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How to Become a Pharmacist?

how to become a pharmacist

Are you thinking about becoming a pharmacist?

This role mainly involves fulfilling prescriptions for customers in a pharmacy. However, a range of other tasks can be associated with this important role. This career is perfect for people who have great customer service skills and an interest in medicine. However, it can take time and dedication to gain the necessary qualifications, skills, and licensing.

So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a pharmacist and discover if this career is for you.

how to become a pharmacist

What Does A Pharmacist Do?

Before we dive right in, you need to make sure that this career matches your interests and skills. Although your daily duties will vary slightly depending on where you work, there are certain tasks that most jobs share. Here are the main duties you are likely to be charged with daily.

Fulfilling prescriptions

You will regularly be charged with receiving prescriptions from patients and interpreting them. You have to know exactly when different medications are stored in the pharmacies and what the typical doses should be. After fulfilling the prescription, you must review any other medications the patient regularly takes. This will help you to avoid any potential negative interactions.

Advising customers

You need to explain to customers exactly when and how they need to take their medications. Provide clear written instructions for them to follow. You also need to be able to provide advice on which over-the-counter medications customers should take. This includes discussing their health issues, lifestyle, diet, exercise, and stress management.

Minor nurse duties

Some customers may ask you to give them flu injections as well as other types of vaccinations. You need to make sure you do this in a safe and controlled way. Follow the safety protocols at all times when providing vaccinations.


You need to keep clear and detailed records of customer orders. And process customer insurance claims to receive payment from insurance providers.

Types of Pharmacist Jobs

Now it is time to work out the type of pharmacist that you want to become. The education, training, and experience you need for different roles are likely to vary slightly. Therefore, it is best to work out which type of pharmacist you want to become as early as possible.

Clinical Pharmacist

This role takes place in a clinic or hospital. You would usually work closely with a physician to determine the most effective treatment plan for different patients.

Poison Control Expert

You need to have expert knowledge of toxic substances to do this job. The main role involves providing advice on how to deal with and avoid different types of poisons. Poison control experts often work for emergency-call centers and disaster control agencies.

Industry Pharmacist

This role is perfect for people who enjoy problem-solving and working with medication. Typical tasks range from researching the properties of different types of medication to market testing new products.

Retail Pharmacist

This is one of the most common pharmacist roles, and it mainly involves fulfilling prescriptions. Retail pharmacists can work in a range of venues, including grocery stores and drug stores. It is essential to make sure customers receive the correct medication and understand how to take it correctly.

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Long-Term-Care Pharmacist

This role involves working with long-term care facilities. After completing special training, you would provide guidance to doctors who work with disabled and/or elderly patients.

Chemotherapy Pharmacist

This is a specialist pharmacist role that involves working closely with cancer patients. You would need to have deep knowledge of different types of cancer medication and the correct dosages. These pharmacists provide doctors and patients with the best drugs to take to aid recovery and promote comfort during chemotherapy.

The Requirements

It’s time to take a look at the criteria you need to meet to do this job. Because being a pharmacist involves a high level of responsibility, it is essential to make sure all applicants meet the requirements. Here is an overview of the types of qualifications and experience you need before you can start work.


No matter which type of pharmacist you decide to become, you will need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Doctoral programs typically take four years to complete after you have gained a bachelor’s degree. You will also need to complete an internship to gain practical pharmacy experience.


You will either need to complete an on-the-job training program or a residency program before you start working independently. During an on-the-job training program, you would learn how to use a socialized computer system. The program also teaches aspects such as procedures and policies.

Residency programs either take one or two years to complete and provide a professional experience. It is usually necessary to complete a residency if you want to specialize in an area of pharmacology. This includes working as a clinical pharmacist and specializing in geriatric care.


You need to gain a credential from the licensing board in the state you live in. After completing an internship, you then need to pass two different exams.

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam is a test that proves your pharmacy skills and understanding of prescription medication. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam is a state-specific exam that tests your knowledge of your state’s pharmacy law.

Essential Pharmacist Skills

You need to have certain skills and attributes to do this job well. While some hard skills can be taught, soft skills are personality traits that you need to develop. Here are the key skills that successful pharmacists should possess.

Attention to detail

It is essential to be able to follow prescriptions to the letter and provide the correct dosages of medication. There is no room for error in this profession, and you need to check everything twice. Providing the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage could have very serious consequences.

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Medication knowledge

You need to have a deep knowledge of different types of medications and the usual dosages. This helps to ensure that patients are provided with the correct medication. You should be able to recognize when a prescription looks suspicious and follow up with the prescribing doctor.

Analytical thinking

You will need to be able to analyze the needs of each customer quickly and accurately. Before providing the prescribed medication, you need to consider the potential conflicts. This helps to ensure that customers and patients receive safe and accurate treatment.

Communication skills

You need to be able to explain complex information about medication clearly and accurately. Listen carefully to customers to understand their needs and concerns. This will help you determine the best over-the-counter medication and other items to recommend.

Computer literacy

You will usually use a computer system to retrieve patient and prescription information. Have to fill out digital forms to conform insurance details and keep records updated. Other computer-related tasks include researching drug databases and maintaining patient records.


It is important to be able to work well alongside other pharmacists and healthcare providers. In some workplace environments being able to work quickly and accurately is essential. You need to be able to work closely with other people and share information as necessary.

How To Become A Pharmacist?

By now, you have probably decided that this career is for you. Like any desirable career, it is best to start working on your skills and qualifications as soon as possible. Here is an overview of the steps you should take to become a licensed pharmacist.

Take post-secondary science classes

You need at least two years of college education to enter most professional pharmacy programs. It is often necessary to complete four years of college followed by a bachelor’s degree. While in college, you should take classes in chemistry, biology, and physics to meet the set requirements.

Pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test

You need to sit and pass this test before you can join a doctoral program. This standardized test is offered around six times each year. It features around two hundred questions on writing, chemical processes, biological processes, critical reading, quantitative reading, and a writing prompt.

Earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree

You are now ready to apply for the Pharm.D. program of your choice. Depending on the program you choose, it can be completed in between two and four years. Choosing a program that requires an internship will ensure that you gain practical experience while you study.

how to become pharmacists

Apply for a license to practice in your state

You need a state license before you can work as a pharmacist. After completing an internship, you have to pass the Multi-state Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam and the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam. Completing an American Pharmacists Association licensing program will also allow you to offer vaccinations.

Complete the required training

The last step to becoming fully qualified is completing a pharmacist training program. You can choose from an on-the-job training program or a residency program.

Pharmacist Specializations

Choosing a specialization will allow you to secure a higher salary and make it easier to advance your career. There are several different specializations for pharmacists to choose from. Let’s take a look at the most common options and what they involve.


This specialization utilizes a deep understanding of the causes of diseases and certain patterns. You apply this knowledge to help research and develop different drugs to help treat diseases. This role mainly focuses on research into risk management and drug measurements.


If you have a love for research, you can use your skills to create special studies that evaluate clinical aspects of the industry. This can include researching the value of drugs to patients and their importance on the quality of life in communities.


This specialization involves studying how people age and developing ways to compact them. A range of special degree programs is designed for people who want to focus on this field.

Healthcare Decision Analysis

This specialization is perfect for people who have an interest in business. It largely involves researching and developing ways to innovate the healthcare industry. Some areas of focus include pricing structures, drug access, and reimbursement policies.

Popular Doctor Of Pharmacy Courses

There are several different courses you can choose from when you are working on getting qualified. Each of the courses provides slightly different skills, and it is important to keep your needs firmly in mind. Here is an overview of the most popular doctor of pharmacy courses.

Bioorganic Principles of Medicinal Chemistry

This course teaches a blended approach to applying biochemistry and organist chemistry to drug research and development. The course covers a range of topics like energetics and stereochemics, DNA, inhibitors, and interactions. Students also gain an awareness of metabolic pathways and an understanding of different targets for drug action.

Pharmacy Practice Skills

This is a good course for anyone who wants to work as a pharmacist and work with different types of drugs. It covers the laws related to pharmacists and drug dispersion, the most commonly prescribed medications, and how to compound medicines.

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The U.S. Health Care System

This course has been designed to introduce students to the American health care system, especially pharmaceutical marketing and health economics. It focuses on the journey of drugs from the research phase to becoming approved by the FDA. Students learn how to use their knowledge to make informed decisions when recommending medication.

Pharmaceutical Calculations

People who have a strong affinity for math are sure to thrive in this course. It covers the skills needed to compound, dispense, and utilize drugs, especially when prescribing medication. This includes hands-on experience in using measures, weights, and scales and the various types of math used in the profession.

Job Opportunities in Pharmaceuticals!

For starters, take a look at my Pharmacist Job Description as well as our Pharmacist Interview Questions, or my Pharmacy Technician Job Description and Pharmacy Manager Job Description to learn what the positions entail. As well as my Top Highest Paying Medical Jobs for alternatives.

I’ve also put together my Smiths Food And Drug Application, my Shoppers Drug Mart Application, or how about my Longs Drugs Application, and my CVS Pharmacy Application for some great job opportunities!

We also found a few excellent online resources such as the First Time Pharmacist: Everything you didn’t learn in school or on-the-job training., the Peripheral Brain for the Pharmacist, 2021-22, the Pharmacist 101: 101 Tips to Start, Grow, and Succeed as a Pharmacist From A to Z all available online in 2023.

Lastly, I highly recommend A Pharmacist’s Guide to Inpatient Medical Emergencies: How to respond to code blue, rapid response calls, and other medical emergencies, which is a crucial read for any pharmacist.

Final Thoughts

While it takes time and dedication to become a pharmacist, this role comes with a good salary and opportunities. The average salary for a pharmacist is around $120,000 per year. The top ten percent of earners can expect to receive a salary of at least $150,000 per year.

Specializing in a particular field of pharmacology can boost your earning potential considerably. This career can also open doors to many other career paths.

If you are focused on advancing your career, it is worth working for an advanced degree like a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

All the very best in your career as a Pharmacist!

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