During his junior year in college, Erik finally broke the news to his parents that he didn’t want to become a doctor. His father, a cardiologist, was initially upset and asked his son if he had any plans at all. Erik handed him a thick folder containing material he had compiled on the education and licensing requirements to become a pharmacist.
Overview of a Career as a Pharmacist
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists do a lot more than provide prescription medications to patients. They’re a source of advice to doctors and other health care providers and spend a significant amount of time counseling individuals about the proper use of both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The majority of pharmacists work in community pharmacies such as retail drugstores or in hospitals. The median annual compensation in May 2008 was $106,410. The 10 percent who earned the least made less than $77,390 a year. The top 10 percent received more than $131,440 annually. Projected job growth is higher than average.
An excellent source of information on the training and licensing requirements for pharmacists is the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) site. In order to practice pharmacy in the United States, an individual needs to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Simply earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical science isn’t sufficient.
At a minimum, a Pharm.D. degree requires two years of specific undergraduate study plus four academic years of pharmacy curriculum. A few schools offer accelerated Pharm. D. programs completed in three calendar years. AACP indicates that the majority of students begin their degrees after at least three years of college. While some institutions show a preference to those with four-year degrees, students who want to become pharmacists can apply after two years of college.
Certain pharmacy schools accept students immediately after high school graduation. These colleges and universities offer options known as 0-6 programs. Students admitted can finish all educational requirements within six years high school. After successfully completing their first two years of pre-professional curriculum, they are guaranteed admission into the associated four-year pharmacy program.
Some schools offer early assurance programs. These are similar to but not referred to as 0-6 programs since the majority of students gain admission as transfer students after at least two years of college.
Prospective pharmacy students can check out the requirements for pharmacy school admission here. The standard admission exam is the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), which gauges general academic ability and scientific knowledge. More than three quarters of pharmacy programs require applicant scores from the PCAT, though prospective students under 0-6 and early assurance programs don’t have to take this test.
The BLS indicates that all states plus the District of Columbia require a license to practice as a pharmacist. In most cases, the first step is completing a Pharm.D. accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
The candidate must then pass a series of exams. All 50 states plus the District of Columbia require passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). In addition, 44 states plus the District require passing the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam. The remaining states have their own respective pharmacy law exams. Some states require additional local exams.
Before an individual receives a license, he or she must complete a specified number of clinical hours. Students often satisfy this requirement while earning their Pharm.D. degrees. Additional requirements of some states include being a certain minimum age and passing a criminal background check.
All states have provisions to license graduates of foreign pharmacy schools. These graduates must first be certified from the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee. Before taking any exams required by their state, they must pass the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency examination (FPGEE), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Test of Spoken English (TSE) exams. Certain programs with Canadian accreditation are exempt. However, all foreign graduates must meet practical experience requirements to work as pharmacists in the U.S.