Different countries and jurisdictions tend to have different requirements to become a pharmacist, which can make setting out a hard and fast checklist somewhat difficult. In general, though, requirements include education, licensure, and work experience. Candidates are typically required to complete graduate-level university coursework and pass national or regional licensing exams. These tests tend to be comprehensive and must usually be repeated every few years in order to ensure that professionals have the most current knowledge. It’s usually also important for people to get work experience, whether by participating in internships or working for a few years before seeking full credentials. Some jurisdictions mandate this for licensure, and most degree programs also require it for graduation.
Pharmacists everywhere must hold specialized degrees, usually at the doctorate or Ph.D. level. These programs tend to be very competitive, and usually themselves require a number of courses and scientific expertise. Academic counselors usually advise people hoping to enter pharmacy to take a lot of math and science classes in high school, and ideally to get a degree in something like chemistry, biology, or applied mathematics at the undergraduate level. Not all pharmacy schools require applicants to hold science degrees, but heavy coursework in these fields is usually considered essential.
Graduate programs often take at least four years to complete. This means that a person hoping to become a pharmacist must usually be willing to set aside at least eight years for formal university training, sometimes more once clinical experience and internships are factored in.
It’s often the case that a degree completed in one place will be honored and recognized elsewhere, but not always. Different countries and localities have different requirements when it comes to the exact coursework and degree programs a person needs to get started. A bachelor’s degree in pharmacy might be enough in some places, for instance, and some countries will accept degree programs from foreign universities on an equivalency basis; other authorities are much stricter and may require in-country training. People hoping to practice somewhere other than where they currently live are usually wise to research the rules of their desired location before getting started on a degree.
Education is usually only part of the process. Pharmacists, like most medical professionals, typically need to be licensed in order to work. Handling medication and advising patients are jobs that are considered highly specialized in most places. Governments usually have an interest in making sure that the people in these roles are both qualified and up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques.
People sit for licensing exams shortly after getting their degree in most places. Exams are typically written tests that can span several days, and are usually quite comprehensive. Some of the questions cover more general chemistry or math concepts, while others may involve hypothetical patient situations or specific drug dosing or interaction questions. There may also be an oral component where candidates have to answer questions on the spot in front of a panel of professionals.
Pharmacists often have to re-certify every few years, though this is rarely as involved as repeating the whole licensing process. Sometimes simply attending lectures and earning continuing education credits is enough, but professionals may also need to sit for more periodic exams. These tend to be shorter than the initial licensing tests, and often only cover developments over the last few years. Re-certification usually happens on something of a cycle, with professionals having to renew things every few years. The time between re-certification often grows with a pharmacist’s seniority, such that a new worker may have to sit for an exam every year or every other year, but someone who’s been on the job for a decade or more may get to wait three or five years between tests.
Field experience or on the job training is also required in many places. Some jurisdictions have formal apprenticeship programs where pharmacists-in-training shadow more established professionals for a certain amount of time, often a calendar year, before they are able to work independently; others simply require internships or a certain number of hours of supervised experience before a license will be issued. It’s often the case that pharmacology degree programs take these requirements into account and most people graduate having met or exceeded their locality’s rules. People looking to work in a different place may have some catch-up work to do, though.
Core Job Duties
Pharmacists can work in a variety of different settings. The most commonly known work in retail pharmacies or within hospitals or medical clinics, but this is by no means the extent of the profession. People can also work in research, manufacturing, or health policy. Getting started in any of these areas usually begins the same way, though, and people in all parts of the profession typically have the same basic education and certification. More job-specific training — interacting with patients, for instance, learning dispensing techniques, or understanding journal publication rules — usually comes with time.