What Education Do You Need to Be a Pharmacist?

If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacist, you’re probably wondering what kind of education you need. The answer may surprise you – you don’t necessarily need a traditional four-year degree. Keep reading to learn more about the education requirements for pharmacists.

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The Basic Requirements

To become a licensed pharmacist, you must obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy school and pass two exams.

A minimum of a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited school of pharmacy

In order to become a licensed pharmacist in the United States, you will need to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited school of pharmacy. You will then need to pass two exams, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

A state license

To practice pharmacy and dispense medications in the United States, you must have a state license. The requirements for licensure vary by state, but all states require you to pass two exams: the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) and a practice-based exam specific to that state, called the Law Exam.

In order to sit for the MPJE, you must first complete an accredited Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. Accreditation is granted by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). There are currently 140 ACPE-accredited PharmD programs in the United States. To be eligible to apply to a PharmD program, you must complete at least two years of undergraduate coursework, although most programs require three years.

You can apply to PharmD programs either before or after completing your undergraduate degree; however, most students complete their bachelor’s degree before applying. It generally takes four years to complete a PharmD program. After completing a PharmD program and passing the MPJE and state-specific Law Exam, you will be licensed to practice pharmacy in that state.

The Doctor of Pharmacy Degree

Becoming a licensed pharmacist typically requires completing a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program. These 4-year professional degree programs typically include coursework in chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and other sciences, as well as topics in the business of pharmacy.

A four-year program

In order to become a licensed pharmacist in the United States, you must earn your Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy. Earning your Pharm.D. degree typically takes four years of full-time study, including two years of pre-pharmacy coursework followed by four professional years in a pharmacy program.

During your first two years (or three years if you are attending a school that does not offer a four-year program), you will complete coursework in the basic sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics. You will also take courses in mathematics, humanities and the social sciences. In your third and fourth year, you will complete clinical rotations in various settings such as hospitals, clinics and community pharmacies.

Coursework

Although each Pharm.D. program is unique, there are some commonalities among most programs. The first two years of most programs focus on building a foundation in the sciences with coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology. The last two years focus on clinical training in areas such as infectious diseases, geriatrics, and pharmacology. Many programs also offer rotations in specialized areas such as nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, and toxicology.

State Licensing

All states require pharmacists to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program and to pass a state pharmacy law exam. In addition, most states require pharmacists to complete continuing education credits every year to stay licensed. Some states have additional requirements, such as passing an ethics exam.

Requirements vary by state

The requirements to become a licensed pharmacist in the United States vary by state but all states require prospective pharmacists to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy school and pass a state pharmacy licensure exam.

In most states, pharmacy technicians must be registered with the state board of pharmacy and complete a board-approved training program. Some states require pharmacy technicians to pass a competency exam. Continuing education requirements for pharmacists and technicians vary by state.

Exam

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is the independent, international, nonprofit organization that assists its member boards for the purpose of protecting public health.

In order to become a licensed pharmacist, you must first pass the NABP’s Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). The PTCE measures your knowledge of pharmacy practice and is taken after you have completed your pharmacy education and training.

Continuing Education

Even after you become a licensed pharmacist, you will need to continue your education to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in medications and pharmacy practice. You will also need to complete continuing education credits to renew your license. There are many ways to complete continuing education, including attending conferences, taking classes, and completing online courses.

Required to maintain license

Most states require pharmacists to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) credits every year or every two years in order to renew their license. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) reports that as of July 2016, 44 states and Washington D.C. required CE for pharmacists, with the majority requiring 20 or more credits per renewal period. Some states have specific requirements for how many credits must be earned in certain categories, such as patient safety or pain management.

Pharmacists can specialize

Pharmacists can specialize in a number of different areas. They can work in hospitals, clinics, or the pharmaceutical industry. They can also choose to work in research or teaching.

There are a few different educational paths that pharmacists can take. Some pharmacists may choose to complete a four-year pharmacy degree program. Alternatively, they may complete a two-year pharmacy technician program and then complete a four-year pharmacy degree. There are also some pharmacists who have completed a six-year pharmacy degree program.

After completing their education, pharmacists must pass the licensure exam in order to practice pharmacy.

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