How to Become a Retail Pharmacist

Aug 04, 2018

Learn how to become a retail pharmacist. See the job description as well as the education and licensing requirements to find out how to start a career as a retail pharmacist.

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  • 0:01 Retail Pharmacist Career Info
  • 1:11 Fulfill Prerequisite…
  • 1:51 Attain a Pharm.D. Degree
  • 2:51 Complete State…
  • 3:27 Find Employment
  • 3:46 Gain Experience

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Retail Pharmacist Career Info

Degree Level Doctorate
Degree Field Pharmacy
Licensure Licensure is required in all states; candidates must pass two exams
Key Skills Managerial, communication, and analytical skills; attention to detail; proficiency in specialized tools and technology
Salary $121,500 (2015 median for all pharmacists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online

Retail pharmacists might work in small, independent pharmacies or in the pharmacy departments within grocery stores or larger retail establishments. They are responsible for filling and dispensing patients' medicines as prescribed by their doctors. These pharmacists can also provide patients with guidance on how to take their medicine as well as make them aware of any potential side effects. A retail pharmacist may also inform patients about any general health topics, like exercise or stress management, and give flu shots or other types of vaccinations. Administrative tasks, such as record keeping, are also normally required.

Pharmacists work indoors and spend many hours standing to fulfill their job requirements. They often work nights and weekends. These professionals should have managerial skills, communication and analytical skills, strong attention to detail, and proficiency in specialized tools and technology. Pharmacists in general earned a median annual salary of $121,500 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Fulfill Prerequisite Requirements

Before participating in a pharmaceutical program, a student must first complete some undergraduate coursework. The prerequisite qualifications for entry to a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program usually consist of about two years of specific undergraduate coursework in subjects like social sciences, humanities, and calculus, as well as physiology, chemistry, and biology. Students may acquire a bachelor's degree, although it is not required for admission to most Pharm.D. programs. Specific requirements for Pharm.D. programs vary at each college or university, so it's important to research the various prerequisites from school to school.

Step 2: Attain a Pharm.D. Degree

Most Pharm.D. programs are completed in four years, but some programs are designed to be finished in three years. While enrolled in this program, students participate in classroom discussions, listen to lectures, and perform laboratory work. In addition to learning about drug therapy and medication dispensing, students learn how to actively interview and communicate with healthcare providers and patients to determine the best route of treatment for a patient or the best use for a new drug.

Preparation for becoming a pharmacist includes completing a training program commonly referred to by pharmacy schools as Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs). Similar in format to a residency or fellowship, this takes place during the latter part of a degree program. Depending on the college curriculum, APPEs last one to two years. When participating in APPEs, a retail pharmacist works alongside trained professionals and learns how to perform work duties in a hands-on environment.

Step 3: Complete State Licensure Requirements

Pharmacists need to be licensed with their state in order to practice pharmacy. To qualify for licensure, a retail pharmacist has to have a Pharm.D. degree from an accredited university. A retail pharmacist also has to complete a series of examinations that usually include the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). The NAPLEX tests proficiency and skills in pharmacy, while the MPJE covers pharmaceutical law.

Step 4: Find Employment

Prospective retail pharmacists can find positions in a variety of settings. In addition to jobs at drugstores and pharmacies, positions are available in such settings as grocery stores or retail chain merchandise stores. Retail pharmacists can sometimes find full-time employment with residency programs or fellowships.

Step 5: Gain Experience

Pharmacists who specialize in certain medical areas can earn voluntary certification. For example, a pharmacist can earn certification in diabetes education or oncology to demonstrate his or her expertise to clients and potential employers. Additionally, pharmacists working in larger organizations can advance into management positions.

To sum up, aspiring retail pharmacists must complete a Pharm.D., or doctoral-level educational program, and earn licensure before they can find work in the field.

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