How to Become a Pharmacist (5 Essential Steps)

Perhaps you’ve always known you wanted to work in healthcare, stirring together “healing potions” as a child using anything you could find around the house — from shampoos to flower petals. Or perhaps you concluded at a later stage in life that a science career — or a career that allows you to help others — would be right up your ally.

No matter what brings you to this article, we’re here to shed some light on the pharmacist’s career path: what they do, how much they earn, what their work environment is like, and how you could go about becoming one. Let’s answer some questions!

What is a pharmacist?

A pharmacist (also known as a chemist across the pond in the UK) is a healthcare professional that fulfills your prescriptions and recommends medications based on your needs and medical profile, ensuring that you receive the correct dosage at the correct frequency.

What are the different types of pharmacists?

Pharmacists can work in a range of settings and, as a result, their daily duties can also vary significantly. Some types of pharmacists include:

What does a pharmacist do?

Pharmacists have a number of responsibilities. Indeed, their day-to-day may be a lot more varied than you would expect! They:

What is the workplace like?

As we have seen, pharmacists may become employed in a number of settings, from clinics to military posts, depending on the path they choose.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the majority of pharmacists in the US work in pharmacies and drug retailers, like Walgreens and CVS Health. For these professionals, going to work means spending a lot of time on their feet, as well as interacting with people from all sorts of backgrounds and of all age groups.

The second largest percentage of pharmacists work in hospitals, which, of course, is very different to working in a retailer setting. These professionals have direct, daily interactions with both doctors and patients.

How many hours do pharmacists work?

The majority of pharmacists work full time, or around 40 hours a week. Much like their working environments, pharmacists’ working hours can also vary depending on who they are employed by.

Self-employed individuals, for example, can decide their own work schedules (and will typically have additional responsibilities to take care of — ones that come with running your own business).

When working in facilities that are open around the clock, like hospitals, pharmacists may have to work night shifts, on weekends and on holidays.

What do pharmacists earn?

With a mean hourly wage of $64.81 (that’s $134,790 a year), according to the BLS’s Occupational Employment and Wages survey, pharmacists earn more than double the national average for all occupations. The lowest 10th percentile, meanwhile, earns an annual wage of $89,980, while the highest 10th percentile takes home $168,650 a year.

As far as the top-paying states for pharmacists go, they are:

  • California ($157,280/year)
  • Alaska ($151,600/year)
  • Oregon ($149,550/year)
  • Washington ($148,550/year)
  • Minnesota ($143,210/year)

In a snapshot:

Pharmacist Salary

What is their job outlook?

The BLS’s Employment Projections survey forecasts that, in the 2022–2032 period, employment of pharmacists in the country will grow by 2.6%, which is about the same as the average for all occupations. This is the equivalent of 13,400 openings per year over the decade.

Currently, there are 334,200 pharmacists in employment; by 2032, the number is anticipated to grow to 342,900. Of these, 0.9% are currently self-employed, a figure that is expected to fall to 0.7% by the end of the 10-year period.

What are the entry requirements?

We’ve looked at what a pharmacist’s work environment typically looks like, as well as how much they can potentially earn. But what are the requirements of landing your first job in this field?


Pharmacists in the US will typically need a Doctor of Pharmacy (or PharmD) degree from an accredited program in order to practice the profession. To enroll in this kind of program, applicants must first complete a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field such as chemistry or biological sciences.

Alternatively, some students complete a pre-pharmacy program instead of an undergraduate degree.

Skills and qualities

To find work as a pharmacist, you must be able to demonstrate a range of skills and qualities besides medication expertise. These include:

Licensing and certification

The pharmacist’s profession requires licensure in all states. These requirements can vary, however, depending on where you live.

Regardless of your location, you’ll need to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) test, as well as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) test or another state-specific test.

Would you make a good pharmacist?

Spending just under a decade of your life preparing for a specific career path is a big commitment. To make sure that this is indeed the right choice for you, you’ll want to take a closer look at your strengths, interests, personality and motivators, and reflect on your overall career goals.

A psychometric test (or a series of them) can give you precious insights into your work personality, career interests and motivators, and reasoning ability. Our very own career-matching platform CareerHunter will also match you against a database of more than 250 careers, besides providing you with the insights, so you can examine all your options.

5 steps to become a pharmacist

The path to working as a pharmacist is quite longwinded. Let’s look at five steps you must complete in order to practice this profession:

Step 1: Complete your high school education

In the majority of cases, becoming a pharmacist takes a lot of studying at tertiary level — eight years of it, to be exact. So, in order to embark on this long educational journey successfully, you need to first acquire your high school diploma.

Earning your diploma is a good idea, regardless of what career path you’re hoping to pursue in the future. According to the BLS, high school diploma holders earn more than those who never complete high school, and they’re also a lot less likely to find themselves unemployed.

Step 2: Earn a bachelor’s degree

Before you can work as a pharmacist, you’ll need to get licensed, and before you can do that, you’ll need to complete a Doctorate of Pharmacy program. And, in order to enroll in an accredited program, you will first need to complete a related undergraduate degree — although, in some cases, a two- or three-year associate degree may suffice.

Some subjects you can pursue at undergrad level include pharmaceutical studies, biology and chemistry. If your university offers it, you may also be able to enroll in an integrated program that leads to PharmD admission.

Step 3: Apply to pharmacy school

When looking at graduate programs, ensure that your chosen ones have been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education!

Then, you can use PharmCAS to submit your applications. The centralized application service will let you explore different programs as well as compare their entry requirements.

Through the platform, you’ll be able to submit your personal statement, transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Up until January 2024, graduates interested in pursuing a pharmacy degree could sit the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) to boost their chances of being selected. This test, however, has now been retired.

Step 4: Complete your PharmD degree program

Typically, your PharmD program will take between three and four years to complete. During that time, you will be taught on a range of related subjects, from pharmacy law to pharmacology, cell biology and non-prescription therapies.

You’ll also normally complete hands-on pharmacy practice, which will allow you to apply what you learn in the classroom in a real-life setting.

Being a pharmacist comes with great responsibility, as the health of your patients will lie in your ability to listen actively, make well-informed choices and empathize effectively. The more you get to practice your theory in a patient care setting, the more you will strengthen vital skills and build a sense of confidence in your ability.

Step 5: Receive your license

As mentioned above, there will be two sets of exams that you will need to sit in order to gain your license. All US-based pharmacists must pass the NAPLEX exam and the MPJE test or another test required by their state.

The (non-negotiable) NAPLEX exam, issued by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is designed to assess your ability to:

  • Obtain, interpret or assess data, medical or patient information
  • Identify drug characteristics
  • Develop or manage treatment plans
  • Perform calculations
  • Compound, dispense or administer drugs, or manage delivery systems
  • Develop or manage practice or medication-use systems to ensure safety and quality

Final thoughts

Around the US, there are around 140 accredited pharmacy schools that aspiring pharmacists can choose from. No matter where you earn your Doctor of Pharmacy degree from, though, one thing is certain: a lot of hard work is required to kick-starting your career in the field.

However, if you’re looking for a meaningful profession that combines job security with a great salary, the effort will be worth it. You just have to stay committed and be a little patient!

So, do tell: Can you see yourself working as a pharmacist in the future? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published in February 2014.

Source link
All Materials on this website/blog are only for Learning & Educational purposes. It is strictly recommended to buy the products from the original owner/publisher of these products. Our intention is not to infringe any copyright policy. If you are the copyright holder of any of the content uploaded on this site and don’t want it to be here. Instead of taking any other action, please contact us. Your complaint would be honored, and the highlighted content will be removed instantly.

Leave a Comment

Share via
Copy link