Pharmacist: Educational Requirements and Career Summary

Jul 02, 2019

Discover more about the requirements to become a pharmacist. Learn about what a pharmacist does, what education is needed to become a pharmacist, the potential salaries and how to become licensed.

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What Do Pharmacists Do?

Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing controlled medication to patients in the proper doses and explaining how and when to use these medications. They may also discuss possible drug interactions with patients to ensure they use the prescription responsibly. At many pharmacies, pharmacists will also give flu shots and provide other immunization services. Pharmacists might also offer advice on nutrition, exercise, stress management and other general health issues, sometimes pointing customers to over-the-counter medications that might treat their symptoms.

Pharmacist Education Requirements

What Undergraduate Degree Do Pharmacists Need?

You might be wondering, 'What degrees do I need to be a pharmacist?' There is no set-in-stone undergraduate degree for pharmacists. To get into a post-graduate pharmacy school, candidates will need at least a 2-year degree (though most will benefit from a bachelor's degree). Students interested in the pharmacist education needed might want to take undergraduate coursework in topics like:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Anatomy

Doctor of Pharmacy Degree

The pharmacist degree requirement is to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (often called a Pharm.D.). A Pharm.D. is a professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete (though some schools offer a 3-year option). These degree programs cover the science behind medicine, the technical aspects of managing prescriptions and the ins and outs of patient care. Most will have coursework that delves into subjects like:

  • Drug absorption rates
  • Toxicology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Pharmacy ethics and law
  • Medicinal chemistry

Internships, Residencies and Further Training

Some pharmacy school requirements will mean that students need to do internships and other supervised work experiences to graduate. These experiences help prospective pharmacists get a feel for what the career will be like. In addition, some special pharmacies may require students to complete a residency that lasts for 1-2 years. Pharmacists who want to run their own pharmacy might also look into a Master of Business Administration.

Pharmacists work in an ever-evolving profession, so they must also attend continuing education throughout their careers.

Becoming a Licensed Pharmacist

Every state in the country requires pharmacists to get a license. After they've graduated with a Pharm.D. degree, aspiring pharmacists must pass two exams. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam covers pharmacy law, and the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam tests the graduate's knowledge and skills in the field. States often have additional requirements as well, including a certain number of internship hours. Pharmacists who give shots and immunizations may also need to acquire additional certification from the American Pharmacists Association.

What's the Career Outlook and Salary for a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists work full-time and most are expected to work odd or extended hours as the job demands it, but they are generally well-compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists who worked in pharmacies and drug stores saw a median salary of $124,760 as of May 2018. Those who worked in general merchandise stores enjoyed a higher median salary of $131,460.

An aging population and rising rates of chronic diseases are expected to contribute to a growth in jobs in the pharmacy field. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects a growth rate of 6%.

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