How To Become A Pharmacist

Your Guide to Becoming a Pharmacist

Looking for information on how to become a pharmacist? The path to becoming a pharmacist is a long but rewarding path. In most instances, a person could complete the educational requirements to become a pharmacist in about 6-8 years. The result of this hard work is a Doctorate of Pharmacy also known as a Pharm.D.

Most students entering pharmacy programs have at least 3 years of undergraduate courses. However, if you know early on that a career in pharmacy is something you want to pursue, some schools have an option of applying early. In these programs, the bulk of the undergraduate curriculum is focused on meeting the requirements of the Pharm.D program. In these instances, students may complete the Pharm.D program in 6 years. Most people who become pharmacists share a common skill set: an aptitude for science and customer service.

How To Become a Pharmacist – Educational Requirements

Undergraduate Coursework

Prior to taking graduate courses, future pharmacists need to take a variety of classes as part of their undergraduate program. The courses should be heavy in sciences and math and include:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Statistics
  • Calculus
  • Human Anatomy
  • Public Speaking

The obvious courses are biology and chemistry. However, many schools require one or more public speaking courses. The reasoning for this is that most pharmacists will either work the traditional role at a drug store or perform research. Either way, learning to speak to the public is essential whether it’s explaining the effects of a prescription to a patient or presenting the next big drug to upper management.

The math course requirement (usually calculus and sometimes statistics) is included as pharmacists deal with numbers every day. Whether it’s ensuring a proper mix ratio of compounds or studying the effects of various dosages, math plays an important role in a pharmacist’s career.

Schools requirements vary. Check with the schools you are applying to for more information.

Pharmacy College Admissions Test

More than half of the universities with a school of pharmacy require the passing of the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). See this page for more information on the PCAT.

Graduate School

Many graduate programs have various programs to allow the student to focus on the area of pharmacy they would like to pursue. Aside from the stereotypical job of a pharmacist (the person in the lab coat behind the counter of a CVS, Walgreens, etc…), there are many other opportunities for the person graduate with a doctorate in pharmacy. However, upon graduation, many states have a residency requirement which can be 1-2 years in length.

Academic – Some students graduate and then pursue a college level teaching position educating future pharmacists.
Government – Various government agencies employ pharmacists. The functions of the positions range from research to working in government hospitals.
Pharmaceutical industry – Drug companies employ thousands of pharmacists to research, develop, and test new drugs for the market. In this case, a pharmacist is more like a scientist.
These are just a few of the opportunities that a pharmacist can pursue.

Pharmacist License

All states and U.S. Territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) require a license to practice pharmacy. This license is the NAPLEX or North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam. The exam tests the applicant’s pharmacy skills and knowledge. In addition to the NAPLEX, 44 states require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam or MPJE. From the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website, the NAPLEX is a 185-question exam tests a prospective pharmacist’s ability to measure pharmacotherapy and therapeutic outcomes, prepare and dispense medications, and implement and evaluate information for optimal health care. For those taking pharmacy training in San Diego CPR certification is also needed.

Pharmacist Experience

Like most professional licenses, most states have an experience requirement as measured in hours on the job. You may graduate and pass the necessary test but still not be able to call yourself a pharmacist until these hours of experience are complete. For example, California has a requirement of 1500 hours of interning before you’re eligible to take the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Exam (CPJE). The CPJE required in California instead of the MPJE.

Now that you know how to become a pharmacist, it’s time to take action and start the ball rolling on a rewarding career!