How to become a Pharmacist
Pharmacist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities needed to become a Pharmacist
Pharmacist Salaries
Influential Pharmacists
Leading Organizations in this field
Top Cities for Pharmacy Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Pharmacist

All US states require licensure for a pharmacist. Prior to licensure, a pharmacist must graduate from an accredited school with a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D. degree and obtain a passing grade on several certifying examinations.

Only a school of pharmacy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) can grant a Pharm D. In order to gain admittance to an accredited school of pharmacy, a prospective pharmacist must complete at least two years of post-secondary education, with course work in biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, humanities and social sciences. Most accredited schools require an applicant to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).

Schools of pharmacy teach students about drug therapy, communication skills, professional ethics and public health concepts. Students spend about one quarter of all time working in a variety of pharmacy settings, which are supervised by licensed pharmacists.

Schools of pharmacy can award a Ph.D or Master of Science degree, for those students wanting additional experience to the Pharm D. A prospective pharmacist can only obtain these advanced degrees after first obtaining the Pharm D. Pharmacists with a PhD or Master of Science typically work in research pharmacy rather than retail pharmacy. Other options for those wanting more advanced study include a residency program, which frequently involves a research project.

After receiving a Pharm D, the prospective pharmacist must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). While all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories require a prospective pharmacist to pass the NAPLEX, forty-four states and the District of Columbia also require a pharmacist to have passed the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). While the NAPLEX tests pharmacy skills and knowledge, the MPJE tests knowledge of pharmacy law. States that do not require the MPJE have their own test of pharmacy law, which must be passed in order to practice in those states. Some states require even more testing. All states, with the exception of California, will accept pharmacist licenses from other states.

What does a Pharmacist do?

A pharmacist distributes prescribed drugs to patients. They also educate their customers and doctors about drug interactions, dosages and the side effects of medications. Contemporary pharmacists almost never make drugs on the premises, but rather purchase standardized products made by pharmaceutical companies.

Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a hospital dispensary, retail store, nursing home or neighborhood clinic. Some have to work weekends and at night, to accommodate customers. While most pharmacists work a 40hour week, about 10% work 50hours or more. In 2006 around 16% worked part-time.

Pharmacists must wear masks and gloves to prevent contamination of pharmaceutical material and to prevent accidental exposure to themselves. The majority of pharmacists stand for most of the day.

In addition to dispensing prescribed drugs, pharmacists increasingly counsel patients about the drugs they are taking. Sometimes they advise patients about nutrition, stress management and medical equipment. Frequently they have to perform a variety of administrative tasks, such as third party billing. Owner-operator pharmacists will have to be a general manager as well as a pharmacist.

Hospital and clinical based pharmacists may educate staff about drug effects and selection. They may also plan and evaluate drug regimens. Home health care pharmacists may prepare pharmaceutical solutions for injection at home. Like most other medical professions, a pharmacist may specialize in specific areas of drug therapy, such a psychiatric pharmacy and geriatric pharmacy.

In a departure from tradition, some pharmacists now conduct research for pharmaceutical firms, engage in marketing or work for health insurance companies developing pharmaceutical benefit packages. In a more tradition expansion of tasks, some pharmacists teach at colleges or universities.

In 2006, there were 243,000 pharmacists in the US. Approximately 150,500 (62%) worked in community pharmacies, while a further 56,000 (23%) worked in hospitals.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists must be detail oriented, have a scientific aptitude, but also have good interpersonal skills.

How much does a Pharmacist make?

If the annual salaries of all pharmacists were arranged from the lowest to the highest, the median would be that point at which 50% of the salaries were lower and 50% were higher. Most salaries differ somewhat from the median. The best estimate of a potential salary lies in the range between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile, known as the middle 50% of salaries. The 25th percentile is the point at which 25% of salaries are below and the 75th percentile is the point at which 75% of all salaries are below.

The median income for pharmacists in May 2007 was $100,480. The middle 50% of pharmacists had incomes ranging from $88,060 to $115,030 per year.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

John A. Gans, executive Vice President and CEO of the American Pharmaceutical Association, began his career as a community pharmacist. Since then he has been on the faculty of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and served as secretary general for the Pan-American Federation of Pharmacies from 1991 to 1994.

Joseph DiPiro edits the, 'American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education' (AJPE), the official publication of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. DiPiro holds faculty positions at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy and at the Medical College of the Georgia School of Medicine. He wrote the textbook, 'Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach'.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Pharmacists Association ( is a generalist pharmacist organization rather than a specialized one. Founded in 1852, at present it has 60,000 members. Three academies compose The American Pharmacists Association, The Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management, The Academy of Pharmaceutical Research and Science, and the Academy of Student Pharmacists. Its website provides news about scientific research, offers education opportunities, including certificate training, governmental and legal news, career development, a job board, upcoming meetings and conferences and publications.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy ( represents educational institutions within pharmacy; 112 accredited colleges, 5,000 faculty and 50,000 students. This body also accredits schools and publishes 'The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education'.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores(, as its name implies, represents chain drug stores. It deals with government affairs, provides resources, hold conferences and publishes research and fact sheets online and as hard copy.

What are the top cities for Pharmacy jobs?

Pharmacist jobs are expected to grow faster than the average rate of job creation, due to increased demand for services and the need to replace retiring workers. This growth will be largely be driven by an aging population. Attempts to cut costs may also spur the expansion of the pharmacist role in patient education and vaccination.

The three top cities for pharmacist jobs are Dallas, Phoenix and Baltimore.

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