FAQ: What Degree Does a Pharmacist Need? (With Tips)

Updated February 3, 2023

A pharmacist takes inventory of the medications available.

A pharmacist is a medical expert who creates medicinal compounds and fills prescriptions for patients. Like other medical personnel, pharmacists undergo extensive education and training programs to qualify them for their roles. If you're interested in becoming a pharmacist, it might be helpful to learn more about the academic degrees that the role requires.

In this article, we explain what degrees pharmacists need, discuss how to become a pharmacist, and describe these individuals' salary and job outlook.

What degree does a pharmacist need?

Becoming a pharmacist requires a Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Students may enter the program during their undergraduate education or after they complete it. In a Pharm.D. program, students take a wide range of classes that cover chemistry, pharmacology and medical ethics. This teaches future pharmacists the properties of different medications and how to administer them safely and effectively. In most cases, it takes four years to earn a pharmacy doctorate.

Besides classroom work, Pharm.D. programs include extensive clinical training. This gives students valuable real-world experience and prepares them to work in pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. It can also provide pharmacists with other valuable workplace skills like leadership, collaboration, communication and organization.

Related: Hospital Pharmacist vs Retail Pharmacist: Responsibilities, Skills and Education

Does a pharmacist need licensure or certifications?

Per federal regulations, licensure is a requirement to work as a pharmacist. You can pursue these credentials after graduating with your pharmacy doctorate. The licensing process includes two exams. One is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), provided by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. It has over 200 questions that you can answer from a computer. You can take the test up to five times to achieve a satisfactory score.

The second licensing exam depends on the state you live in. One of your options is the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam, a timed, computerized test with over 100 questions. An alternative is to take a jurisprudence exam that your state offers. Review the requirements for your home state to ensure that you pursue the right licensing path.

Related: 8 Pros and Cons of a Pharmaceutical Career

How long does it take to become a pharmacist?

It may take at least six years to become a pharmacist. An undergraduate degree program often lasts four years, depending on how many courses you take per semester. Some Pharm.D. programs allow you to enroll as a college upperclassman, saving you time. Otherwise, you can enter the doctoral program after college, which often requires an additional six years.

You can also consider the eligibility standards for your state licensure. For example, if your state wants extra clinical experience once you've graduated, it may take longer for you to begin your career. If you want to earn higher-ranking pharmacy positions or select a specialty, you might choose to undergo a residency program, which can last one to two years. The length of your journey relies on where you live and your educational and training paths.

Related: How Long Does It Take To Become a Pharmacy Technician? (With FAQs)

How do I become a pharmacist?

Here are steps you can follow to become a pharmacist:

1. Enroll in a bachelor's degree program

The first step is to gain course credits at a college or university. The discipline you study depends on the admission standards for the pharmacy school you wish to attend. It may be helpful to research the prerequisite courses and GPA standards in advance. You can also select your educational path while in school.

Related: 14 Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacist

2. Earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree

The second step is to earn an advanced pharmacy degree. The coursework can prepare you for managing a pharmacy and fulfilling prescriptions correctly. You can also choose a pharmacy specialty and participate in clinical internships.

Related: Pharmacy Apprenticeship: Definition, Responsibilities and How-To Guide

3. Pursue a pharmacy license

The third step is to become a licensed pharmacist. Each state has its own eligibility requirements. For example, you may undergo a background check or turn in records on completion of your internship. Next, you can prepare for and take the licensing tests. As your career advances, your state may also require you to maintain your licensing status through continuing education.

Related: How To Get Hired as a Pharmacist in 7 Steps

What is the salary for pharmacists?

The average salary of a pharmacist is $127,276 per year. Your annual income may depend on your living costs in the city and state where you work. Other factors include the type of employer and the level of work experience you have. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link.

For example, a pharmacist at a metropolitan hospital may make more money than their counterpart at a local drugstore. Doctors with 10 years of experience in the field may have higher salaries than those who recently earned their licenses. Before pursuing the role, consider your qualifications and area of residence to estimate your earning potential.

Related: Pharmacy Skills: What Are Employers Looking For?

What is the job outlook for pharmacists?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 2% increase in pharmacy jobs by 2031. It may be helpful to analyze the job market in the city where you want to work. You can also review the job prospects of your preferred work environment to determine the type of employer that has the most vacancies.

Related: 28 Pharmacy Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

What are some tips for finding a job as a pharmacist?

Here's a list of tips to help you start your career as a pharmacist:

  • Ask people you know. Your professional network of classmates, coworkers and mentors can inform you of opportunities. Connect with them and talk to them about the work environment and specialty you prefer to improve your chances of finding your desired position.

  • Look for open jobs online. Employers may advertise openings in their organization on job websites, such as Indeed. Search for pharmacist roles on the website and filter the results from the city where you want to work.

  • Attend industry conferences. A conference is an event that allows you to network with fellow health care providers. You can communicate with representatives of hospitals and clinics and discuss your qualifications to determine if they'd be interested in hiring you.

  • Contact employers directly. Identify organizations you want to work for and email your resume to hiring managers. Your initiative can make a positive first impression, and you may learn of job vacancies that a company hasn't publicized yet.

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