What Are the Education Requirements for Becoming a Pharmacist?

To become a pharmacist, you'll need to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy program and obtain a state license. Read on for more information. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Defined

Pharmacists are licensed professionals who dispense prescription drugs to customers at pharmacies. If you become a pharmacist, you will work alongside physicians to ensure patients get the appropriate drug dosage. You'll educate clients on possible side effects and additional drug-related information they need to know before taking the medicine. In some cases, you'll mix the ingredients together to make the medication. In most cases, you'll receive medicines already created and stored in the proper dosage size from a pharmaceutical company.

You'll often work in settings like hospitals, drugstores, or healthcare facilities. You can provide additional advice to your patient about stress management, exercising, and dieting, along with healthcare or medical supplies. Special career areas as a pharmacist include nuclear pharmacy, geriatric pharmacy, psychiatric pharmacy, oncology, and intravenous nutrition support.

Education Requirements

A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree is required in order to become a pharmacist in the United States. Before you enter the Pharm.D. degree program, you'll need to complete prerequisite coursework in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences. These requirements can be completed in two to three years, although you can choose to complete a four-year bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related topic.

It typically takes about four years to complete a Pharm.D. program. In the program, you'll learn about drug information and how to properly communicate with customers. You'll also learn business management, professional ethics, and public health concepts. Laboratory work is common in these programs. Required classes include biopharmacy, medicinal chemistry, physiology, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, pharmacy law, pharmacy practice, healthcare systems, pharmacy management, therapeutics, and pharmacokinetics.

Internship

Completing an internship, a residency program or a fellowship program may be helpful for new graduates to gain experience. These programs can last one to two years. Experiential programs are highly valued because they allow you to acquire clinical experience and in some cases obtain familiarity in a specialized aspect of pharmaceutical work.

Licensing

A state-issued license is required to work as a pharmacist. You can pursue licensure after graduating from a Doctor of Pharmacy program approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. In most cases, you'll need to pass both the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). The NAPLEX covers scientific knowledge while the MPJE covers legal aspects of working with and distributing pharmaceuticals. States vary on specific requirements and some require additional examinations. Some states have work experience and age requirements as well.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported in May 2013 that pharmacists had an average hourly salary of $55.27 and an average annual income of $116,500. Pharmacists who were in the top 10% of wage estimates earned $147,350 or more per year.

The BLS reported slightly above-average growth in employment opportunities of 14% for pharmacists from 2012-2022. The BLS stated that job prospects were good due to the increase in use of prescription drugs and more people receiving prescription drug insurance coverage.

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