado
Pharmacists working in Colorado in 2021 had an annual mean wage of $125,040. This nearly matches the annual mean salary for the nation as a whole, which was $125,690. There were 5,090 people employed as pharmacists in the state, and nearly 60 percent of those were working for businesses or institutions in the Greater Denver Metropolitan area. The cities of Fort Collins, Boulder, and Colorado Springs also employ a large number of pharmacists, although the small towns of eastern and southern Colorado actually have the highest hiring rates per capita in the state.
Requirements to Become a Pharmacist in Colorado
The Colorado State Board of Pharmacy regulates the industry in Colorado. It issues licenses to new pharmacists and to those who move to Colorado from other states with the intent to practice their profession.
To be licensed as a Colorado pharmacist, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Graduate with a PharmD degree (the pharmacist’s version of a doctorate) from an accredited College of Pharmacy
- Pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX)
- Pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE)
- Complete at least 1,500 of an approved internship
- Have no history of criminal convictions
If you’re a licensed pharmacist in another state, you may relocate and seek employment in Colorado. Your license will be transferrable as long as you’ve previously taken and passed the MPE, and if you’ve been a licensed pharmacist for at least one year.
Once you’ve been granted a pharmacist’s license in Colorado, you must complete 24 continuing education credits in the field every two years to maintain your professional status.
PharmD Educational Program in Colorado
There are two educational institutions in Colorado that offer PharmD postgraduate programs: the University of Colorado-Denver, and Regis University, which is also located in Denver. Both pharmacy schools are accredited by the ACPE, which stands for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
University of Colorado-Denver
Located in the heart of one of America’s most dynamic cities, the University of Colorado-Denver offers a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program through its Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the Anschutz Medical Campus. CU-Denver has been ranked in the top 20 percent of pharmacy schools in the United States by US News and is even more renowned for its top-quality research facilities.
To be admitted to the Skaggs School of Pharmacy, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a university accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges or one of its regional affiliates
The PharmD program at the University of Colorado-Denver does not require a specific undergraduate major to apply for entrance. However, the student’s undergraduate curriculum must include 36 semester credits in courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, human anatomy, and human physiology. The applicant must have passed all undergraduate courses with a grade of C or better. Applicants must also provide two recommendations from individuals qualified to assess their readiness to complete a rigorous pharmacist’s preparation program, and they must also submit to an in-person or virtual interview with the pharmacy school’s admissions team.
Tuition for PharmD program students at the University of Colorado-Denver is $32,470 for in-state students and $41,265 annually for out-of-state students. The PharmD curriculum at CU-Denver can be completed in four years and includes a remote option for those unable to attend classes on campus.
Students who choose the online option will attend live-streamed classes taught in real-time. Twice each semester, they need to travel to campus for hands-on training sessions in lab work and vaccination procedures, and in their fourth year of study, they will be required to offer direct patient care as part of their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) program. This clinical experience must take place in Colorado, in a location accessible to a pharmacy program supervisor.
In addition to its traditional four-year pharmacy doctorate program, the university also offers two dual degree options. One awards a Master of Business Administration in addition to a PharmD, while the other adds a Master of Public Health to the PharmD designation. Students who choose either of these dual options can expect to spend six years in school before completing their degree programs.
Regis University is a small, private, Jesuit-run college located in Denver. It has been named by Newsweek as the best private college in all of Colorado.
The four-year PharmD program at Regis features a healthy combination of classroom learning, laboratory work, and direct clinical experience. It does not include an online option.
To be admitted to the Regis University PharmD program, applicants must submit official transcripts of all their college coursework. An applicant can supplement their application by taking the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) and submitting their score, but this is optional. Applicants must also provide one letter of recommendation and a Personal Statement Essay clarifying their goals and ambitions, and they must schedule an in-person interview with the pharmacy program admissions team.
Regis University doesn’t require a specific undergraduate major for prospective PharmD students. However, those who plan to apply for admittance should have pursued an undergraduate program that includes courses in chemistry, organic chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, cellular and molecular biology, and other related subjects in the biological sciences.
The PharmD training program courses require 150 semester credit hours for graduation. The school charges a tuition of $1,105 for each credit hour completed, which means a PharmD graduate can expect to pay at least $165,750 for tuition by the time they’ve received their degree.
Regis University does have two dual degree options for those who would like to combine their PharmD program with a Master of Science in Health Informatics or Health Services Administration. Starting in 2022, the university will also be offering a dual degree option in pharmacy and Business Administration, with the master’s degree being awarded in the latter subject. (See also How Much Does An Informatics Pharmacist Make?)
St. John Fisher College (Online)
If you prefer a highly focused online education, the ACPE-accredited PharmD program at St. John Fisher College could be an ideal option. This New York-based institution’s program is offered through its prestigious Wegmans School of Pharmacy and is open to qualified students from all across the United States as well as internationally.
The rigorous St. John Fisher curriculum includes 151 credit hours, which you will normally need four years to complete. A total of 11 clinical rotations at qualified institutions are included in your training, and in total, you’ll spend about 2,000 gaining direct hands-on experience to supplement your classroom pharmacy training.
To qualify for admittance to this competitive and highly respected PharmD online program, you will need to have completed at least 62 hours of pre-professional coursework as defined by the college, including multiple courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. You will also need to submit two letters of recommendation from qualified sources and complete an in-person or virtual interview with an admissions committee. You may also take the PCAT examination if you choose as a way to strengthen your overall application package.
The cost of tuition at the college is $1,130 per credit hour, and when all additional required fees are added, you can expect to invest approximately $181,337 in total to complete your degree program (not including transportation costs associated with your clinical practice rotations).
In 2020 the Wegman School of Pharmacy reported a 100 percent placement rating for its PharmD graduates, testifying to the high-quality education students receive at this fine institution.
Finding Employment as a Pharmacist in Colorado
Located in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is a great place to live for those who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle and for those who appreciate the broad open spaces so closely identified with the American West. The state is covered with tall peaks, deep forests, and an abundance of rivers and lakes and features seemingly endless expanses of hiking and biking trails that will allow you to explore every nook and cranny of Colorado’s spectacular natural environment.
If you’ve graduated with a PharmD and would like to work in Colorado, you may find opportunities for employment in the state’s larger cities, especially in the Denver metropolitan area. But you can also find jobs in the many small towns that dot the landscape in Colorado’s more sparsely populated eastern, western, and southern regions.