What Degree Is Needed to Become a Pharmacist?

PharmacistYou've decided that you want to work in a pharmacy, so now you need to explore the degree needed to become a pharmacist. Though all pharmacists must complete the same degree, the PharmD, how long you'll be in school may be determined by when you make the decision to become a pharmacist.

Prerequisites for the PharmD Degree

A PharmD is shorthand for Doctorate of Pharmacy. According to Health Careers, this professional degree usually takes about four years to complete. You might be able to complete the degree in three years if you work in a more quickly paced accelerated program. In order to enter the doctorate program, you will first need to pass the PCAT, which is the standard admission test. In addition, you will need to have at least two years of undergraduate coursework done, about 90 hours.

So if you decide early on enough in your education that pharmacy is the right line of work for you, you could feasibly complete your education within a six year period. However, the pharmacy degree is a competitive and challenging one, and you may find that you are better served by completing a full bachelor's degree before entering the doctorate program. It's important that you keep your undergraduate grades high in order to be considered for a PharmD program.

Helpful Undergraduate Coursework

Whether you decide to complete an associate or bachelor level degree first, there are certain kinds of coursework that serve as excellent preparation for the advanced degree needed to become a pharmacist. You need to have a good background in both math and science, so it would be a good idea to try to take as many hours as you can in courses such as biology, microbiology, chemistry, physics, higher math and statistics. Coursework in areas such as communications could also be helpful. Some universities have pre-pharmacy programs which will include these types of courses and more.

During and After Your Doctorate

During your doctorate level pharmacy program, you will be required to do several clinical rotations. After you graduate from an accredited program, you will still need to participate in internship hours where you work under the supervision of a pharmacist who is licensed. As part of your own licensing procedure, you will also need to pass the NAPLEX, which stands for North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. The exam is part of a national standard, but other licensing requirements vary by state. You can discover the requirements for your particular state at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Students in most states will also need to take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MBJE) which covers state and federal laws and regulations.

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Although six to eight years may feel like a big investment in your schooling, the end result is a career where you can be assured you're making a real difference in the health and well-being of patients. Careful and competent pharmacists are an important part of safe and effective healthcare delivery. Those are things to ponder as you explore the degree needed to become a pharmacist.

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