How to Become a Pharmacist in USA|5 Best Steps

Searching for how to become a pharmacist in USA? Then you must read this article to the end. A career in pharmacy is without a doubt among the top-paying professions in the world, with an average annual salary of $143,685. 

A pharmacist is a clinical health professional, who has been educated and trained in the right way to use, store, preserve and provide medicine. 

Pharmacists are known to have extensive knowledge of drug prescription, including how they work, when to take them, how to take them, how they might affect people who will take them, as well as how they will interact with them.

While a physician prescribes drugs, a pharmacist dispenses the drugs and counsels the patient on the use of the drug.

Pharmacists also contribute to research in the production of new drugs and also testing of newly produced drugs.

They insure produced drugs do not interact negatively with other medications, as well as have an effect on the body of their patients taking them.

They usually work in pharmacies, medical clinics, hospitals, universities, including government institutions. You might be considering a career in the health sector, as a pharmacist.

In this article, we will be discussing a step-by-step guide on how to become a pharmacist in USA.

The List of Steps on How to Become a Pharmacist in USA

  • Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree
  • Step 2: Training
  • Step 3: Acquire a Pharmacist License
  • Step 4: Examine Possible Work Settings
  • Step 5: Join organizations

We will be providing more information on the aforementioned steps on how to become a pharmacist in USA.

Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree

For you to become a pharmacist in the United States, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in the field of science.

Typically, it takes about a 2-year pre-pharmacy program, and about a 4-year bachelor’s degree program in pharmacy to qualify you for a pharmacy degree, however, some schools prefer student applicants to have a bachelor’s degree first before applying. 

Pharmacy classes cover a bunch of different areas from biology and chemistry, to anatomy and physiology. Undergraduate programs also consist of biochemistry, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, and toxicology in a rare cases. According to the U.S  Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), acquiring a licensing in pharmacy will require you to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.).

Typically, a pharmacist in training undergoes two different paths, as required to complete their educational requirement.

The first option is completing undergraduate coursework, which is a prerequisite before moving into the next program.

Students are required to have an idea of which graduate program they will pursue before committing themselves to an undergraduate program.

The four years undergraduate program comprises general education and liberal arts classes, with two years focus on courses relevant to pharmacy.

As part of the requirements for advanced study, students are mandated to take courses in organic chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, molecular and cellular biology, microbiology, statistics, calculus, and the English language.

Some programs require it. Some programs may require multiple semesters in order to complete and once completed, students can apply for a four-year doctoral program.

After completing your degree program, a graduate program follows next. This program is a combined option that combines all coursework into a single program.

Graduate programs are often offered in various forms and allow students to complete their program in a short while.

Graduate programs typically last between six to seven years and are well suited for students with a clear understanding of what their future career holds, and who also want to finish their studies early.

Step 2: Training

“Getting trained” is second on the list of steps on how to become a pharmacist in USA. Usually, after completing your education and before working independently as a professional pharmacist, you will be required to complete a training program.

This program is designed to equip you with practical, and field knowledge in pharmacy. You may have two options for training:

  • First, you may consider undergoing an on-the-job training program.

    During the course of this program, you may learn practically how to use your organization’s computer system, not just that alone, but mastering workflows, as well as learning how to adapt to policies and procedures within your field.

  • Secondly, you may choose to complete a year or two-year residency program that provides professional experience.

    Residency programs are very essential, for individuals looking forward to pursuing a specialization, such as geriatric care or clinical pharmacy position.

Step 3: Acquire a Pharmacist License

After acquiring a degree and undergoing training, you must get licensed before you can be allowed to practice in the U.S.

You will need to write and pass a licensing exam.

In the U.S, the examination required is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). This test is used by all states in the U.S and must be taken after earning your Pharm D. 

The computer-based test comprises 185-questions and tests your knowledge of pharmacology, and your ability to produce, including how to supply medication, evaluate health information, and measure therapeutic outcomes.

The requirements all depend on your state of residence, as the requirement varies across states, while most states require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), some don’t.

The MPJE test consists of 90 questions, all multi-choice questions.

These questions are designed to test your knowledge of pharmaceutical laws, and states that don’t use these exams have their own pharmacy law examinations.

Both NAPLEX and MPJE exams are being administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy administrators.

Depending on your state of residence within the U.S, you may be required to take other additional exams.

Step 4: Examine Possible Work Settings

After writing and successfully passing your licensing exam, the next step on how to become a pharmacist in USA is to examine some possible work settings, you can now be eligible to work and practice as a pharmacist.

As a licensed pharmacist, You have many employment options available for you, such as working in retail health and personal care stores, grocery stores, and department stores as these businesses are your most likely employers.

2020 pharmaceutical statistics as provided by BLS have it that about 135,070 people employed within the pharmacist industry, worked in the health and personal care stores. 

Further statistics revealed that hospitals employed another 78,940 pharmacists, while the rest were left to work for pharmaceutical companies, insurance agencies, or academic bodies and institutions.

Step 5: Join organizations

Joining organizations is the last step on our list of steps on how to become a pharmacist in USA. It’s important you join and remain active in an organization within your field. There are several organizations available you could join, both locally and internationally.

A typical example is the American Pharmaceutical Association established in the year 1852, which is responsible for the interest of all pharmacists within the U.S.

Among all the pharmaceutical organizations in the international societies is the Fédération Internationale Pharmaceutique, which was founded in the year 1910. This international pharmaceutical organization is supported by some 50 national societies, aimed for the advancement of the professional and scientific interests of pharmacy all over the world.

What degree is needed to become a pharmacist?

While searching for how to become a pharmacist in USA, you must take note of the training required. For you to become a pharmacist you must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.). Most students typically enter the Pharm.D. program after a duration of two to three years of their undergraduate study.

While seeking an institution to start your Pharm.D. program, care should be taken in selecting an institution that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

When schooling as an undergraduate, care should be employed as well as focus on ensuring that you earn a high grade in your undergraduate prerequisite courses like calculus, biology, statistics, organic and general chemistry, biochemistry, human anatomy, and physiology.

Some mandatory tests like the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) are required from student applicants before they can be admitted into a pharm.D. program.

What subjects are needed to become a pharmacist?

The PCAT tests you on diverse areas including your comprehension ability, reading ability, your quantitative and verbal ability as well as your knowledge of biology and chemistry. Pharm. D. program students take courses in:

Pharmacognosy: which is the scientific study of drugs derived from plants and animals.

Pharmaceutical chemistry: This is the use of chemistry to enhance and design drugs.

Pharmacology: The scientific study of drugs’ effects on human body systems.

Pharm. D. students are also trained in several pharmaceutical practices including how to dispense medication, how to counsel patients as well as several other business principles.

Pharmacists are greatly responsible for several drug-related activities and those with great knowledge in the field, end up opening their own pharmacies. 

Students often complete several hours of clinical training in a wide variety of settings, which includes compounding pharmacies, hospitals, and the community.

Students pharmacists towards the end of their schooling program are assigned clinical rotations in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and physicians, which gives them the opportunity to work closely with patients as well as physicians and other health practitioners within the industry 

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Obtaining a license is mandatory for all pharmacists who intend to practice.

In order to acquire a license, Pharm. D. students who graduate from an accredited school must register and successfully pass the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX) and the Mul-State pharmacy jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). 

How many years to become a Pharmacist?

The length of time it takes to start and complete a Pharm. D. program varies depending on your chosen program.

Typically, a stand-alone program takes about a four years period to complete.

If you have completed a bachelor’s degree before, it will take about eight years to become a pharmacist, however, if you were admitted into the program two to three years after your undergraduate studies, you can rest assured of practicing a bit sooner than expected.

Pharm. D. students accepted directly from high school complete their program for a duration of six years. 

How much does pharmacists earn in USA?

Having seen how to become a pharmacist in USA, how much can you earn as a pharmacist in USA? The median salary of a pharmacist in the United States is about $166,670 as of 2012.

Pharmacists among the 10th percent earners, earn more than $145,910, while the lowest than 10 percent make less than $89,280 yearly.  

Acquiring more education, and undergoing more training within this field could help increase your earning power even as you rise through the ranks.

What are the job prospects of a pharmacist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be an increase in the number of employment opportunities for pharmacists living in the United States by 14 percent.

This statistic is about the average for all other occupations within the state. 

While it has been projected that the demand for pharmacists will rise due to several factors, which include increased access to health insurance, an aging population, etc.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, predicts that competition will rise as more students graduate from Pharm. D program.

Therefore for you to better your chances of job prospects, you will have to consider acquiring an additional education in the form of training, certifications, and attending relevant workshops to add up to your acquired degree.

Some pharmacists upon graduation decide to take on residencies in order to learn more about their chosen specialty 

What are the long-term career prospects for pharmacists?

It’s no doubt the pharmacist profession presents lots of opportunities and many open doors for future career paths.

As a pharmacist, you are not limited to a particular sector, as you can decide to work in a hospital, a pharmaceutical industry, a government agency, or better still, you could decide to establish your own company.

Pharmacists looking to expand themselves In terms of skills, and certificate training can consider enrolling themselves in some relevant programs like those offered by the American Pharmacists Association, or they could still decide to pursue a graduate degree such as a Ph.D. in pharmacy. 

With several experiences and added knowledge, a pharmacist can as well decide to own a pharmacy, go further into research, consider furthering their education or even think of advancing into an administrative organization or role. 

How can I find a job as a pharmacist?

There are several job opportunities for you as a licensed pharmacist.

You can decide to apply directly to firms that employ pharmacists or decide to utilize the help of recruitment agencies that aid in recruiting pharmacists on behalf of institutions that need them.

You can equally decide to make use of your professional contact, friends, and relatives. These contacts are important as they might serve as an avenue for the dissemination of information.

Conclusion on how to become a pharmacist in USA 

Having had a good idea of how to become a pharmacist in USA, you must know that with the job of a pharmacist, comes a lot of commitment and opportunities as well.

You have been led through the process of achieving your dreams of becoming a pharmacist in the USA, it now depends on you to take action.

What are you waiting for? Why not start that application today? Let us know if there are steps you think are missing in our list of steps on how to become a pharmacist in USA.

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