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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 9, 2021

A pharmacist is a professional who fulfills medication prescriptions for patients. To become a pharmacist, they undergo extensive schooling and licensing that authorizes them to work in the medical field. Gaining insight into the educational and training requirements can help you prepare for a career as a licensed health care professional. In this article, we explain what degree a pharmacist needs, the steps for becoming one and the salary and job outlook for the role.

What degree does a pharmacist need?

Being a pharmacist requires a Doctorate of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., degree. Students may enter the program during or after they've completed their undergraduate education. A Pharm.D. program may teach you about different medications. You can learn about the purpose of specific drug ingredients and why they're equipped to help patients recover from certain medical conditions. Other course topics may explain how to prescribe proper dosages and ascertain which patients are eligible for drugs. It may take you four years to earn your pharmacy doctorate.

Besides the coursework, the program may require you to gain clinical experience. You can work in laboratories and hospitals and learn how to organize drug prescriptions. Pharmacists are the leaders of pharmacies, which is why it may be important for you to practice your leadership and management skills while you're in school. You can build your expertise in health care to prepare you for operating a successful pharmacy and ensuring patients receive the right medicine.

Does a pharmacist need licensure or certifications?

Licensure is a requirement to work as a pharmacist, per federal regulations. You can pursue the credential after graduating with your pharmacy doctorate. The licensing process includes passing two exams. One is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy organizes. It includes over 200 questions that you can answer from a computer, and you can take the test five times until you achieve a satisfactory score.

The second exam depends on the state. 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 specifically offers. Review the requirements for the state where you live to ensure you pursue the right licensing path.

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. curriculums may allow you to enroll as a college upperclassman, which can save you time long term. Otherwise, you can enter the advanced curriculum after college, which may require an additional six years.

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

Related: Q&A: How Long Does It Take To Become a Pharmacy Technician?

How do I become a pharmacist?

Here are three 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.

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 may have its own eligibility requirements. For example, you may undergo a background check or turn in records on your internship completion. Next, you can prepare for and take the licensing tests. As your career advances, the state you live in may also require you to maintain your licensing status.

What is the salary of pharmacists?

The average salary of a pharmacist is $119,496 per year. Your annual income may depend on the costs of living in the city and state where you work. Other factors include the type of employer and the level of work experience you have. 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 professionals who recently became licensed. Before pursuing the role, consider your qualifications and area of residence to figure out your earning potential.

Related: Pharmacy Skills: What Are Employers Looking For?

What is the job outlook for pharmacists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there's a projected 2% decrease in the pharmacist occupation in the next decade. Professionals may find job opportunities in the industry as employees transition to other fields of medicine and established pharmacists enter retirement. Pharmacists can also work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, urgent care clinics and retail pharmacies. 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 heighten 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 conferences. A conference is an event that allows you to network with fellow health care providers. You can speak with representatives of hospitals and clinics, for example, and discuss your qualifications to determine if they would be interested in hiring you.

  • Contact employers directly. Identify organizations that may be ideal employers for you and email your resume to hiring managers. Your initiative can make a positive first impression, and you may learn of job vacancies that aren't posted yet.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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