Pharmacist Education and Career Training Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pharmacist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you are thinking of becoming a pharmacist, you will need a doctorate degree from an accredited program, which includes four years of clinical experience, and a license. Prior to a doctoral program, you will need to complete a pre-professional program.

Essential Information

Pharmacists are responsible for filling prescriptions for patients. A doctorate degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) is required. Prospective pharmacists must complete clinical work, including two years of Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences and two years of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences, to earn the degree. A license earned by passing the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), is also a required qualification.

Required Education Doctor of Pharmacy degree
Other Requirements 1-2 years of residency training, NAPLEX licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3%
Median Salary (2015)* $121,500

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmacist Education Information

Individuals who want to become pharmacists will need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. To be accepted into a Pharm.D. program, students must first complete a pre-professional track that is typically two years in length and includes scientific courses in biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology. Foundational courses in pharmaceutical practices may also be included.

Pharm.D. Accreditation

Students may consider Pharm.D. programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Accreditation demonstrates that a program is preparing students to meet the standards of the profession. According to the ACPE, state licensing boards require applicants to have graduated from an accredited program (www.acpe-accredit.org).

Pharm.D. Coursework

Pharm.D. programs are typically completed in four years and provide instruction on medical dosages, patient consultations and medication interactions. The curricula include coursework in pharmacy law, pharmacotherapy, dosage forms and health management. Students are familiarized with the equipment used on the job, including filling machines and flow cabinets.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is a major segment of a Pharm.D. program. In the first two years, students take Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences, in which students develop essential skills, such as consulting patients, delivering immunizations and performing screenings. During the final two years, students take Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) that place them in patient care settings under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. APPEs have rotations that allow students to experience different areas of pharmacy, including inpatient, ambulatory operations and electives.

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Pharmacist Career Training Information

Licensing Information

Pharmacists must be licensed to practice. In addition to having a Pharm.D. from an accredited program, individuals must pass the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), which tests applicants on pharmacotherapy, dispensing medications and providing accurate healthcare information (www.nabp.net).

All states require applicants to complete either the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) or a state-sponsored exam. The MPJE tests students on the legal aspects of the pharmacy practice, licensure requirements and the regulatory laws that govern the profession. The NAPLEX and the MPJE are administered by the National Association of Pharmacy Boards. States may have addition licensing requirements, including background checks or age limits.

Fellowships and Residencies

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists who want to work in a clinical setting may consider completing a residency program or fellowship program (www.bls.gov). Residencies and fellowships are individualized programs that train pharmacists for administrative work or a specialty filed, such as informatics or community care. Programs typically last 1-2 years and may include research on the benefits of drug therapy and other topics in the field.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Pharmacists are expected to see a 3% increase in demand between 2014 and 2024, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, the field may add 9,100 jobs over that decade. In 2015, the BLS reported a median salary of $121,500 for pharmacists.

Pharmacists need to have finished a pre-professional program, an accredited doctoral program, clinical experience, and sometimes a residency, before attaining a license. While in school, they study subjects like dosages, consulting with patients, medication interactions, pharmaceutical law, health management, and pharmacy equipment. Demand for pharmacists is relatively low, as job growth is predicted to be slower that the average for all occupations, at only 3% through the year 2024.

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