If you are thinking of becoming a pharmacist, you will need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited program (which includes four years of clinical experience) and a license. Prior to enrolling in a doctoral program, you will need to complete a pre-professional program.
Pharmacist Training Requirements
Pharmacists are responsible for filling prescriptions for patients. A Doctor of Pharmacy degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) is required. To earn the degree, prospective pharmacists must complete clinical work, including two to three years of Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences and one to two years of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences. A license, earned by passing the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), is also a required qualification.
|Required Education||Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree|
|Other Requirements||1-2 years of residency training, NAPLEX licensure|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||0%|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$126,120|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Become a Pharmacist
It takes approximately 6 years of post-high school education to become a pharmacist, including two years of prerequisite courses and four years to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. The sections below detail each of these steps.
Complete a Pre-Professional Track
Individuals who want to become pharmacists 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. The program may also include foundational courses in pharmaceutical practices as well as courses in other academic areas including English, mathematics, and economics. Some students opt to complete a four year bachelor's degree while taking pharmacy prerequisite courses, but holding a bachelor's degree is not a requirement for pharmacy school admission.
Earn a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree
Prospective pharmacists should seek a Doctor of Pharmacy program that is 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. programs are typically completed in four years and provide instruction on medical dosages, patient consultations and medication interactions. Common courses in a Pharm.D. program cover pharmacy law, pharmacotherapy, dosage forms and health management. Students are also familiarized with the equipment used on the job, including filling machines and flow cabinets.
Clinical experience is a major segment of a Pharm.D. program. In the first two to three years, depending on the university, students take Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences, in which students develop essential skills, such as consulting patients, delivering immunizations and performing screenings. During the remainder of the program, 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.
Pharmacist Career Training
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 additional 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. Residencies and fellowships are individualized programs that train pharmacists for administrative work or a specialty field, 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
In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $126,120 for pharmacists. Pharmacists are are also expected to experience 0% job growth between 2018 and 2028, based on data from the BLS. However, employment in certain industries is expected to increase. According to the BLS, because people are more often ordering their prescriptions online or through mail order, the number of pharmacists working in retail stores and drug stores will decline; however, at the same time, the aging baby boom population will create a higher demand for pharmacists in home healthcare services and hospitals.
Pharmacists need to complete a pre-professional program, an accredited doctoral program including 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 than average for all occupations, with no growth expected from 2018 to 2028.