The education needed to become a nuclear pharmacist requires many years of commitment, and includes earning an undergraduate degree and then a Pharm.D. graduate degree. A fellowship or residency program is also required for individuals looking to specialize in a specific area, and this program can last up to two years. Licensure is required and certification is often obtained.
Nuclear pharmacists are a special type of pharmacist who work with radioactive materials for nuclear medicine. In addition to obtaining specialized certification, a nuclear pharmacist needs to complete the necessary steps to become a regular pharmacist, which include obtaining an undergraduate education, earning a Pharm.D. degree, passing licensure exams and completing a residency or fellowship. Additional training in a nuclear pharmacy certificate program can help prepare candidates for certification.
|Other Requirements||1-2 year fellowship or residency program; nuclear pharmacy certificate program|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure required; nuclear pharmacy certification common|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||3% for all pharmacists*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$112,483 for nuclear pharmacists**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
PayScale.com reported that the median salary for nuclear pharmacists was $112,483 in January, 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $121,500 for pharmacists in general in May, 2015. The three states that paid the highest wages to pharmacists in 2015 were Alaska, California and New Hampshire. Across the country, scientific and reserach development services, physician's offices, and outpatient care centers were among the highest paying employers of pharmacists in 2015. Job growth outlook is slower than average for the 2014-2024 decade, with only a 3% increase in positions expected.
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Prospective nuclear pharmacists must complete at least two years of undergraduate education, with specific courses taken in mathematics, chemistry, physics, humanities, biology, social sciences and natural sciences. These specific courses are determined by the entry requirements set forth by Pharm.D. programs. Some schools offer nuclear pharmacy specializations or minors within the Pharm.D. degree program.
After completing undergraduate work, students can apply to Pharm.D. programs. The Pharm.D. is a 4-year comprehensive graduate program in which students acquire the necessary education to become pharmacists and fill out prescriptions and medical orders. They also learn how to interact with customers, patients, physicians, nurses and healthcare providers.
After completion of the Pharm.D. program, an individual who wants to pursue a specialty must participate in a 1- to 2-year fellowship or residency. Generally, the student works under an experienced and licensed pharmacist and has the opportunity to experience the job firsthand. A final project is usually required. Candidates are also eligible to take the required pharmacist licensing exams after completing the Pharm.D.
Following their fellowship or residency, prospective nuclear pharmacists may consider entering a certificate program focusing on the proper handling and distribution of radioactive materials that are used in nuclear medicine. These certificate programs can help them gain the necessary work experience for certification. Nuclear pharmacy certification is administered by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties and requires candidates to pass an exam in addition to meeting the work experience requirements.
Nuclear pharmacists work with radioactive materials that are used as therapeutic agents. Becoming a nuclear pharmacist requires post-graduate education beyond the bachelor's degree in the form of a Pharm.D. degree, as well as a state license. It is also common for nuclear pharmacists to acquire certification of proficiency in handling radioactive materials.