Discovering how to become a pharmacist can be a little overwhelming at first, but it’s not that bad if you break it into manageable sized pieces. The three main categories will be your Educational Requirements, Training Requirements, and Testing / Licensing Requirements.
Depending on your educational goals becoming a pharmacist will take a minimum of 5 to 6 years. This will increase if you have additional educational goals such as a related bachelors degree or continuing on to a MS or PhD.
There are also four main paths to become a pharmacist – A 0-6 Program, an Early Assurance Program, a Bachelor + PharmD + Optional Continuation and an Unstructured Program. Which of these paths is right for you depends largely on where you plan to attend school and seek employment.
Educational Requirements | How to Become a Pharmacist
Your education can be broken down into your undergrad perquisites and obtaining your PharmD (or Doctor of Pharmacy).
If you are not in a “0 to 6″ or Early Assurance Program you will be responsible for planning and attaining the proper undergrad prerequisites to satisfy the admission requirements of the school where you plan to obtain your PharmD. Try to put together a comprehensive list that will satisfy the requirements of your top 3 school choices. Each school will have their admission requirements listed on their website.
After you have satisfied your prerequisites you must then obtain your PharmD. Be sure you understand the credentials of the school where you wish to attend. Is it accredited by the ACPE and a member of AACP? Some schools offer an accelerated PharmD program that can be obtained in three years instead of four. They typically go year round.
Most states require you to complete an internship of 1500 or more hours prior to taking the NAPLEX exam. The requirements of each state vary and it is best to check with the state in which you plan to test for their requirements.
Testing & Licensing | How To Become a Pharmacist
PCAT – Prior to being admitted to a school to obtain your PharmD the majority of schools will require you to take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test). The PCAT is a four hour test of 240 multiple choice questions and two essays. Not all of the programs in the US require this – be sure to check your schools requirements.
After you have your PharmD you will typically have to take two more tests the NAPLEX and the MPJE to obtain your license, but be sure to check the state requirements for whatever state you plan to practice in.
NAPLEX stands for North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam. It is currently a computer based test consisting of 185 questions over four hours and fifteen minutes with optional 10 minute break and costs $485.
MJPE stands for Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination. It is 90 questions long over two hours with no break and costs $200.
How To Become a Pharmacist | The Four Main Paths
- 0-6 Program
A 0-6 Program is a complete program typically started immediately after high shcool and is desirable because if you successfully meet the requirements of the two year prerequisites program you are guaranteed admission to the PharmD program. It is so named because most students can achieve their PharmD within 6 years.
- Early Assurance
Early Assurance is very similar to a 0-6 program in that completing the two year prerequisite courses ensures you admittance to the PharmD program but differs in that the student is considered a transfer regardless of where there prerequisite classes were completed.
- Bachelor + PharmD + Possibly MS or PhD
Completing your bachelor degree and then going for your PharmD is considered the “traditional path” many students end up taking this route because they did not decide to become pharmacists until later in their undergraduate career, their state requires it, or they plan on attaining a MS or PhD and are attending a school that is geared towards this end.
- Unstructured Program
An unstructured program mainly refers to the attainment of your prerequisites outside of the above 3 programs. This is where a student researches their PharmD school of choice’s admission requirements and completes them before applying and being accepted to the desired PharmD program. Each school will have the admission requirements of their PharmD program listed on their website. Many of these perquisites will overlap amongst the schools and it would be best to complete those first and attempt to gain early acceptance to the program of your choice to avoid having to modify or take additional classes.
This is page barely scratches the surface on how to become a pharmacist, but we hope to add more in the future.