How to Get Your Pharmacist License in Washington

Pharmacists are indispensable in healthcare. They measure out the correct dosages for medications for patients, offer expert advice on health and go over possible drug interactions. Since the pandemic, some pharmacists are now offering immunizations and health screenings. Pharmacists, along with doctors and nurses, are among the frontline workers who are looking out for the health of all patients. 

Washington state is an excellent place to start a rewarding, lucrative and challenging career in pharmacy. The average annual pharmacist salary in the state is $129,970, which has increased by 7% over the last five years. The state expects to see a growth of 8.87% in need of pharmacists over the next several years. 

PharmD Requirements in Washington

After graduating high school, you will have to enroll in a four-year undergraduate study. Here you will focus on sciences such as chemistry, biology, microbiology and anatomy, as well as mathematics and psychological studies. Once you have finished all of these, you will need to enroll in an Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) approved pharmacy school in Washington. 

This is a four-year degree that includes lab coursework, and around 2000 hours of hands-on internship, working with a licensed pharmacist. Once you have completed your degree, you will have to apply to the Washington State Department of Health and pay an application fee. After that, you need to register to take the North American Pharmacist License Exam (NAPLEX) and Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) exams. Once you pass both of those tests, you will be a licensed pharmacist. 

The NAPLEX and MPJE

Passing both the NAPLEX and MPJE is necessary to practice as a pharmacist in the majority of states in America. The NAPLEX exam is designed to assess the competence of prospective pharmacists. It is an adaptive, computerized exam that will adjust the questions based on the test taker’s answers. There are approximately 225 questions in the exam, and you will have six hours to complete it. 

The cost of the exam is $575, and candidates who don’t pass the first time will have up to four more chances to pass. Most accredited pharmacy schools have a high first-time pass rate, so most candidates won’t have to re-test. 

The MPJE is an exam that tests you on the applications of laws and regulations for individual states. This exam will need to be taken in any state a pharmacist is seeking to work in. This is also an adaptive exam and it carries a $200 price tag to take this test. It is a 120-question test with a 2.5-hour time limit. 

Top Accredited PharmD Schools in Washington

There are two highly ranked universities in Washington that have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. Both are accredited by the ACPE and have very high first-pass rates when it comes to the NAPLEX AND MPJE examinations. 

University of Washington School of Pharmacy

Located in Tacoma, the University of Washington School of Pharmacy is consistently ranked as one of the top ten programs in the nation. 

Requirements for Acceptance

To be accepted into the University of Washington (UW), you will have to complete the appropriate prerequisites from an accredited college, university or community college. These prerequisites generally take three to four years to finish, though the school may give preference to students who have earned a BA or BS degree. It’s also strongly recommended that these courses have been completed no less than five years before applying to UW. Though many universities require prospective students to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) before applying, the University of Washington does not require students to take that exam for entry. 

What Sets UW Apart

University of Washington offers a range of elective opportunities you may not find at other colleges, such as the Geriatric Pharmacy certificate program. This program prepares students to become specialists in geriatric medicine to help meet the needs of a growing elderly population. 

The University of Washington Pharmacy program is also part of the world-renowned UW Health Sciences Center. Here students are encouraged to have interprofessional collaborations with the School of Nursing, Medicine, Public Health and more. 

Students of UW have the opportunity to pursue Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) in locations throughout the world. UW is one of the few universities offering internships outside of the country. Most students do decide to stay local, though some opt to travel farther away to places such as California or Hawaii to finish their APPEs. If you have the ability to travel to another country to get hands-on experience, you can do so at the University of Washington. 

The University of Washington boasted a 98% first-time pass rate on the NAPLEX for the years between 2018 to 2020. The school knows how to prepare students for a great career in pharmacy. 

Washington State University Doctor of Pharmacy 

There are two locations to choose from, Spokane or Yakima. Before applying for the Doctor of Pharmacy program, you will have to complete at least three years of pre-pharmacy studies. These can be taken at Washington State University. In fact, it’s recommended to take the prerequisites there because they have specific requirements for those classes. 

WSU does not require students to take the PCAT before applying there. 

What Sets WSU Apart 

At WSU, students will begin interactions with patients during their first year, giving students in this program an early head start with real-world experience. These student and patient interactions continue during the entire curriculum. 

The first three years of the program include studies located on campus, while the fourth year is a series of six APPEs located across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.  

While in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, WSU does not do a GPA grading system. Instead, they use a grading model based on “Honors-Satisfactory-Fail.” They prefer to place emphasis on competency and mastery of skill while taking the focus off grades. By utilizing this HSF model, almost all students pass their first year. Compared to the national average of first-year failure, which is 10%, less than 0.5% of WSU students fail during the first year of the program.  

Since the pandemic started, pharmacists have been tasked with taking on more hands-on roles with patients, including administering immunizations. WSU was one of the first universities in the United States to start immunization training in the PharmD program. In the second year of studies, students will complete and gain a certificate for the Washington State Pharmacy Association (WSPA), a nationally recognized program. With this certificate, students can start working in health clinics to gain valuable experience during their clinical rotations. 

Continued Studies at WSU

Once students have finished the PharmD program, they can continue their studies at WSU to work toward a dual degree. These programs include

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Molecular Medicine
  • Engineering Technology Management    
  • Communication. 

St. John Fisher School of Pharmacy 

St. John Fisher is an accredited online university based in Rochester, New York. Though this college is primarily online, you will still get an excellent education here because St. John Fisher is ranked in the top 20% of colleges in the United States. 

Admission Requirements

Admissions require 62 credit hours of prerequisites or the equivalent of two years of professional education from an accredited college or university. You will also need all your transcripts and two letters of recommendation. As with the other two colleges mentioned in this article, the PCAT is not a requirement for admission. 

What Sets St. John Fisher Apart

At St. John Fisher, you get the flexibility of online learning, but you will also get experiential training as well—up to 30% of the curriculum will be hands-on. They have partnered with local pharmacies in your area so you can achieve the required 2000 hours of clinical rotations close to where you live.

St. John Fisher keeps its online classes small, so students get plenty of personalized training along with one-on-one access to faculty. Graduates from St. John Fisher School of Pharmacy consistently test better and get better residency placement after completing the program.  

Continuing Education

Washington state requires pharmacists to renew their license every year, though they are working on transitioning to a two-year cycle. Pharmacists are required to complete 15 hours of Continuing Education (CE) credits every year. These can all be completed at home if one desires. The first time a pharmacist renews, they are required to complete three hours in suicide screening, referral, and imminent harm via lethal means. 

Finding Employment in Washington

The larger cities in Washington, such as Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma, employ the most pharmacists, whereas Bellingham is currently the highest paying city in the state. Still, they only employ about 100 pharmacists at a time. Pharmacists in Washington will likely be working in the retail sector, as they employ the highest number, but there are also opportunities to work at outpatient care centers or hospitals. Whatever path you choose, Washington is a place that is seeing plenty of growth and demand for pharmacists.