Step by step guide to becoming a pharmacist

Becoming a pharmacist requires years of education and training to obtain the necessary knowledge, skills and certifications. Aspiring pharmacists can spend anywhere between six years (fast-track) to thirteen years completing pre-requisites, Pharm.D coursework, clinical rotations and national exams. And while this might seem a straightforward path, anyone pursuing a career in pharmacology should understand (or at least be aware of) the finer details of the process, as well as the critical questions that need to be answered along the way. For example, should I earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to a Pharm.D program? Is my pharmacy license transferable to other states? If I fail the NAPLEX, what’s my next step?

The following “how to” guide serves as a starting point. Not only a rundown of the basic steps to becoming a pharmacist, but a comprehensive yet easily digestible resource to help you answer those important questions when and where they arise. There’s more than one way to the pharmacy finish line. You just need to choose the path that’s right for you.

What does a pharmacist do?

Pharmacists dispense medication and other approved remedies, often following a patient visit to a physician. In addition to detailed understanding of dosing, regulation, allergens and chemical reactions, pharmacists need to know how to guide and manage assistants in those areas. Pharmacists should also be mindful of public health and safety, ensuring everyone under their supervision (including themselves) follows safety protocols when it comes to the storage and distribution of medication. Pharmacists can work in a variety of medical environments, including drug stores, hospitals, private businesses and long-term care facilities.

What kind of skills are required?

Pharmacists tend to be analytical and have great attention to detail, which facilitates pharmacological accuracy and pharmacy organization. Pharmacists must also be good communicators to clearly explain the steps involved in taking medication and avoiding potentially harmful side effects. Pharmacists need strong computer skills to various electronic health record (EH$) systems, as well as strong managerial abilities to guide assistants and other staff in the right direction.

The steps to becoming a pharmacist

  1. Fill your prerequisites (2 – 4 years)
  2. Earn your Doctor of Pharmacy degree – Pharm.D (4 years)
  3. Pass your national licensing exam