How Can I Become a Clinical Pharmacist?

Explore the career requirements for clinical pharmacists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Pharmacist?

Clinical pharmacists are licensed healthcare professionals who must possess Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical pharmacists work in settings such as clinics or hospitals. Clinical pharmacists often accompany physicians on their rounds, recommend medications and over see the proper administration of those medications and counsel patients on their health.

See the table below for more information about this career:

Degree RequiredDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Education Field of StudyBiology
Key ResponsibilitiesReview prescriptions for accuracy
Provide information and advice to patients regarding medications
Maintain records
Collaborate with other healthcare professionals
Order and purchase supplies
Compound and dispense prescribed medications
Analyze prescribing trends for patient compliance and potential excessive use
LicensureRequired; candidates must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLE) and (in some states) the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)
Job Growth (2014-2024)3% for all pharmacists*
Median Salary (2015)$121,500 for all pharmacists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Clinical Pharmacist Do?

As a trained and licensed pharmacist, you will fill prescriptions and discuss potential side effects with patients. You may also suggest over-the-counter remedies, keep computerized patient records and conduct drug research. You have the opportunity to work in a variety of places, such as clinics, hospitals, drug stores and drug-manufacturing companies. If you work as a clinical pharmacist, you'll work on optimizing patient health by combining your pharmaceutical knowledge with therapeutic care.

What Education Do I Need?

Pharmacists must earn the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited college or university. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Pharm.D. replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy, which is no longer offered. Before applying to a Pharm.D. program, you must complete a minimum of two years of specific professionally study, although you can also complete a 4-year degree program, such as a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences. You might consider taking courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics during your undergraduate years.

After undergraduate school, you'll need to apply to a graduate program leading to the Pharm.D. degree. You can expect to devote four years towards the completion of such a program. Generally, the programs combine coursework with professional experience. Some of the essential topics covered in the program include pharmacy and the law, pharmacology, physiology and pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical management and pharmacotherapy.

How Do I Get Licensed?

All 50 states require pharmacists to be licensed. Licensure involves passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLE) upon earning your Pharm.D., and 44 states also require you to pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). You can register to take both exams through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. You'll want to check state boards for additional requirements.

How Much Can I Expect To Earn?

The BLS predicted that employment of all pharmacists would grow 3% from 2014-2024. In May 2015, pharmacists in general earned a median annual wage of $121,500, per the bureau. reported that clinical pharmacists made a median salary of $110,817 as of February 2017.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An occupation that is somewhat related to clinical pharmacist is that of medical scientist. Medical scientists are concerned with research and must hold either a Ph.D. or a medical degree. Unless they are actively practicing medicine in clinical tests or on patients, they do not need a license. They design and perform tests to investigate human diseases and how to treat or alleviate them. They may also create specific medical devices to help them in their research.

Additional research-centric occupations in the medical field include biochemist and biophysicist. Both of these disciplines require individuals to hold a Ph.D. and include work in basic and applied research. They may also study how genetic traits travel through generations or how cells and proteins communicate and operate.

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