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Licensing and Credentialing Requirements for Aspiring Pharmacists

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 and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Considering their important role in working with medications, pharmacists must complete an extensive education. Every state also has licensure requirements that prospective pharmacists must meet in order to have a career in this field.

Essential Information

Pharmacists provide medication and prescription drugs to patients. In addition to undergraduate study, aspiring pharmacists must complete a 4-year degree program known as a Pharm.D. degree. An intense examination process is required in order to be licensed as a pharmacist.

Required Education Pharm.D. degree
Other Requirements North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination
Either the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination or a state examination testing pharmacy law
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 0% (for all pharmacists)
Average Salary (2018)* $123,670 (for pharmacists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Pharmacists must earn a degree known as a Pharm.D. from a college or university accredited by an organization like the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Applicants entering into these programs must have a minimum of two years of undergraduate study completed already, with classes in physics, biology, humanities, social sciences and chemistry.

These programs take about four years to finish. Students learn how to effectively communicate with healthcare providers and patients about drug therapy. Public health, business management and ethics are all topics studied in this program. The program is a mixture of classroom lecture, laboratory assignments and internships with licensed pharmacists. After completing the degree program, a residency program or fellowship must be completed.

Licensing and Credentialing Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state requires aspiring pharmacists to be licensed (www.bls.gov). After entering into an educational program at a pharmacy college and earning the Pharm.D. degree, an aspiring pharmacist can begin the examination process for the license. This examination is known as the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). In addition, many states also require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) to be completed. States that do not require the MPJE have their own examination testing pharmacy law.

The NAPLEX examination consists of 185 questions testing an aspiring pharmacist's ability to properly measure, prepare and dispense medication to patients. The examination costs $485 to take and preparation materials are available from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (www.nabp.net). A minimum number of work hours or experience with a licensed practicing pharmacist is required in some cases to qualify for this licensing and credentialing exam. There may be additional examinations depending on a specific state's requirement.

Salary and Employment Outlook

Pharmacists in the U.S. earned an average salary of $123,670 per year in 2018, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS indicates that at that time, outpatient care centers, other professional, scientific and technical services and local government were the highest-paying industries for pharmacists. The employment of pharmacists is expected to show little or no change between 2018 and 2028, states the BLS, with more of these professionals needed to keep up with an aging population's increasing use of medications.

Pharmacists must undergo a rigorous education and licensing process. Pharmacists may have to work under a licensed pharmacist for a period of time before getting their own license. This hands-on training, combined with their college education, prepares them for the intensive examination(s) they must pass to become licensed pharmacists.

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